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How to Apply In-Store Merchandising Principles to E-commerce

Apply decades of in-store experience to your Shopify store

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Imagine walking into a clothing store looking for a pair of jeans. Rather than an inviting store design, you see products are haphazardly jammed into racks and on shelves. They are not assorted by size, style, designer, or even product type. Jeans are lumped in with sweaters. Overalls are next to sweatpants. There are no mannequins styled with outfits to give you inspiration and the store doesn’t have a natural flow to help you discover clothes you might want.

It’s a disorganized mess.

You try to rummage through the racks but it’s not worth it. You leave the store and go someplace else.

Sure, that’s an extreme example. But far too many e-commerce retailers are delivering a similar experience online. Collection pages feature out-of-stock items, filtering options don’t make sense, top-sellers are buried deep in collection page results, and sale items are nowhere to be found. With 80% of consumers visiting a collection page at some point during their visit to your site, the poor experience may be leading them to shop elsewhere.

Optimizing the online experience may be best achieved by taking lessons from physical stores. The following best practices can help retailers enhance discoverability and keep consumers excited to come back.

Optimize for discoverability

Many retail stores feature an engaging layout. Teams of professionals tirelessly style products, create displays, and choose music and lighting. They research how people move through stores and browse through products. It’s all meant to help consumers discover products they are likely to buy.

The same is true online. Websites with intriguing imagery, intuitive collection groupings, common-sense filtering options, and compelling display sequencing are more likely to help consumers discover products to buy. Another way is through strategic product placement in the top rows of each collection page. Feature top-sellers, new products, and sale items in that valuable real estate to entice consumers to click. Remember, the top five to 10 collections receive 50% or more of all the collection views and users spend 57% of their page-viewing time above the fold, with 74% of viewing time spent in the first two screenfuls.

Keep it on brand

Apple stores are minimalist. Savage X Fenty stores are dark and sexy. Anthropologie stores are inspiring and whimsical. Each company carefully designed their physical stores with their brand aesthetic front-and-center.

Retailers must replicate that online. That’s best achieved through aspirational imagery that helps consumers imagine themselves using your products in their daily lives. An image of a person wearing your signature sundress on the beach may not only inspire consumers to buy, it reminds them that the brand is bright and sunny. They may ultimately buy a different product, but the aspirational image sets the tone for the brand and products they will eventually see.

Remember, aspirational imagery is best for homepages and collection pages to get people to click and learn more. Be sure to use studio imagery and detailed product imagery on product detail pages to help consumers see products from all angles and understand exactly what they are buying.

Keep it consistent

Imagine that every time you visit the grocery store, it’s been completely rearranged. The dairy aisle is now on the other end of the store. The produce is now in the middle. Those pickles you like? They’re in a different aisle every time you go shopping.

That analogy holds true for e-commerce stores. If you completely rearrange collection pages, sales may suffer. Of course, you want to showcase new or sale items in top spots to give them a boost, but don’t overdo it. A good best practice is to sprinkle in new items along with best-sellers. Give new items and items that were in lower positions some love in the top spots — but keep the good stuff near the top too.

Organize with common sense filters


Physical stores group products in logical ways. Department stores tend to have sections for each designer. Others group by product type — say a section for men’s shirts laid out by size and color. It’s meant to avoid confusion and make things easy to find.

The same is true online. Start with the basics: Give consumers filtering options they expect like brand, type, color, size, and price. Also, customize your filters based on the contents of the collection. For example, a motorcycle parts retailer might have one category page for helmets with filtering options like “sport helmets” “full face helmets” or “helmet shape.” But their T-shirt page should feature filters like “size,” “color,” and “designer.”

When it comes to assortments, group products by color or product type so product groupings feel natural to the consumer. Ensure collection pages have assortments for every buyer persona. For example, a “pillow” collection page might have plaid fabrics for the more free-spirited buyer and striped fabrics for a more traditional consumer. And be sure to have the right product assortment on each page. If you sell T-shirts, sunglasses, and hats, use sales figures and website data to determine the right number of T-shirts to include compared to sunglasses and hats.

Collection pages with a view through rate greater than 40% indicate strong interest in the product assortment. Pages with a view through rate less than 25% indicate that the product assortment isn't lining up with users expectations.

How did Ramy Brook increase conversion rates by 13% and Curvy increase revenue per use by 28%? By partnering with Entaice. Check out our case studies to learn their secrets to success.


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