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Why ecommerce merchandising will start looking more like Netflix

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    Entaice Braintrust

Why E-Commerce Sites Should Look More Like Netflix

Back in 2016, Netflix conducted a groundbreaking study to understand what drives users to select a movie or TV show from its vast collection. There is only space to show a limited number of small tiles, making it critical to showcase the very best selections.

The results were resounding — 82% focus on artwork while browsing Netflix, making it the most influential factor in their viewing decisions. Additionally, they found that users spent an average of 1.8 seconds considering each title, and that they’d abandon the platform if they didn’t find something to watch within 90 seconds.

With stakes so high, Netflix built a system to optimize for the most clickable images. Interestingly, research showed that the most effective images showed a person conveying emotions.

Netflix's home screen doesn't simply list movies and TV shows randomly. You probably picked up on that because your Netflix home screen looks very different from, say, your sister who watches lots of kids shows with her young children. Netflix carefully tailors those selections based on product performance, user viewing history, product context, and how items appear next to one another.

What’s this got to do with e-commerce merchandising? Plenty.

Netflix and retailers both face similar challenges — and e-commerce retailers can learn a wealth of insight from Netflix’s approach. Let’s examine each one-by-one, and decipher lessons that e-commerce merchandisers can adopt from Netflix.

Maximizing Limited Display Space

Just like on Netflix, e-commerce websites have finite space — particularly on collection pages which see the bulk of traffic that actually converts. The top left-most positions are prime real estate, often reserved for best sellers or top promotional items. In fact, 80% of users won’t scroll beyond the third page of your collection results.1 Plus, the top five to 10 collections on most e-commerce sites receive 50% or more of all the collection views.2 Making the most of that limited real estate is critical.

Netflix encounters a similar real estate issue, managing to showcase maybe 20-30 titles at once — and less on mobile. To “sell” a title, it uses faces and emotions in title cards. The lesson for retailers? Use captivating editorial imagery showing real people using your products to help increase interest. Once you entice them to navigate to a product detail pages, show off your product from every angle so they know exactly what they’re buying and can make a final decision to buy.

Balancing User and Business Priorities

Consumers increasingly expect to see relevant products as soon as they navigate to a category page. However, business needs force merchandising managers to promote other items like new products or overstocked items. When business and consumer objectives clash, optimization suffers.

Here’s another challenge Netflix has overcome, taking great care to ensure items appear well next to one another. For example, Netflix may place a new TV show alongside a classic favorite which may increase the chances of a viewer watching the new show. Retailers can adopt this strategy — putting a top seller next to a new item may elevate the new item in the minds of users, potentially leading to more conversions.

Move Beyond Generic Categories

Consumers are human! They want categories that are fun and specific — as well as functional. Still, many e-commerce sites rely on generic, boring categories. For instance, a sunglasses retailer may use a category like “men’s sunglasses” rather than providing a fun niche category such as “beach day shades.”

Netflix shines in this area by splitting content into highly specific, niche categories with groupings such as Critically-Acclaimed Dysfunctional-Family Dramas, Steamy British Independent Dramas, or Heartfelt Sports Movies. E-commerce retailers can emulate this approach by offering more specific categories like “Work Shirts” or “Going Out Shirts.” It’s that kind of human touch that can increase conversions.

An AI-driven e-commerce merchandising tool like Entaice automatically optimizes the most valuable real estate on your collection pages. Set preferences in advance (like clever category names) and the system can create a cohesive aesthetic, optimize for promotions, and ultimately lift sales. Ready to learn more? Contact us today.



  1. AdNabu: Why Online Merchandising is a must for Shopify Collections?

  2. Entaice: Ultimate Guide to Merchandising