The prolonged pandemic has created a shift from offline to online shopping. However, as the government’s policies in each region are updated regularly, e-commerce businesses may find it difficult to carry out their online merchandising strategies. Therefore, we’ve compiled the top 5 practical tips for e-commerce retailers to keep up the good work. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Tip #1: Rebuild the offline experience online with visual merchandising
Shopping in the online space has a lot of problems. It’s impossible for customers to touch, feel, and try on the products so they are more hesitant to buy. As a result, online merchants have to think of ways to fill the need for an offline experience and help users visualize their products.
On the search bar, you should include product previews within the instant suggestions dropdown. This way, searchers can find their desired products right away and don't need to navigate to the search results page. It also provides some visual cues so customers know their query matches what they are looking for.
Using product images in the instant suggestions helps shoppers conduct better searches. (Source: Reddress)
Some e-commerce businesses take a further step by implementing image search which allows hunting for products on an uploaded picture. It reimagines the way you walk into a physical store, showing a photo to the shop assistant, and asking them if they have the item in the photo.
On product detail pages, there are some solutions you can apply to allow users to visualize their items as much as possible. If you are using solely images, make sure they are all real, synthetic (you can use photos from product reviews for this), and have a zoom feature.
A short video is also helpful to showcase what your products look like. You can try some tools like
A short video is also helpful to showcase what your products look like. You can try some tools like WebRotate 360 to create 360-degree product images or even use 3D online models in-house. If you still have some budget for visual merchandising, a virtual try-on solution is an upgraded option you should invest in.
| Related read:
- E-commerce Visual Merchandising Strategies
- Online merchandising tips for SMBs
- 5 Visual Merchandising Tools Shopify Merchants
Tip #2: Clearly communicate key updates on Homepage
Amidst uncertainties, it's important to keep your visitors and customers updated and informed both online and offline. Most online shoppers land on the Homepage so this is prime real estate to share information.
However, e-merchants can easily make the mistake of overstuffing the Homepage, making it difficult for visitors to navigate through. Therefore, you must select key messages to display on your online storefront.
Think about what your target audience wants to know the most when they are shopping online during Covid times. This could be the delivery and returns policy, customer service, or office hours (if you have a brick-and-mortar store). It’s also a great idea to let your customers know the preventive measures that your physical store implements. When things are back to normal, they’ll certainly want to go shopping offline in a safe place.
According to Think with Google, half of the American consumers want to hear how brands and companies are responding to the crisis.
No matter what message you communicate, keep a caring, calm, and authoritative tone. Avoid corporate-speak and lengthy content. Also, don’t let the info banner interrupt the user journey. Pop-ups should be limited, closable, and should not exceed one-third of the screen (both on desktop and on mobile) or block key CTAs. Otherwise, your site can get the intrusive interstitials penalty from Google.
Some banner designs suggested by Google.
If there is a lot of news, you may want to consider adding a section in your second fold with the top updates. Just add very brief key highlights here and link to more info on the situation-specific info page or your FAQ page so customers are not distracted from their shopping intent.
For more important and long-term messages, integrate them in the Homepage layout and design with an embedded banner, CTAs changing, etc.
Tip #3: Adapt your offerings with the new normal
To survive and thrive with the ongoing pandemic, merchants have to meet the new demands of consumers. Keep asking yourself whether your products and campaigns are relevant to this new normal, whether the promoted package is helpful to your customers in this day and age.
The pandemic definitely gives a rise to necessities and sanitary items, which makes a huge profit for the grocery, food and beverage, and pharmacy industries. The overall online shopping market also benefits significantly. The burgeoning popularity of working from home encourages people to create their home office so sales of furniture and electronics have seen a whopping increase.
Top items and categories during Amazon Prime Day. Read full key takeaways here.
Due to the decrease in income, customers are more likely to checkout their super big carts during shopping seasons with steep discounts like Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Make sure you offer the best deals during these occasions.
Sales of Shopify stores during BFCM 2021 broke their record on the same occasion last year. (Source: Shopify)
Category-specific trends are harder to identify. Fortunately, Google just released a new report to help you with that. On the Insights page of Google Ads, there is a new section called Demand forecasts (beta). Based on historical data and machine learning technology, it’ll give you forward-looking trends in search interest within the next 6 month period. As it is personalized for your business with the categories you do advertising activities in, you’ll find relevant predictions to prepare for your future promotion campaigns.
“The new rising retail categories tool can help businesses keep pace with rapidly changing consumer needs during COVID-19.” - Google promises.
Tip #4: Properly promote in-demand products on product listing pages
On an e-commerce store, product listing pages can be collections/categories pages or search results pages. Customers without a particular product in mind usually browse through collections and categories. On the other hand, those who know what they want to buy are more likely to land on the search bar and get to the search results pages. Your best-selling products and highly profitable items, therefore, should be well promoted here.
Some boosting rules you should apply are:
- Use contrasting colors, add badges to highlight on-sale items and in-demand products with limited stocks
- Bury off-season items at the bottom of the page and use visual or written cues to distinguish them
- Remove out-of-stock merchandise on the product listing pages to enhance the visibility of other in-stock items (*)
(*)Note: If the out-of-stock items are customer favorites (search volume for these products are high and shoppers still view their product detail pages although they have run out of stock), it’s better to offer secondary actions like pre-ordering, back-in-stock notifications, connecting on social media, or lookalike product recommendation.
Product filters and Sorting options are of the utmost importance on product listing pages. They ensure customers can narrow down the list based on their preferences. Besides facets for product options (i.e color, size, material, etc), Filter by Availability will give you a hand in providing a more efficient experience as it navigates shoppers to products that can generate sales.
Check out Product Filter & Search by Boost Commerce for extended filter options and custom sorting.
For Sort types, you may consider using Sort by % Sale as a default. As mentioned above, with a tighter budget, customers tend to open their wallets for top deals. Sort by Price doesn’t necessarily bring the highest discounted products in the first positions of the product listing pages.
Tip #5: Social merchandising is here to say
Certainly, shoppers have adopted new routines and reassorted their priorities for shopping. One thing we can all agree on is that people are going online. Digital activities are way up on multiple platforms. With the continued work from home policy and limitations for social gatherings in person, staying connected becomes the first and foremost need. That’s why there is a huge increase in the number of users as well as the engagement rate on social media.
Putting things together, social merchandising will be the next big thing for online merchants to stay top of mind of their target audience. In the past, marketing activities on networking sites solely focused on branding. These days, many platforms like Facebook and Instagram have released the social commerce package so merchants can draw traffic to specific products and seal the deal.
Make sure you optimize your online presence with regular posting and utilizing social commerce assistants such as Facebook Shop, Facebook Marketplace, and Instagram Shopping. Some simple steps to begin with are:
- Choose the relevant platform
- Create a visually-appealing social storefront
- Make great use of user-generated content
- Collab with micro-influencers for niche targeting
- Enhance personalization with Chat Commerce
| Read full strategies for social merchandising in: Top 5 Strategies to Harness Social Commerce
The bottom line
Due to COVID-19, the e-commerce world is going through an unprecedented period with both opportunities and challenges. With the help of visual merchandising, proper communication, appropriate offerings and promotions, and social merchandising, we believe that online businesses can grow and thrive despite the obstacles set by the pandemic.
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