Elevate Your Online Store's Appeal: Expert Visual Merchandising Guide & Tips
Visual merchandising, widely used in retail marketing, is the strategic display of products to attract, engage, and inspire customers to purchase. While traditionally associated with brick-and-mortar stores, it also revolves around creating visually appealing product displays online. In this article, we discuss visual merchandising in ecommerce meaning, how visual merchandising is applicable in digital commerce and how to use it for your business elevation.
Introduction to eCommerce Visual Merchandising
The visual merchandising concept involves retailers carefully drawing the consumers' attention using merchandising tactics and ecommerce software. Retailers create an inviting brand image by engaging as many senses as possible.
In ecommerce, these techniques are used to guide users through a buying journey, making it pleasant, fast, and efficient. It presents buyers with the most relevant products and offers and creates a personalized shopping experience.
The importance of visual merchandising in ecommerce cannot be overstated. It's a crucial component that shapes consumers' perceptions, influences their purchasing decisions, and ultimately drives sales and profitability. In this context, visual merchandising is about attracting customers and effectively communicating the brand's identity and values.
How ecommerce employs visual merchandising techniques
Online visual merchandising is employed to increase key online metrics such as engagement, time on site, conversion rate, and average order value. However, because of the inherently different nature of the environment (online vs. offline), the procedures would certainly differ.
Visual merchandising (ecommerce) essentially involves the optimal arrangement of products on a website or app to make them more compelling. It taps into the principles of aesthetics and functionality, leveraging visual design, product photography, and UX design, among others, to entice consumers and encourage their buying journey.
The major advantage of online merchandising is that it doesn’t have to cater to the average consumer. Online stores can alter the strategies by location, age group, or other demographic data or history of previous purchases. We will take a closer look at all the techniques further.
Key Elements of eCommerce Visual Merchandising
Importance of eCommerce Visual Merchandising
Product imagery and photography
Almost 95% of customers claimed that they first see a responsive website design. Dynamic visuals and clear pictures that load fast can show a variety of angles with relevant close-ups of specific details and important features.
Pictures and overall layout are crucial. This is why every ecommerce company should test different concepts and see what works best for their clients.
Color schemes and branding
Colors determine up to 90% of products' first impressions! For example, blue is usually related to trust, while yellow brings optimism. Colors define our moods and desires and can lead buyers either to make a bigger purchase or abandon the shop.
Besides evoking certain feelings and emotions, the consistent use of brand colors makes the brand up to 80% more familiar. Moreover, high-quality visuals can create a unique brand experience, prompting customers to associate certain qualities or values with the brand and thereby fostering brand loyalty.
Product categorization and organization
Product categorization and organization form the solid foundation upon which ecommerce visual merchandising thrives. Mirroring the structure of physical stores, online platforms need to adopt a logical and intuitive arrangement of their product offerings. This entails more than simply classifying items into overarching groups such as 'Men,' 'Women,' or 'Kids.' It also involves the creation of thoughtful subcategories like 'Footwear,' 'Accessories,' or 'Sale' to further streamline the shopping process.
With useful tools like filters and search options, customers can easily navigate the product assortment, pinpointing their desired items with speed and precision. Moreover, good order presents a ripe ground for effectively implementing upselling and cross-selling strategies, opening new avenues for revenue generation.
Call-to-action buttons and persuasive elements
Call-to-action buttons, basically, play the role of a seller who actively attracts buyers to purchase. Strategically placed CTAs can push customers towards sealing a purchase. Moreover, correctly built CTAs with anchors can leverage your conversion up to 121%!
In turn, persuasive techniques can provide additional value to customers. For example, show that the sale is limited, place a countdown in the corner of CTA, or try adding some persuasive paragraphs right before your button.
Navigation and user experience
Up to 79% of the users are unable to find something on the website; it will turn to the competitor. This is why visual merchandising is about making the website or app visually appealing and ensuring it's user-friendly, intuitive, and easy to navigate.
The navigation includes easy search, smooth movement between the pages and products, clear paths, and high loading speed. Mobile capability is also important, as over half of all online traffic is sourced from mobiles.
Foe B2B companies, the capability to buy straight from their own systems might be valuable. This is also about navigation, and Virto has done it before already.
Strategies for Visual Merchandising in eCommerce
While ecommerce popularity is still growing, we still have to learn what impacts it, which ways work better, which marketing plays a greater game, and so on. However, some of the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar techniques keep working. We collected them here for you to try on your project:
- Work over your product displays
Make your product displays visually appealing. Provide pics and images of high quality, ensure your videos can effectively showcase products, while comprehensive descriptions and features provide detailed insights. This helps to promote informed buying decisions and almost allows your customers to “touch” the thing before its purchase.
- Use cross-selling and upselling techniques
Recommend related or premium products along with the ones bought. Using the correctly built shopping cart can help you with the task, thereby increasing the average order value.
- Personalize the shopping experience of your buyers
Collect your customers' behavior and preferences data to create a sense of uniqueness and relevance for your customers. This enhances customer engagement and loyalty and helps you build the personas of B2B customer representatives, split them into several segments, and realize which products are preferred the most and how you can enhance your customers' journey.
- Leverage user-generated content and social proof
Reviews and testimonials still work. You can provide credibility and foster trust by showcasing social proof like ratings, bestseller tags, and customer counts. Nothing motivates better than the third-party opinion that guarantees the product is good and that the vendor is trusted.
Visual merchandising techniques and best practices
Techniques for online visual merchandising
Some of the techniques are deeply related to the strategies we described. Turn your attention to the products you sell, talk more about them, and let them shine brighter than the competitors’ ones. Here are a few tips on how to enhance your visual merchandising, whatever strategy you choose.
- Incorporate storytelling and lifestyle imagery
Contextualize your products. People trust the things that help them to visualize how the product fits into their lives. Telling about the product characteristics is not enough. Tell about the real situations when it can be used, describe the pros and cons, share tips and ideas, and add realistic pictures of how companies implemented your product.
- Share variations and options of your product
Showcasing different options can give customers a comprehensive view of what's available. Modern ecommerce systems allow for automated showcasing and hiding of the products available depending on the stock and warehouse data.
- Build a convenient search and filtering capability
Optimizing product search and filtering options can expedite the shopping process, making it easier for customers to find exactly what they need. You can either use the ready OOTB feature of your ecommerce or create a separate API module like Virto Commerce offers.
Improving visual merchandising in your online store
Now, the techniques are clear, but how to realize what is going wrong with your ecommerce visual merchandising design? Look at these ideas on how to find out what to improve on your website to attract more customers.
- Conduct A/B testing, collect and analyze data
Most ecommerce solutions support trying different ways to go. Checking out different strategies is called A/B testing, and this approach can help you collect enough data to realize what works and what doesn't.
You can try using different design elements, such as product images or call-to-action buttons, to offer different order or layout. As a result, you will understand what resonates best with your audience and optimize things accordingly.
- Always monitor your website performance
Regular monitoring of website performance can provide insights into areas of improvement. Checkup load times and bounce rates, making sure the pages are loading fast and everything is displayed correctly.
Another important path to go is ensuring your website is supported on mobiles and works correctly. An optimally responsive design automatically adjusts to the device's screen size, reconfiguring layout, content, and functionality to deliver a smooth user experience. This guarantees that all visual elements and functionalities of your store are easily accessible and function impeccably, irrespective of the device being used.
- See the current design and B2B ecommerce trends
Maintaining a finger on the pulse of current design trends is integral to keeping your online store vibrant, relevant, and visually compelling. It means continually adapting and innovating, thus preventing your store from seeming outdated or stagnant. Integrating contemporary design trends can elevate the overall visual appeal of your online store, making it more appealing to tech-savvy, design-conscious consumers and enhancing its ability to captivate and retain their interest.
- Ensure seamless integration with other marketing channels and instruments
Lastly, ensuring seamless integration with other marketing channels, like social media or email marketing, can create a cohesive customer journey. There is no need to purchase all the solutions from one vendor; you can change them step by step, connecting to the ecommerce platform via API technology.
Best practices for ecommerce visual merchandising
- Consistency in brand representation
Consistency is everything. The correct use of logos, colors, and themes helps reinforce brand identity and fosters familiarity. This leads to more loyal customers, greater recognition and easier attraction of new customers.
- Highlighting seasonal and promotional campaigns
Use sales, marketing campaigns, and incentives to attract and retain more customers. These campaigns can be strategically highlighted to take advantage of key shopping periods throughout the year. In addition to this, creating compelling marketing campaigns that spotlight your best deals, new arrivals, or limited-time offers can act as a powerful magnet, drawing customers to your ecommerce store.
- Utilizing customer reviews and ratings
Customer reviews and ratings not only provide social proof but also aid customers in their decision-making process. Over 60% of customers consult with reviews and believe that they play a big role in deciding to purchase.
- Incorporating social media integration and implementing effective product recommendations
Incorporating social media integration allows for wider exposure and promotes user-generated content while implementing effective product recommendations based on customers' browsing history or popular trends, which can personalize the shopping experience and boost sales.
Tactics for a Smooth Transition from Retail to Online
In brick-and-mortar, shopping window is a crucial attraction factor that can potentially lure customers from the street. Retailers use the window space to showcase new products or collections, bestselling items, or something offered for sale. The display choice is circumspect – everything is arranged and cleverly put together to spark interest and invoke intrigue or good feelings about visiting a store.
For online shopping, the website homepage serves as that "window," hence – it must just as well be well-thought-of design-wise to attract customers as soon as they land on the page. One of the few ways to organize your homepage is to create a dynamic set of banners highlighting bestsellers, sales items, or both. Through AI, online stores can achieve a pretty good level of personalization: cater to a specific audience and promote a particular campaign to a specific demographic.
Consumer culture has also changed the way users perceive the shopping experience: more choices now mean more freedom. A gradually expanding pool of products has become a new standard in the retail business, which then incrementally moved online. Displaying too many choices, however, can overwhelm consumers. Instead of piling up the first page with too many options, e-stores now strive to tailor the page per specific consumer or, if it's a new visitor – display just enough options to create an impression of a variety of available products without confusing users.
2. Site layout
Consumers are exposed to the best possible layout designed to maximize sales potential whenever they enter a physical store. Retailers determine which store areas get the most exposure and then strategically optimize those areas by placing promos, bestsellers, or new collections. For websites, e-retailers need to do the same research and figure out the most-visited parts of the website or popular categories to drive even more engagement there.
Ideally, the personalization of the layout and the entire website structure needs to be adapted for each specific user. For example, if a user adds something to the cart but continues to shop, then chances are – they are still considering other options; in this case, it will make sense to showcase other relevant products like the one in the cart in their feed.
3. Site navigation
Brick-and-mortar stores have easy-to-use navigation that's very intuitive – items are organized by category with overhead signage to highlight where products can be found.
Online retailers should adopt the same to guide users through a website. In the case of a large inventory, a tiered menu helps consumers to follow through different categories and subcategories easily. Whatever a website's menu structure, its goal must be straightforward: to help users end up exactly where they want as quickly as possible with a minimum number of clicks.
Another layer of site navigation is the search functionality. Some users prefer to search for an item rather than go through multiple menus. Autocomplete functionality and search filters help users quickly refine their search to find items.
While users previously preferred navigating through multi-level menus, now search bars take the first prize. As a result, both B2B and B2C businesses implement smart search features in their storefronts to ensure users receive fast and accurate results. These features not only provide users with the ability to manage search results but also receive a promotion and smart hints on what the user might like.
Ikea is a great example of such a feature. Their smart search offers more than just text-based searches; it also allows users to search using voice commands and even search for desired products through image recognition technology.
An example of Ikea search interface
4. User-generated content
When a consumer walks down the aisle in a physical store, they can interact with a salesperson, a shopping assistant, or even another customer asking questions or obtaining their opinion on a product. To carry over that experience to an online reality, e-stores employ user-generated content, such as reviews, photos, and videos, that bring the most authentic experience of owning or interacting with a product.
By integrating this into merchandising, brands are becoming increasingly creative, from sharing an Instagram feed with relevant hashtags to highlighting customer reviews under the products.
5. Product recommendations
tailers use a visual merchandising technique known as bundling to promote similar or complementary products that work as a set. When the shoppers see the items fit together, they are more than likely to buy several items. Bundling can also be adapted for online stores.
Online retailers can encourage consumers to buy additional items by featuring images of people wearing similar products or showcasing items that might become a complete outfit or a solution.
Recommendations, frequently bought together across multiple product pages, provide visual cues that prompt buyers to add more items to their shopping carts. In general, product recommendations leverage customers' browsing and purchase history to present options that consumers are likely to buy.
6. Checkout optimization
Checkout areas in retail stores serve as another target for increasing average purchase value by offering smaller or low-cost / high-margin items that might appeal to a consumer. eCommerce merchants can also leverage their checkout pages to influence impulse purchases.
However, it's crucial to find a balance and aim at providing a streamlined experience so buyers are not distracted from completing the purchase. The cart page can also promote loyalty programs, perks, or other options for new and returning customers. There are many ways ecommerce stores can adopt visual merchandising techniques that are no longer a privilege of brick-and-mortar stores. Easy-to-navigate websites with enhanced browsing experience, site responsiveness, clean and organized product descriptions, and personalized recommendations will all elevate the overall online shopping experience.
The Perfect eCommerce Solution to Cover It All
Whether you are running a B2C webshop, D2C ecommerce, or enterprise B2B ecommerce website, there is one solution that can cover it all with enterprise-level quality. Virto Commerce modular architecture allows for starting with one module only (e.g., marketplace) and then going step by step towards a fully functioning ecommerce platform.
Here are the features Virto Commerce can offer for those searching for the perfect software to enhance your visual merchandising:
- The API-first architecture allows for seamless integration with any third-party apps that can help you enhance your visual appearance.
- A modular approach allows for building separate modules like the Search option or Shopping Cart.
- Headless principles ensure safety while cleaning up your storefront. The back-end functions separately, so these two parts of the enterprise will be unbothered while modifying one of them (e.g., your website).
- Moreover, you can build a marketplace that supports multiple vendors and guarantees convenient UX.
Virto Commerce was tailored to serve the needs of huge enterprises. This is why its capabilities cover all the needs of a business of any level.
Needless to say, the correct approach to the visual part of the ecommerce website plays a crucial role in sales. However, no need to create it all from scratch: old brick-and-mortar visual merchandising techniques can be useful online too.
Before building or enhancing your ecommerce website, it is important to track the trends, analyze your clients, choose the modern modular software that will help you on the way, and test several hypotheses. If this journey seems complicated, you can always reach out to our teams and learn more about how these techniques can apply to your business.