Online visual merchandising. How to use visual merchandising in e-commerce?

How e-commerce employs visual merchandising techniques

Visual merchandising has long been considered a science associated with brick-and-mortar stores. However, for the past decade, the psychological feng shui of displaying products has moved online. E-commerce merchants are making strategic visual decisions that, at times, go far beyond building a responsive website. In this article, we explore the differences between in-store and online visual merchandising, as well as showcase several techniques of effective merchandising in e-commerce.

Visual merchandising in-store vs. online

Brick-and-mortar visual merchandising is a long-established marketing concept used to engage consumers during their visit to the store. The concept involves that retailers carefully draw the consumers’ attention by using merchandising tactics. By engaging as many senses as possible retailers create an inviting brand image. In-store merchandising involves techniques such as creating focal points, selecting appropriate display colors, attractively showcasing products, designing an attractive shop layout and effectively utilizing space and signage.

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 in e-commerce guides users through a buying journey making it pleasant, fast, and efficient. Itpresents buyers with the most relevant products, offers, and creates a personalized shopping experience. The major advantage of online merchandising is that it doesn’t have to cater to an average consumer. Online stores can alter the strategies by location, age group, or other demographic data or history of previous purchases.

Tactics for a smooth transition from retail to online

Let’s explore how you can apply some of the old-school brick-and-mortar visual merchandising tactics to an online environment.

Homepage

In brick-and-mortar, shopping window acts as one of the crucial attraction factors that can potentially lure customers from the street. Retails 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, 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 put out a dynamic set of banners that highlight 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.

Site layout

Whenever a consumer enters a physical store, they are exposed to the best possible layout designed to maximize sales potential. 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.

The personalization of the layout, as well as the entire website structure, ideally 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 similar to the one in the cart in their feed.

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. The same should be adopted by online retailers to guide users through a website.

In the case of a large inventory, a tiered menu helps consumers to easily follow through different categories and subcategories. Whatever menu structure a website adopts, its goal must be straightforward: 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 refine their search to find items quickly.

Imagery

In a physical store, consumers can try out the items before committing to a purchase. But since there is no possibility of physically touching and picking up a product, e-commerce stores need to provide a cohesive mix of media to create an interactive experience. Dynamic product visuals, sharp, clear pictures and videos of the highest quality should be used to showcase products from a variety of angles with relevant close-ups on specific details and important features.

E-commerce stores need to test different concepts and see what works best, for example, clothes on a mannequin or model, lifestyle photos or traditional photos in the studio, and so forth.

User-Generated Content

When a consumer walks down the aisle in a physical store, there is an opportunity to 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, 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.

Product recommendations

Retailers 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 adopted 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 customer’s browsing and purchase history to present options that consumers are likely to buy.

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.

E-commerce 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 be used to promote loyalty programs, perks, or other options for both new and returning customers.

There are many ways e-commerce stores can adopt visual merchandising techniques that are no longer a privilege of brick-and-mortar stores. Easy to navigate website with enhanced browsing experience, site responsiveness, clean and organized product descriptions, personalized recommendations will all elevate the overall online shopping experience.

Share. Spread tech knowledge & news:

About the author of this article

Evgeny Grigul
Co-founder Virto Commerce

Evgeny has more than 14 years of product & team development. Before joining Virto Commerce, he was responsible for successfully creating and delivering project management products to the marketplace by managing technical risks and opportunities. Evgeny holds a degree in physics from Emmanuel Kant State University.