- October 30, 2020
- by Guest Author
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Differentiate or die?
When asked this question, even the silliest one will also choose to be different rather than death. So why do I mention this?
As a marketer or business owner, there is one fact we have to accept – change is inevitable. All organizations, even the best ones, will need to become adept at lightning-quick transformation if they want to have a position in the fiercer competitive market.
So how to take advantage of the difference in your online sales?
This post will show you how visual merchandising can be applied to your e-commerce stores to create truly immersive experiences online for the customers and skyrocket your sales.
First thing’s first!
Before diving deep into useful tips and tricks for visual merchandising application, let’s take a brief look at its definition, both for physical and digital stores.
What is Visual Merchandising?
Have you ever felt attracted to a mannequin dressed up with the perfect set of clothes behind the store’s glass outside the street?
If yes, that store successfully applies visual merchandising in grasping your attention. However, that’s just the appearance of the problem from the consumer’s side.
For the merchants or marketers, visual merchandising is a retail practice of designing and optimizing in-store displays to maximize revenue and strengthen brand identity.
From the marketing perspective, visual merchandising turns a retail space into the most productive salesperson. It is not limited to only wall displays or lighting fixtures but encompasses many design techniques (which I will mention more below) to grab visitors’ attention and drive sales.
What is eCommerce Visual Merchandising?
69% of Americans purchase online, and 25% of them have the frequency of shopping at least once per month.
What we can see is a significant shift towards online shopping of modern consumers. The trend of shopping online has grown from being a novel concept to a multi-trillion dollar industry.
As consumer shopping behavior changes, visual merchandising is not only confined to physical stores, but also crucial to e-commerce shops.
So exactly what is the meaning of visual merchandising to online stores?
The fundamental purpose of business merchandising is to guide customers through their shopping journey towards purchase decisions as quickly as possible.
In traditional retail, visual merchandising is presented by combining the store’s design and object organization. When it comes to the digital world, those things change into web design elements.
Then, how visual merchandising can affect an online store’s bottom line? The next part will answer this question.
What are the most important aspects of eCommerce Visual Merchandising?
4 main visual merchandising principles make it the most influential tool on increasing an eCommerce store’s sales are:
- Product photos
- Trustworthy customer experience
- Aesthetic design
According to Yotpo’s research, a store displaying customer photos on their product pages can increase visitors’ number of the checkout page by 25%!
The product’s perceived value and brand’s trustworthiness are usually judged based on its visual presentation quality and genuineness. It means that having high-quality and professional product photos can be extremely beneficial to improve customer trust.
It’s not exaggerating to say that product photos are an indispensable and most effective sales tool for e-commerce.
Customers can use them to gain more information about an item from its actual appearance to features in a detailed and lively way. It’s so popular that we can see many shops use short videos going with high-quality photos to describe their products to the shoppers.
Trustworthy customer experience
Have a look at the below statistics:
- 63% of customers like to buy from an online shop that displays customer reviews
- 71% of online shoppers feel more comfortable and willing to purchase an item after reading customer reviews
The power of shoppers’ reviews is undeniable!
If the product photos create good impressions for customers about an item, then the user-generated content (UGC) is the determinant factor in their purchase decision. Probably applying UGC can produce significant changes to the store’s revenue.
I mean “applying probably” is that you should be honest when displaying customers’ reviews on your site. The online shoppers are smart enough to distinguish between the genuine customers’ reviews and the fake one!
Who doesn’t love great aesthetics? Websites are no different.
Much like the front of a shop on the street, the design of your web plays the critical role of catching customers’ attention, then leading them to their most comfortable and confident state to buy from you.
Your online presence needs to be professional and compelling enough to impress the target audience. A great user-experience created by a well-structured layout and a spectacular design will ensure your users have a pleasant experience.
Just remember that the final purpose of online merchandising is to make it easier for visitors to browse, search, and buy your products.
Under the popularity of smartphones, mobile-friendly turns from a nice-to-have feature to a must-have one.
According to Statista, nearly half (49.2%) of eCommerce sales are made by smartphones in 2020.
Affected by the increasing number of smartphone users, your e-commerce merchandising needs to be more mobile responsive than ever before to meet customer’ requirements.
In fact, 57% of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile.
Double-checking your online presence on both computers and mobile devices allows you to figure out and fix all the unnecessary mistakes being displayed on your website.
How to optimize the eCommerce Visual Merchandising of your online store (with examples)?
Let’s take a closer look at some practical tactics for successful visual merchandising that you could apply to your e-commerce shop.
You might have heard the quote: “don’t judge a book by its cover”. However, it’s a totally different story when it comes to the store’s sites nowadays.
75% of consumers admit to making judgments about a business’s credibility based on its web design. And the homepage is usually the first visual merchandising touchpoint.
What would happen if your homepage is poorly designed and less compelling? You lost a potential customer while leaving a bad experience with your brand in the user’s mind.
Here’s what you could do to prevent those things from happening!
By adding your brand’s story to the homepage, you can easily create an emotional connection with visitors while they are reading about you on their screen. This is the most effective way for visitors to understand your brand’s messages.
Some useful tips for you to convey brand storytelling effectively on the homepage:
- Always use high-quality images
- Short text but still convey every important message
- Clear storytelling line throughout the page (Put the most critical information first, and gets more and more detailed throughout)
- Display one of your signature products as visually as possible and explain why your business is the customer’s best choice via your product’s features
- Use social proof (usually customer reviews) and authority proof
- Include social media buttons or call outs at the bottom of the page
- Offer clear call to action buttons throughout the site
Bagigia – a bag shopping website, is an excellent example of the best homepage with subtle and creative storytelling.
Different from most other e-commerce websites that showcase items with symmetric cards or grids, Bagigia shows every detail of its hottest products with smart parallax scrolling design, intelligent word explanations, and an impressive zipper-like navigation bar
Though its homepage provides much brand-related information, you won’t ever feel any boredom or annoyment to read it till the end.
A website layout is a pattern that defines a web’s structure. Its primary role is to structure all the information presented on a site. Moreover, the site layout provides a clear path for user navigation within the web pages and puts the most essential elements’ front and center.
A good layout keeps users on the site because it makes essential information easily accessible and intuitive to find. That’s why it’s vital to make sure that the store layout is optimized enough to deliver the best browsing experience.
A good layout has three main characteristics:
Not only does your layout need to be clear and easy-to-follow, but identifying areas of high activity to place promos, bestsellers or CTA buttons is also crucial.
Dropbox – A popular cloud storage service offers visitors a simple above-the-fold experience.
Users can learn, sign up, or scroll down to learn more. There’s also a pared-down menu that makes finding what you need simple and intuitive.
What’s more, the information structure on the homepage’s top part follows the F-shaped reading pattern. Notice how each important component is located exactly along the F-pattern route where visitors will naturally look when viewing this page.
Navigation is one of the key aspects of a site that should not be taken lightly. It doesn’t matter how gorgeous your website is if users can’t find their way around it.
Online retailers will have to consider the customer’s online journey on a site. Then, choose the visual merchandising tactics suitable to maintain visitor’s attention and prevent their action from clicking away.
The ultimate goal of site navigation is to take shoppers to their wanted sites with the fewest clicks. To design good navigation for your website, some bits of advice below could be helpful:
- Consider using mega-menus to provide shoppers with an infinite amount of options to navigate from (avoid creating a feeling of overwhelming for users)
- Re-sort the navigation based on each visitor’s affinities and preferred categories
- Use autocomplete search mechanism for the search bar
- Use breadcrumb trails to tell your customer where they are on your online store
- Don’t forget to make use of the footer to provide more brand-related information
- Make sure that the website navigation is responsive on mobile
In Nixon’s homepage, 4 of the navigation columns adopt mega-menus to display more products. And the best part is that it has a search box that allows users to find products more quickly.
Ecommerce visual merchandising focuses on creating a smooth experience in such a way that entices customers to buy from you. It’s also about supporting shoppers to explore and discover your products that they’re seeking without much effort.
Product recommendation allows you to do that most effectively. Recommending intentionally other products on specific pages helps buyers discover more items they may not have chanced upon otherwise.
You can see this technique used in several e-commerce stores from homepage to checkout under the below forms:
- Recommended for you – Product recommendations based on the shopper’s preferences (exp: you might also like, similar products)
- Complete your purchase – Products that complement and can be worn with the chosen product. (exp: people who bought this one purchased, frequently bought together)
- Trending products – Top-selling products at category level (exp: popular now, best seller)
- Style it (typically for clothing stores) – Personalized styling recommendations for different occasions (exp: work well with or style it with)
Look at how Amazon uses product recommendations at the end of a product page.
And this is how Mageplaza cleverly pushes its sales by suggesting additional products right under the checkout area.
This technique is often used by clothing brands or massive e-commerce exchanges with a wide range of products. This will make the creation of collections easier.
However, collections don’t just have to be used with fashion brands. Its purpose is allowing customers to self identify with the items they are looking for and dive deeper into the site for increased engagement.
Few tips for your collection based visual merchandising home pages:
- Display attention-grabbing images to attract users to each collection
- Ensure the name of each group is clear and short
- The photos stand for each collection doesn’t overshadow the text
- Keep the site looking clean and easy-to-read by displaying collections in a grid style
The design of Zappos’s homepage is simple, clean, and easy on the eyes with a lot of white space. At first glance, visitors know exactly where they need to look for their desired items.
Let’s take another example of Amazon. To save time searching for users, they divide products into different categories based on customer’s purposes.
eCommerce Visual Merchandising best tips & practices to increase sales
Some pieces of tips to make sure your online visual merchandising is as effective as possible:
- Avoid displaying low-quality photos on your website
- Provide product photos going along with detailed and explicit descriptions
- Highlight user-generated content on every product pages
- Ensure your online store is mobile responsive for shopping on-the-go
- Put the best sellers, sales, and latest releases on the top of your e-store
- Optimize the category pages by using an appropriate filtering attribute to specific items
- Display different color variations of a particular item on product pages
- Design a clear layout for each page of your web
Time to make every inch on your site cost!
If you plan to be ahead of the competition, visual merchandising is something your business can ignore. By executing visual merchandising properly, your store can improve its customer experience, and ultimately become more competitive in the retail marketplace.