Comment & Blogs
Date:23 August 2012
Why Online Merchandising is 1,000 Times More Important Than Offline Merchandising
(And 5 Ways to Make Sure You Do It Right)
A bold claim? You bet. But we’re passionate in the belief that todays’ shoppers involve online product content and information in their purchase decision much more than other sources, making online merchandising 1,000 times more important than offline merchandising. At the very least, it is 980 times more important.
So, why is online merchandising so much more important than offline merchandising? In a store, there are people whose responsibility it is to help sell products. Whether they are sales clerks, category specialists, or the person who makes sure the products are in stock and on the shelf, they help remove obstacles that could keep a shopper from purchasing a product. Online, it’s just the shopper and the products - there is no one helping sell products – so online merchandising has to play the role of sales, too.
Here are five tactics to improve your online merchandising, and in turn, increase conversions and sales:
1. Give shoppers information, information and more information
The purchase decision is the same as it has always been: it starts with the identification of a problem, research to locate a suitable solution to the problem, evaluation of alternatives, and finally, a purchase. What has changed is that most of this process, if not all of it, is now done online. Even in cases where the purchase takes place offline, more than likely it has been influenced by an online information search.
80% of all product searches begin online, whether the product is to be purchased online or offline. (Forrester Research, 2010)
It should not be a surprise to learn that search is happening well beyond traditional search engines. In fact, searching for product information on retail sites is a preferred first stop. (Forrester Research, 2010)
Shoppers are more than twice as likely to perform product research on retailer websites as they are on manufacturer sites. (ComScore 2010)
Retailers: offer as much informational product content on your site as possible because that is where shoppers are starting their search. There are really only three things separating one online retailer from another: product content, pricing and shipping. Providing shoppers with engaging and educational product content will help build loyalty for you and keep shoppers on your site longer.
53% purchased from the retailer on whose website they had spent the most time. (Nielsen, 2008)
Manufacturers: make it a top priority to create compelling marketing collateral, image assets and product content, for your site and for your retail partners’ sites. It is crucial that you make it easy for a shopper to purchase your product and the easiest way to do it is to remove any obstacles standing in the way of a purchase by providing quality product information and content.
2. Let online shoppers interact with your products
Risk is inherent to online transactions because shoppers do not have the ability to physically handle merchandise and examine it. Interactive merchandising technology allows online shoppers to interact with products in order to eliminate any unanswered questions and reduce hesitation.
Interactive content such as image zoom and 360-degree rotations can simulate the “touchy feely” in-store experience, while video demos can show products being used under realistic circumstances and simulate a clerk’s live demonstration. This interactive content helps empower shoppers and removes any obstacles standing in the way of a purchase.
Online product demos boost the add-to-cart ratio by about 6% among shoppers who engage in demos over shoppers who don’t. (PEW Research Center, May 2010).
3 – Let in-store shoppers interact with your products, online
QR codes are postage stamp-sized barcodes that look like a sadistic crossword puzzle-maker created them. Manufacturers are increasingly putting QR codes on their product packaging or in advertising. When scanned with a mobile device, the codes link to a web page that displays more information about the product.
The most popular applications used in-store are 2-dimensional code scanner apps, with 44% of smartphone users using them while in a store. (iModerate Research Technologies, March 2011)
Retailers are using QR codes in-store too, by linking to category buying guides, product selectors, mobile coupons, how-to videos, and demos. This mobile content allows manufacturers and retailers to always be “in the aisle,” helping shoppers choose the right product for their needs. Allowing in-store patrons access to interactive online content can help create or preserve the sale.
More than two-thirds of mobile shoppers (69%) used their phones to visit the store’s own website, but nearly half (46%) also used their phones to access a competitor’s website. (Foresee, January 2011)
A shopper in the aisle that is searching for product information is begging you to help them buy the product. Give them engaging and educational content to ensure that they complete the purchase.
4 – Help your shoppers find the right products with product selectors and buying guides (because category navigation isn’t enough)
When shoppers know exactly what they are looking for, category navigation is adequate. But when they don’t, guided selling tools such as product selectors and buying guides can help them help themselves.
Let’s use lawn mowers as an example. Category navigation is adequate is a shopper knows they are looking for a self-propelled mulching walk behind mower with pull start. But if the shopper doesn’t know what type of mower they need, a buying guide can educate them and help them select the right mower. Questions like, “How large is your yard?” “Do you want to mulch or bag grass clippings?” and “Gas or electric engine?” helps the shopper narrow their choices and decide which lawn mower is right for their needs.
Product selectors are similar to buying guides, but are designed for shoppers who know what category of product they need, but are not sure of which specific product. Selectors present shoppers with a series of questions that narrow down product choices based on their answers. They are perfect for large product lines, complicated products, or when multiple brands offer the same products.
A company that offers many categories of products should help shoppers find the category they are looking for first, then focus on the specific product they need. Buying guides do this perfectly. A company that sells only one category of products should help customers find the right product for their needs. Product selectors are the right interactive tool to do this.
Retailers have seen up to a 40% increase in conversions using interactive tools like product selectors and buying guides. (Easy2 Technologies, 2011)
5 – Mirror your shoppers’ behaviour – be mobile
Using mobile technology to engage with shoppers has three major benefits:
- Increase sales. There is a distinct link between relevant information provided in-store and purchase decisions. More information means more sales.
- Increase loyalty and satisfaction. Shoppers reward brands that meet their information needs and help them purchase the correct product with loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
- Connects physical products and stores to the online world with mobile product content.
Much like the growth of the Internet as a shopping channel in the 1990s, mobile is poised to be adopted even more rapidly. Shoppers are accustomed to researching and buying products online, and doing so with their mobile devices, whether at home or in-store is the logical next step. Conclusion
Shopping starts online and the online experience is no longer just an extension of a brand; it is a fundamental part of the holistic brand experience, so it’s critical that manufacturers and retailers provide top-notch online content. The fact that todays’ shoppers rely so heavily on online content and information in their product search means that online merchandising is (at least) 1,000 times more important than offline merchandising.About Easy2:
Easy2 Technologies is a leading interactive merchandising content and technology provider. We connect manufacturers, retailers and shoppers with engaging and educational content that helps remove obstacles between seller and buyer that stand in the way of making a confident purchase. We make it easy for shoppers to choose our clients’ products, for retailers to implement interactive merchandising content and for manufacturers to create engaging content and publish it on their retail partners’ websites.
To learn more about how Easy2 helps manufacturers and retailers increase conversions and sales, contact:
+ 44 (0) 7545 120340 firstname.lastname@example.org
+ 44 (0) email@example.com