eCommerce merchandising is woefully underrated.
Think about it – when an online shopper lands on your store, they can’t walk around it like a physical store.
That means they can’t see your store’s layout, they can’t hold your products, they can’t interact with staff, there’s no music, etc., etc.
In other words, all customers have to go on is what you present via their screen.
And that’s where the art (and science) of eCommerce merchandising comes in.
Understanding how to capitalize on great merchandising is essential for modern entrepreneurs.
But with so many merchandising strategies flying around, how can you know what really works?
In this post, we’ll break down eight easy merchandising strategies used by D2C fashion brand Everlane.
Everlane’s success is due in part to their incredible eCommerce shopping experience, so they’ll make the perfect example for us to pick apart.
Before we get to that, though, let’s answer two key questions – what actually is merchandising, and why does it matter?
What is eCommerce Merchandising?
Ecommerce Merchandising is about presenting products, categories, and brand elements online in a way that maximizes sales.
The basic tenets of eCommerce merchandising are to:
- Make it easier for customers to discover and self-select the right products.
- Support accessorizing and coordination via cross-selling or upselling
- Supply relevant information (sizes, colors, and prices)
- Deliver a memorable and frictionless shopping experience
- Forecasting and highlighting consumer trends
Essentially, eCommerce merchandising is about structuring your store to guide customers along the buyer’s journey.
Why eCommerce Merchandising Matters
Based on the above definition, you might think that eCommerce merchandising is simply about making things look nice.
But in reality, it’s more than that. Modern eCommerce merchandising is a blend of data science and art.
See, the way products display in your store can help (or hinder) your customer’s odds of converting.
To illustrate, think back to the last time you shopped at a thrift store.
It probably felt something like this:
Now contrast that with what it would feel like to shop in this Everlane store:
I’m no psychic, but I’d say there’s a pretty big difference in how you’d perceive the two experiences.
Well, here’s the thing: you can elicit the same feelings by the way you merchandise your online store.
For example, check how Everlane has maintained the same organized, minimalist feel with their webshop:
Pretty impressive, right?
See, great eCommerce merchandising empowers you to take charge of your brand’s perception.
But more importantly, merchandising plays a crucial role in your site’s ability to convert browsers into buyers and drive revenue growth.
When you show the right product, to the right customer, at the right time, a sale is likely to happen.
In large companies, eCommerce merchandisers typically work closely with buying teams to accurately forecast trends, plan stock levels and monitor performance.
But, if you’re running a smaller business, you don’t need a merchandising team to get the basics right.
Before we jump in and cover strategies that’ll cover all your bases, let’s talk a bit about the 5 R’s of merchandising.
What are the 5 R’s of eCommerce Merchandising?
The 5 R’s of merchandising stand for Right Products, Right People, Right Place, Right Time, & Right Price.
Offering The Right Products
Offering the right products means pinpointing the perfect product for your target audience’s needs, pain points, and wants.
Target the Right People
The right people for your business are customers who have the highest chance of converting when they visit your store.
Generally, the best way to find your business’s ideal target audience is to create a set of buyer personas to work off of.
Guide Customers to the Right Place
The most effective real-life example of right-place-merchandising are grocery stores.
Grocery stores tend to be laid out in a way that customers need to walk to the back of the store to find essential groceries.
Which means they need to pass all of the products that tempt those customers to make impulse purchases.
And finally, each grocery trip ends at the checkout line, which is filled with snacks and drinks galore. None of this is accidental- It’s all carefully planned to get the most out of each store visit.
Digital stores don’t have physical paths you need to navigate. But you can still “nudge” online shoppers towards the right places with great design.
Make Your Offer at the Right Time
It’s hard to find a successful online store that advertises big prices and “buy now” buttons right on the homepage – and for good reason.
Before you try to sell to visitors, you need to find the right time to do so. Offer too early and you’ll lose the customer before they’re even interested.
Make your offer too late in the buyer’s journey and you may lose too much interest along the way.
Generally, the higher your product’s price is, the longer you’ll have to warm them up before you pitch a sale.
Sell Products at the Right Price
If you’ve covered all of the right bases, price should actually be one of the easiest factors to optimize.
A customer who’s mentally sold on your product will is almost to the finish line. They just need the small nudge of an acceptable price to cross it.
Selling at the right price means picking products that can net you good margins without being too expensive.
8 Ways Everlane Does eCommerce Merchandising Right
Unlike a physical store where your merchandising components are your storefront, signage, shelving, etc., digital merchandising operates via other elements.
In eCommerce, the primary merchandising elements are your:
- Search Box
- Product Photos & Media
- Product descriptions
With that in mind, let’s look at some of Everlane’s merchandising strategies and examples to optimize each step of the process.
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #1. Tell Your Story on the Homepage
Chances are that the bulk of your visitors land on your homepage first.
That’s why it’s crucial to make a great impression.
Think of your homepage as your digital storefront. This is where you need to visually (and verbally) communicate your value proposition to new visitors.
Everlane starts with a bang by using big, bold lifestyle imagery.
In an instant, you get the vibe that this brand is minimalist, understated, and progressive – a set of ideals that resonate with their target audience.
They’ve cleverly placed a number of collections and products directly beneath the fold that tempt visitors to explore the brand further (not how these are some of the ‘trendiest’ products on the site)
But they don’t stop there. Scroll down the page, and you encounter Everlane’s mission statement.
In a world of fast fashion and unethical manufacturing, Everlane highlights their ‘radical’ approach – clothes that last, made without harming the environment or the people who made them.
This combination of appealing photography and on-point storytelling sets Everlane apart from larger retailers like H&M or Zara and gives shoppers a reason to buy.
🔑Key Takeaway: Everlane’s homepage tells a story of sustainability, minimalism, and style. Does the story on your homepage empower customers to tell a story they already want to tell? How can you use visuals and copy to portray your brand in the best possible light?
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #2. Choose a Color Palette
A color palette in eCommerce merchandising is the range of colors you use to create a given page.
Without a doubt color is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to unite products, collections and the spaces around them.
The right color combo can create a sense of harmony, grab attention and ultimately influence your shopper’s behavior.
For example, here’s Everlane’s homepage from December 2019 – look at how they’ve gone with a cozy autumnal-esque palette that suits the seasons.
Notice how the background colors both make the product colors ‘pop’ more and also compliment each other. Nothing is clashing.
It’s probably a good idea to also take some time to study color theory so you can elicit the specific type of feelings you want in your shoppers.
🔑Key Takeaway: Colors can deeply impact how shoppers perceive your store and even influence their actions. Use a palette that matches your target demographic (beard oil shoppers and pink don’t go well together, for example) and elevates your products and collections to a new level.
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #3.Create Awesome Product Collections
Collections invite customers to delve deeper into a specific product range or array of related items.
They’re an excellent way to help customers navigate your store with ease, discover new products and boost revenue via complimentary items.
Plus, if you optimize your collections with the right meta-tags and titles, search engines can deliver customers exactly where they intended to go.
Obviously, collections like ‘mens’, ‘womens’ and ‘sale’ are helpful for shoppers. But don’t be afraid to build other not-so-common collections too.
Everlane features eye-catching collections like ‘The 90’s Cheeky Jean’ and ‘New Colour Drops’ to pique their shoppers’ interest.
Two collections that work for any brand are a ‘best-sellers’ and ‘new arrivals’ collection.
The ‘best sellers’ collection adds social proof and gives new shoppers the confidence to order something other shoppers loved.
At the same time, the ‘new arrivals’ collection gives your existing customers a nice place to browse your latest products and find their new favorite.
Just like in physical stores, feature your most popular collections prominently. Place them on your homepage and navigation to tempt shoppers deeper into your store.
🔑Key Takeaway: Collections make it easy for shoppers to browse your product catalog and uncover more things they want to buy.
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #4. Make Navigation a Breeze
Great eCommerce merchandising makes your store easy to browse.
Seriously, 74% of shoppers say that the ‘ease of browsing and searching’ is their number one criteria for choosing one website over another.
Everlane have meticulously organized their store to make it incredibly simple to find what you’re looking for.
For example, you can see the other collections listed in the left-hand panel on every page.
They also include a search function (that actually works), as well as filters that help you hone in on the exact size and color you’re looking for.
Taking these elements together delivers a frictionless shopping experience that makes it easy for customers to find exactly what they came for.
🔑Key Takeaway: Organize your website’s navigation so that no matter where a visitor lands, they can find what they want within three clicks. Add a search function and use product tags.
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #5. Offer Personalized Recommendations
One of the biggest advantages of eCommerce merchandising is that you can leverage data to offer a more personalized experience.
Everlane keeps its recommendations simple by simply suggesting complementary items on the product page.
Another great tactic is to take a leaf out of Amazon’s book and show shoppers what other shoppers were interested in.
Everlane does this with it’s ‘People who bought this item also bought’ section at the bottom of the product page.
You can also add this section to your cart page and thank you page to maximize conversions and order value.
Key Takeaway: Use AI instead of shopping assistants to recommend products and offer cross-sells that’ll boost your cart value.
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #6. Leverage Product Videos
Excellent product photography is at the heart of digital merchandising.
But Everlane takes things a step further with short product videos.
Product videos are proven to boost conversions.
For example, Shoe company Zappos found that their sales increased between 6%-30% when they added product videos.
And it makes sense when you think about it – in a store, you can pick up a product, feel it and see it in motion. Images don’t afford you the same luxury.
Videos help build trust between your brand and the shopper, eliminate customer doubts, boost conversions and even lower the number of returned orders.
Without a doubt one of the easiest ways to level up your eCommerce merchandising game – plus you can convert your video assets to different formats and re-purpose them elsewhere in your marketing (like in emails, social media campaigns and so forth)
🔑Key takeaway: Add videos to give customers a better sense of what a product will look/perform like in real life.
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #7. Add Social Proof
A handful of happy customers is a marketing army in disguise. All you need to do is let them tell other shoppers how awesome you are.
See, over 90% of customers say product reviews help them make a purchasing decision. So, sprinkle social proof liberally across your site.
Everlane has a slider on their homepage with a selection of brilliant reviews (and links to buy the products):
But they also have product reviews and star ratings on every page – something you absolutely need to have too.
Another way to add social proof while also lending some inspiration is to curate user-generated content on your website via an Instagram feed:
Another interesting place where Everlane flex their customer reviews is on their collection pages, which is a super clever way to convince browsers that a certain product is right for them.
🔑Key Takeaway: In the absence of a friend to bounce opinions off or a shop assistant to chat with, reviews and testimonials pick up the social slack that shoppers need to purchase.
eCommerce Merchandising Tip #8. Stay on Top of Product Trends
A crucial part of eCommerce merchandising is anticipating trends before they properly take off.
For example, according to Salesforce, 50% of consumers will consider switching to another brand if you’re not anticipating their needs.
Obviously, you’ll need to adjust your site to cope with seasonal periods like Christmas, Summer, and Fall (assuming your products are seasonal).
But capitalizing on emerging trends within your niche is just as important. For example, Everlane recently launched an entirely new collection called ’90s Cheeky Jeans’ for women.
Hopping over to google trends, you can clearly see there’s rising demand for 90’s style jeans over the last 12 months:
So, stay in touch with what’s happening within your industry.
Don’t underestimate your audience either – Often, the best way to discover trends is to ask them what products they’d like you to offer.
A great relationship with your supplier or manufacturer can also be an invaluable asset. Often, they’ll have their finger on the pulse of what’s trending upwards.
🔑Key Takeaway: Catch trends early and merchandise your site accordingly – display trending products and collections in places where customers will find them.
5 Useful eCommerce Merchandising Tools
The right tools can make merchandising a whole lot easier. Here’s five merchandising tools to help you get started:
Hotjar is a behavior analytics tool that allows you to visualize where customers are browsing, scrolling, and clicking on your website so you can adjust accordingly.
Using HotJar, you might discover that a collection is placed too far down the page, and only 10% of visitors are scrolling that far.
You can also record individual visitor journeys to learn more about how people are behaving in your store – super valuable for any merchandiser.
Wiser is a valuable Shopify app that empowers you to offer personalized recommendations.
It uses powerful algorithms that analyze customer data to determine the best products to suggest to shoppers.
Plus, features like the Frequently bought together’ widget’ and ‘thank you page recommendations’ are a must-have for any Shopify-based merchandiser.
Product Filter and Search is a powerful app that empowers your customers to filter, search and navigate your site with ease.
The app has a great intelligent search function and detailed analytics dashboard, which gives you insights into the products your customers are looking for.
Plus, it’ll allow you to see what products are trending and create merchandising rules based on search queries.
Loox is one of the most popular review apps on Shopify.
It let’s you turn your customers into marketers by automating your review collection and displaying them on your store.
A must for merchandisers looking to build trust, credibility and boost conversions.
Beautiful product photography and merchandising go hand in hand.
Pixic makes it simple to get professional-level editing at an affordable pay-as-you-go price.
Use it to quickly transform your images – remove backgrounds, add natural shadows and create total consistency across your store.
Learn More With These eCommerce Merchandising Courses
Okay, so far, we’ve covered some basic elements of successful eCommerce merchandising and shared some tools.
Getting a handle on the above tactics will go a long way towards delivering a better experience for your customers and more profits for your bank.
But if you’d like to learn more about merchandising (let’s face it, it’s a BIG topic), here’s some courses to try:
This is a nifty course from Shopify that covers the basics of store design. If you were impressed by how Everlane built their store to suit their buyer persona, this course shows you the ropes of creating an appealing online shop.
Another Shopify course that’ll teach you how to build content that guides customers down the buyer’s journey. A must if you’re serious about stepping up your merchandising game.
This Skillshare course shows you how to style products to support your brand story and entice customers to buy. A great one if you’re looking to take product photos that convert.
Not eCommerce specific, but this course will help you wrap your head around merchandising as a whole. The course is an excellent introduction to the merchandising process, terminology, jargon, and concepts that apply both online and offline.
Go Forth & Merchandise Like a Pro
With competition heating up in the eCommerce industry, it’s crucial to think about how you can stand out from your competitors.
Killer eCommerce merchandising creates a branded buyer experience, boosts conversions, and encourages customers to keep coming back.
In this post, we’ve used Everlane as an example to explain some proven digital merchandising tactics.
To recap, we’ve learned that merchandising involves…
- Telling your story on your homepage (and throughout your store) by using on-brand imagery and copy that speak to your ideal buyer.
- Appealing collections that showcase your products in the best light and encourage customers to delve beneath the surface
- Streamlined navigation – ensure customers never need to click more than three times to get where they want to go.
- Recommend complementary products, bundles, cross-sells, and upsells to maximize cart value
- Use testimonials throughout your store to boost credibility and trust
- Stay in tune with your audience, seasons, suppliers, and trends, and adjust your merchandising strategy accordingly.
These tactics represent just the tip of the iceberg of the entire field of eCommerce merchandising.
But if you’re just starting, implementing these will help you stand head and shoulders above the competition.
Remember, the aim of the game is to make your shopping experience more engaging, more personalized, and more memorable.
When you do that, you’ll see a natural boost in your revenue and retention too.