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Lost in Shopping

With apologies to Sofia Coppola, sometimes trying to purchase an item in an unfamiliar environment can be a difficult challenge. Have you ever shopped at a new grocery store? All the items are in different aisles from your regular store. The labels over the aisles are different and may not make sense to you. And if you do find the right aisle, then there’s the problem of locating your item in an endlessly long row. The familiarity and efficiency of shopping at your “regular” store is gone and frustration settles in.

So how do you succeed in this new environment? You could browse the aisles and scan up and down looking for an item. You could ask a clerk for help (which usually results in an aisle number). But in some higher-end stores, if you ask for assistance the clerk willgrocerystore1-600 lead you right to the product!

Wouldn’t it be great if eCommerce shopping were like a high-end store? You ask for something and you are led right to it. Looking for ‘mountaineering jackets’ shows explorer’s jackets, not ski jackets. Add in some features, a color or a price, and you see only those items. It’s easy to buy an item when you can find it.

Online search that understands your request gives the best results. Frustration from endless category browsing or scrolling through pages of results creates customer dissatisfaction. Dissatisfied customers bounce; satisfied customers buy; which make online companies happy.

Finding those products was step one and excellent search is a key to a successful eCommerce site. But what about the casual visitor who wants to wander around the site to see what’s available? These window-shoppers need assistance often in the form of alternative paths to groups of products. Some customers browse by product type. A mountaineering jacket is outerwear, a type of clothing. Others shop by product use. Mountaineering is a challenging outdoor sport, a type of activity. Others still shop by brand, color, price, or other characteristics. It’s important to support all these paths to a product. A great online site does this and makes it easy for merchants to add new paths to support the different ways consumers browse for products.

The eCommerce company also wants to influence the customer to purchase certain products. Different types of customers, the seekers and the window-shoppers, can now effectively find your products. Now comes the task of ‘helping’ them buy the specific product you want to push. Product placement is this task. In a supermarket, it’s shelf placement; which products are at eye level and which products are on the bottom or top shelves? For eCommerce sites, product placement controls the products that appear on the first page and the order of those products.

It seems simple. For example you could rank products by popularity. But consider the following product placement challenge. A customer is looking for new ski clothes and searches for ‘women’s ski clothing’. Ski jackets, pants, hats and gloves fulfill these requirements and a website might decide to show jackets before all other items. That seems reasonable, but wouldn’t it be better to show jackets along with pants that complement them? The customer gets a view of the overall outfit and can easily purchase both.

This arrangement of products is an important merchandising task that is seen on successful sites. Website merchants need easy-to-use tools to organize products in different arrangements that maximize the purchase of those products. Rules to present products can be important, but having direct control of product placement is very effective in these situations.

eCommerce sites are most successful when customers buy effectively merchandised products. These sites must have great search for the seekers who knows exactly what they want, efficiently created multiple paths to products for the window-shoppers, and multiple merchandising methods to make sure that the customer buys the product that the company wants them to purchase. These sites have satisfied returning customers, not customers ‘lost in shopping’.

To find out more about implementing better merchandising for your eCommerce site please read ‘Smarter Merchandising Drives Significantly Higher Revenues.’

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