Ecommerce Vs Retail Merchandising

Brick and mortar stores set the way for how merchandising operates today. Merchandising was originally created to suit the in-person experience. Today, the eCommerce merchandising experience has grown in leaps and bounds. Ecommerce merchandising capacities today can parallel and even exceed the capabilities of traditional. Let’s take a look at eCommerce vs. retail merchandising.

Customer Journey Direction


A retail merchandising strategy should include a layout plan which directs traffic in an intended pathway through the store. In IKEA for example, they even have arrows on the floor to lead the shoppers. Other stores might not have such obvious directions, but the positioning of the aisles and products all subtly serve this purpose. This benefits the customer and the merchant. The easier the customer journey, the more likely they are to buy. The merchant wants the shopper to view everything available to them.

The journey should culminate at the checkout, which is optimized for ease and efficiency. Once shoppers have decided they want to make a purchase, their journey should lead them to checkout naturally with no obstruction.


Creating a clear customer journey on an eCommerce store is equally as important. As the landing page is the first point of contact, this should offer some clear pathways that customers can take. However, unlike in retail, eCommerce can offer customers specific journeys depending on what each customer is looking for. By choosing from collections to browse, or popular products, their journey can begin in a way that suits them. They don’t need to waste time on a journey through things they are unlikely to buy.

Furthermore, eCommerce personalization capacities means that customer journey direction can be unique to each customer visiting the site. Based on previous data, each customer can be offered a path that is perfectly relevant to their needs. This will result in improved conversion and AOV.

Lastly, just as with retail, the checkout should be optimized. With eCommerce merchandising there are apps that can help make the checkout experience as smooth as possible. Along with cross-sell and upsell options appearing on this page.

Changing Store Displays


Store displays are a huge part of retail merchandising. These need to be updated regularly. These change depending on season, holiday and time of year. Each country has their own holidays, and the commercial world reflects these. For example, in the US; Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the three main events from October to December. Each will have a relevant display, and these will be deeply thought through by the store’s employees. These will reflect relevant products, whilst keeping in mind the business goals.

In order to keep these displays relevant, there must be a department plan that is responsible for the logistics. Deciding what they look like, when they go up, and actually implementing them is no mean feat.


In the eCommerce world, the physical labor of changing displays is removed. However, seasonal displays still should be evident on websites according to the location. A benefit of the eCommerce experience means that the display can be seasonally relevant to different locations. For example, shoppers in Australia would see winter collections when those in the US would see summer collections. This can also be relevant to holidays, for example in the US Thanksgiving would be highlighted, whereas in Europe Christmas would already be the main display.

Furthermore, these changes could be planned and scheduled months in advance. Once the appropriate date for the change in display arrives, your system could have it set up to automatically update. This removes any time pressure and unnecessary stress; campaigns are planned and organized months in advance.

Visual Merchandising


The first sense we use when we enter a store is our sight. Making sure that merchandising includes all of the visual elements is hugely important. The store layout should be appealing and the lighting should be flattering for all of the products, displaying them in the best light. Signs should be clear so people know what the products they are, and how much they cost. These should also be in keeping with the brand image; using a certain font and certain color schemes. Other fixtures such as props, displays or advertisements should also be considered.


The same applies for eCommerce. Making sure that a consistent brand image is presented throughout the website is important, and can be implemented throughout different sections of the website. Visual Discovery can also be used to connect social media to the products. This creates a natural product discovery journey, stemming from the social media platforms people spend so much time on already.

Optimized photos and videos should be used to make products more appealing and attractively presented. Using user generated content, influencers or celebrity endorsements can all add to making your website stand out visually. This also increases social proof and builds brand loyalty.

Predictive Analytics


E-commerce Merchandising rules are implemented depending on past analytics. After doing daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly reviews, a business can see trends. Through looking at figures of what has been sold, or has not, merchandising rules can be adapted accordingly. This information is crucial in matching customer demands and trends, whilst at the same time ensuring business goals are set.


In eCommerce, analytics are gathered in real time. They are instantly collected and monitored through the online dashboard. This means rules can be changed automatically depending on analytics results and business needs. Furthermore, click profiles, abandoned cart and entry pages are all analytics that can be gathered online, but not in person. It doesn’t matter if the shopper even bought anything, as long as they enter the store, important data is gathered. This creates merchandising rules that are even more relevant to anyone potentially interested. 

Merchandising online also gives the merchant the flexibility to immediately change rules depending on current trends. If something is skyrocketing in popularity, there doesn’t have to be any forward planning or delay in making the website appropriate to this. 


Large stores have entire teams devoted to all of the separate areas of retail merchandising. A lot of thought and physical effort needs to go into making this kind of merchandising achieve its goal. In eCommerce, this stress is reduced. The whole eCommerce merchandising experience can be contained in one place, even in one module. Ecommerce merchandise offers the flexibility to make immediate changes, seasonally appropriate displays, huge analytics advantages and personalization potential. It’s easy to see how eCommerce continues to grow stronger and exceed traditional merchandising capacities.