Merchandising [mur-chuh n-dahy-zing] is the planning and promotion of sales by presenting a product to the right market at the proper time. Effective merchandising means creating organized and skillful advertising through a variety of techniques, such as creating visually appealing displays or grouping complementary products together to create a more efficient shopping experience for the customer. Merchandising is just as important in eCommerce as it is for any brick-and-mortar retailer, though eCommerce comes with the added advantage of technology. Effective use of technology can make it easier to segment, personalize, and measure the impact of a shop owner’s particular merchandising techniques, thereby allowing for improvements that can increase your traffic, sales and brand loyalty.
Ultimately, the most effective way to boost online sales is by knowing what your customers want or need and responding accordingly. Because online retailers don’t usually have sales associates who can interact in real time with potential customers, they will need to structure how they merchandise around site searches in order to know what customers are looking for.
Here are a few tips and tricks for merchandising with search that can help maximize the success of your Shopify store.
1. Make your Shopify SEARCH BOX VISIBLE
This may seem like a no-brainer, but an easy-to-find Search box is potentially the very first key (or the first roadblock, if it’s hard to find) to your success.
Shopify has a wide collection of beautiful store themes, but in some of the themes, the search function becomes a small magnifying glass icon that is hardly noticeable to the eye. It’s important to remember that aesthetics, while a merchandising strategy in its own right, should not trump function. After all, those advanced site search analytics will mean nothing if your site’s design prevents customers from searching in the first place. Customers who search are your most important customers because they are already prepared to buy; if they can’t search for what they are looking for in your store, they will go somewhere else. That’s why it’s crucial to make your search box visible – so people can use it!
2. Find and use an eCommerce Site Search solution
The most important arrow in your merchandising quiver is eCommerce site search, which often comes in the form of an application that can be installed directly into your Shopify store. Just like a customer who enters a store and immediately asks the associate for a particular item, a customer who searches your site manifests a clear intention to buy. An advanced site search is to eCommerce as the professional store associate is to brick-and-mortar retailers: it will help customers find what they want, recommend similar products, and lock in the sale. A good eCommerce site search will also provide shop owners with real-time analytics that offer an in-depth look at what users are searching for as well as your most converting keywords, so you can identity your site’s strengths and rectify any weaknesses.
An eCommerce site search app will also help fill in the gaps in Shopify’s built-in search feature, which has neither autocompletion nor filters and facets. Autocompletion is important for anticipating customers’ needs and guiding them toward the appropriate product in your store, while filters and facets help narrow down products by size, color, style, occasion, or any combination of those, to create personalized product listings for clients who don’t already know the exact product that they’re looking for and convert them to buyers.
3. Use Context-Aware Autocompletion for Contextual Promotions
Your users are conditioned by Google to expect autocompletion that predicts their search query as they type it. People assume that if you can predict what they are asking, thus quickly identifying the problem they are trying to solve, then you must have the answer. In eCommerce, this concept extends not only to suggesting the search query but also suggesting the best-fit products. When users selects a recommended product, they land on the product page and can then click the Buy button without going through a results page, thus accelerating the purchase cycle. If they select a popular query rather than a recommended product, they would get to a result page for that query without the need to type the entire product name. This implicitly assures the users that they are not the only one searching this query.
But the beauty of advanced autocomplete is not only in the instant engagement of the user and instilled trust that there is someone on the Internet who can help her find what they are looking for, but also in contextual promotions of a store’s products. Let’s say, for example, that you have a shoe store and you want to promote a particular item today – perhaps Adidas Continental 80s. With contextual promotion, you can target users who start typing “Adidas”, and present them the “Continental 80” product at the top of the dropdown list. This is a perfect targeting strategy, as it promotes a product only to the people that may find it relevant: users searching “Adidas shoes” would see the promotion, and users looking for more specific Adidas products like “Adidas Cross-Training LG” would see the promotion as part of their recommended search results. Users searching for another product – such as Nike or Puma – would not see the promotion.
The base Shopify search does not include autocomplete, but as mentioned in the first point of this article, some advanced site searches do. Context-aware autocomplete should be a vital component of whatever advanced site search app you choose, as it lets you engage users through popular search suggestions, product suggestions, and contextual promotions. A good autocomplete function will also include spellcheck, to make sure spelling errors don’t keep users from finding your store.
4. Optimize your site for search engines
Much like you would want a physical retail space to be in an easy-to-find location in town, so too do you want your online Shopify space to be easy for search engines to locate and recommend. Luckily, Shopify does the bulk of Search Engine Optimization automatically, by not using iframes on pages and keeping URL characters simple, standard and readable.
There are a couple of things you can do, however, to make sure that your site is optimized. Start with keeping your site navigation organized and in a logical order, with clear descriptions and link titles that match the titles of the pages they lead to. Remember to also use descriptive image file names and descriptive text for internal links, so that search engines can more easily find your page and drive traffic directly to your shop.
About the Author: Zohar Gilad is the Co-Founder and CEO of InstantSearch+ – a service that brings state-of-the-art ecommerce search at an affordable cost to millions of merchants worldwide.