A successful online business is as much art as it is science. You start with a gut feeling, that sense that you have a product that people will want to buy. And then you test it out and try again with something else if it doesn’t work. So far, so simple. But in between there is an essential step that so many online vendors miss: merchandising.
Merchandising is the art and science of promoting products in the right way, at the right time, in the right place and the right price. Again you start with your instinct and experience, and then you test. But it’s not simple. There are multiple angles and approaches to test out and re-tune. Merchandising is all about nuance.
So how can you systematise merchandising in to your online business and what are the mistakes to avoid?
Confident, Clear and Concise
These are often referred to as the “three C’s” of modern online merchandising. Tens of thousands of websites are created every month. Only a small portion of these will actively exist after two years. This is why brand confidence is important. Examples of such confidence can be seen in strategies such as:
- Using superlatives when describing products
- Encouraging client engagement and testimonials
- Highlighting your best-sellers
- Challenging visitors to compare your products with other firms
If you firmly believe in what you have to offer, the chances are much higher that potential buyers will feel the same.
Clarity is the second main concern. Many websites are too busy and distracting in terms of what they have to offer. The average customer has neither the time nor the inclination to wade through pages of fluff until they finds what it is that they are looking for. The site should be easy to navigate. Try to keep extraneous advertisements to a minimum. Avoid blind links and annoying promotions (including pop-ups and pop-unders). While you might believe that these can influence and sales process, the fact of the matter is that they accomplish nothing more than detracting from what it is that you are trying to promote.
Concise advertisements sell. Why should people purchase your product or service? What qualities make it different from the rest? What does your business stand for and what are its core values? What can customers expect when interacting with a representative or an e-commerce checkout platform? You should aim to answer all of these questions on the homepage of your website. This is also why it could be a good idea to do away with a separate ‘About Us’ page. It is better to explain who you are and what you do as soon as possible.
Test, analyse and test again
Analysing your previous merchandising campaigns is essential. It should be an ongoing process that you build into your sales and marketing system. Analysis can be accomplished with open-source tools such as Google Analytics, which can give you indepth insights into who your propects and customers are and how they are using your website.
Mastering the art and science of online business is no easy task. It presents a number of evolving challenges. But if you build in an analytical approach to your e-commerce business from the beginning, you will take guess work right out of the equation.
The tips mentioned above are just a few of methods that are used by some of the top e-commerce companies. It’s not simple. But applying a merchandising approach to online sales is unquestionably time well spent.