Secrets to Searchandising Success

Linc Wonham
by Linc Wonham 20 Jun, 2011

For decades, brick-and-mortar retailers have successfully increased their sales through merchandising - displaying seasonal items at the store's entrance, using end-caps to feature discounts or carefully sorting products by price, category and popularity, to name just a few examples.


When new technologies in site search introduced the strategy to online retail several years ago, the term "searchandising" became one of the most oft-used words in ecommerce. Merchants loved the fact that platforms could allow for new methods of recommending product and directing their online customers, and Web consumers embraced the enhanced site navigation capabilities and increased overall ease of use.


The term is heard less often now, nearly four years since it first became popular, but searchandising is now more important to merchants than ever. The way Web analytics have advanced in that time and the improvement of product recommendation engines make searchandising a critical component to a retailer's Web success.


Below are five important things to keep in mind when using searchandising to increase your online sales as well as your customers' satisfaction - no matter what you choose to call it today:


Plan a Sorting strategy
Online product sorting and recommending should always remain a fluid process, and there is no right or wrong searchandising strategy. Merchants should start by looking at their inventories and sales goals and select a global system for sorting their product such as pricing, best-selling items, highest customer ratings or new merchandise, and then prepare to change that default system based on its success as well as other factors such as the introduction of new products and your customers' satisfaction.


Provide quality descriptions and images
The actual merchandising of online products through their sorting and by providing recommendations is only a piece of searchandising. How the products are visually presented as they are sorted is an invaluable part of the equation. Ensure that all product descriptions are well-written, optimized for search and creative yet informative. Also ensure that all product photos are of an equally high quality, and then - once again - do not end the process there and always remain flexible to change.


Understand the metrics
The reason it is so important to remain flexible in the process of searchandising is because, as we said, it has to be a fluid one. More so than brick-and-mortar merchandising because today's online retailers have such informative Web analytics available to them. Some of the metrics that merchants have at their disposal include revenues, conversion rates, pageviews, units, orders, time on site, time on page and many more. It is important not only to know what each one means but to review them as often as possible.


Test and measure success
Understanding all of the available analytics makes it possible to test each different searchandising tactic and measure the results. Different variations to consider when testing may include the aforementioned global sorting system, specific product sorting strategies, the size and number of the product images, the length of the product descriptions, and combinations of them all.


Invite customer feedback
Another advantage that searchandising has over strictly brick-and-mortar merchandising is the ability to connect with customers for their feedback without following them around the store and being intrusive. A simple survey at the end of the checkout process, a follow-up email to confirm an order, or a Facebook poll can give merchants valuable information on the success or failure of their searchandising campaigns. Customer satisfaction is one of the biggest benefits of the strategy, so it is important to know how your customers feel about your site's search capabilities, sorting strategies, product information and recommendations.