Merchandising… Now what exactly is that?

When we deliver a completed Volusion site, there’s one question that I can be entirely sure will be asked of me: “What do I do now?” This isn’t a question that comes exclusively from people who are new to the industry. Often, the person at the other end of that question is an eCommerce professional or a longtime brick and mortar merchant. No matter who’s asking, my answer is always the same: merchandising.

So what is merchandising?

Merchandising is how a customer views your products, the images, the information, search functionality and the navigation that brings them to your products. It is the “why” (or the “why not”) that the purchase takes place.

As an online merchandiser we take a look at the overall customer experience as it relates to the product. From the moment a customer enters your site we track the movement and experience that eventually leads to the sale. And in the same sense, we track what doesn’t lead to a sale so that we can determine how to improve the customer experience.

When looking at a sight for the first time as merchandisers, we focus on the ease of the navigation. With that focus comes a long list of questions…

• Where am I trying to go?
• How easy was it for me to find what I was looking for?
• How many clicks does it take?
• Were the subcategories broken down in a way that makes sense? Or have we fallen victim to the “too many licks to get to the center of the Tootsie Roll” syndrome, wherein the customer gets bored with all the “licking” and goes somewhere else?
• What do the category pages look like? Are they clean, and simple?
• Is the information clear?
• Will the customer find what they’re looking for as they drill deeper?
• Is the text relevant to the product and the customer’s needs?
• Does the description inform and entice?
• What do the product detail pages look like?
• Do the images properly represent the product?
• Does the customer immediately understand what the product is, what it is used for and how it will benefit them?
• What information is on the page?
• Does it overload the customer with useless details, or does it give them the information that they need to make the buying decision?
• What is the perceived value of this product based on the images and information provided on the page?
• How easy is it to add the product to the cart?
• Are the options and drop downs understandable?
• … and finally, can the customer purchase this product with ease and speed?

Merchandising is the meat of the site. It’s about understanding why a site either converts or doesn’t convert, then making changes to the site based on what you’ve learned. It may seem like the dullest part of Ecommerce when compared to design or marketing, but merchandising is actually very super extremely exciting (though my position as Merchandising Director may make me a bit biased). It takes in the overall site while comparing it to the psychology of the buyer. It’s thrilling when you finally begin to understand your customer and their needs… thrilling and profitable.

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