The good news for anyone with products to sell online these days: everyone is shopping online. COVID-19 accelerated online-shopping adoption among all demographics in a matter of weeks in 2020, and as market and consumer data giant Statista reports, those habits have persisted.

The bad news for anyone with products to sell online these days: more and more suppliers are popping up to meet the growing demand. Competition for online shoppers is getting more ferocious by the day. And with shipping and materials costs going through the roof, it’s harder than ever to sustain consumer-friendly price points.

So how can brands stand out? One high-leverage strategy is a focus on product merchandising. In this post, we’ll explore five ways to help distinguish your products from a crowd of competitors and attract more customers along the way.

Let’s get started.

Lean into Your Differentiators

What are the attributes of your products your competitors can’t boast? If it’s the lowest price, that’s an easy one, but differentiators can include anything from “Made in the US” to “locally sourced” to “certified by {fill in expert}” to “as seen on QVC” to “rated #1 in the industry for durability.” In other words, what makes your product better than similar products from other brands? Once you’ve pinpointed those differentiators, make sure they’re prominent on your home page, product pages, and any ad copy.

Provide Best-in-Class Shipping

Yes, free shipping is a huge factor in closing a sale online; for over 10 years, study after study has shown that online shoppers crave and expect free shipping to the point that they’ll (very) frequently abandon carts that show extra shipping costs. Free shipping is pretty much table stakes - if you don’t offer it, expect your competitors to have an edge.

So how do you distinguish your shipping? Give your customers for-pay options, from overnight shipping to white-glove shipping to personalized gift messages and gift wrapping. The right offer at the right moment can win a customer who might have been on the fence otherwise.

Go Overboard with Images

Lifestyle images, images from different angles, images of the product in use...those are all absolute must-haves for any online product. Consider adding things like videos of the product in use, videos of product assembly, close-up images that show product texture and detail, etc. If craftsmanship is one of your big differentiators, or if you’re using high-quality material that sets your product apart, make sure you’re conveying those attributes visually to your customers.

For instance, this set of velvet throw pillows, listed on Wayfair, is more than twice as expensive as some similar velvet pillows, but its close-up images give the user a good idea of the quality of the product:

 

5 Tips for Great eCommerce Merchandising

Embrace social causes

Consumers (especially Millennials and Gen-Z consumers, who are avid online shoppers) want more than just a good product; they want a good product that aligns with their social values. Whether that’s eco-friendly production processes, sustainable packaging, inclusive hiring practices, Black ownership, a commitment to accessibility, or a legitimate embrace of the LGBTQ+ community, social values are increasingly influential in purchasing decisions.

Especially in the wake of the dire 2021 UN report on accelerating global warming, brands will be under pressure to improve their production, packaging, and shipping processes to make them more environmentally friendly. If your brand is already actively supporting social causes that will make consumers feel good, make sure you’re calling those out. If it’s not, start thinking hard about how to address them ASAP.

And one tip within a tip: don’t just settle for lip service (e.g. slapping a rainbow filter over your brand logo for Pride). Consumers have become smart enough to sniff out hollow gestures, which will open you up to well-earned backlash.

 

Social proof

Last but certainly not least, customers want to know that the product they’re considering purchasing is legit. You can reassure them of this in a few ways: customer reviews (a huge consideration factor), social media icons and corporate information leading back to the brand itself, and influencer marketing. The most fundamental of these is reviews, which you can actively cultivate using partners like Revioly or by using retailer-specific programs like Wayfair’s Tried and True. Without this kind of peer-to-peer assurance, and without the ability to touch, smell, or see the product in person, eCommerce conversion rates will likely remain low as customers wonder what they’d really be getting if they purchased your product.

Wrap-up

There’s a lot we haven’t discussed here, like using augmented reality to show the product in a setting, digital marketing strategy, etc. But get these basic merchandising tips right, and you’ll have a leg up on the increasingly competitive eCommerce field. Good luck!

Author bio

Hillary Read, CMO of Cenports, is a 15-year veteran of the eCommerce and digital marketing space. She’s helped scale growth for dozens of brands across the home, garden, and fitness industries.

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