Going Mobile: How to Ensure Your Content Fits a Smaller Screen

Let’s face it: we are now in a mobile-first world. From social media apps to eCommerce marketplaces, consumers are now using mobile devices as the primary tool to search for and purchase items. In fact, it is projected that worldwide, consumers will spend $669 billion USD via mobile shopping this year alone.

When it comes to creating content to fit mobile searchers’ screens, there are three main areas of focus: Written Content, Imagery and Web Design. Here are the top five tips for eCommerce mobile optimization within these three focus areas.

1.  Written Content: Shorten your copy as much as possible

It is important to recognize the reading habits of those who consume information on their mobile devices, as well as how that information is presented by default. Long paragraphs of text appear even longer on a smartphone and therefore come across as time-consuming and cumbersome.

Optimize your written content for mobile devices by cutting your paragraphs wherever possible and leveraging bulleted lists to present product information to your shoppers. When creating content for mobile, give your consumers exactly what they need in the most succinct way possible. They’re likely on-the-go or looking for the first product that makes sense for their needs.

Want to learn more about how geekspeak’s content optimization? Click here.

2.  Written Content: Leverage mobile-friendly keywords

A slightly more advanced method of optimizing your written content for a mobile audience is to perform specific keyword research that targets mobile users. Using a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner, you can actually see the search volume trends of keywords used on mobile devices as opposed to desktops.

Using this tool, it is possible to choose keywords that are linked with high mobile search volume, incorporating them into your text where relevant and in some cases, replacing lower volume keywords all together. Take this keyword research one step further by considering voice search. Consumers are increasingly searching for products via virtual assistants or voice-to-text technology, and the format of their keywords are therefore changing. For specifics, check out our last blog post on optimizing product content for voice search.

3.  Imagery: Update infographics

Infographics are excellent tools for visually telling a product story and giving your shoppers a snapshot of product specifications, benefits, applications and more. Calling out multiple features on one image can work on a desktop, but it is important to think of how that same infographic will translate onto a smaller screen. Limit text on images and make sure that the copy is large enough to be easily read on mobile.

A good tip to follow is to focus each infographic on one major feature of your product, allowing you to place the focus on the most important specifications while highlighting them in a way that is visually appealing to a mobile shopper.

Learn about image processing here or reach out to discuss your specific infographic needs.

4.  Imagery: Simplify photography

Taking the last point one step further, it is critical that you simplify all product images for mobile, not only your infographics. Product photography that features busy backgrounds, packaging with small text, or very small image sizes may not come across on mobile as they do on a desktop.

Make sure the most important features of your product are highlighted in photography by cropping wherever required, or ensuring your images are zoomable on a mobile device. The best practice in eCommerce is to present your product by itself on a plain, white background to avoid distractions. If you need to leverage graphic elements to call out features that get lost in a smaller image, don’t be afraid to do so (if they are simple and leverage readable text).

Click here to learn more about product photography by geekspeak.

5.  Web Design: Keep user experience in mind

In addition to optimizing your product content, both written and visual, it is key that your website or product page leads to a positive experience for the mobile shopper. Responsive web design has become less of an option and more of a requirement, with search tools like Google giving ranking priority to websites who leverage mobile layouts. Your copy may feature the right keywords and content length and your images may be clear and simple, but if your page fits a desktop layout only, that content will get lost on the mobile shopper.

Mobile optimization is not a simple, one-step fix but taking the time to ensure your content is created for all shoppers and devices can mean the difference between a sale and a bounce.

Conversational Commerce and The Rise of Chatbots–Automation with a Personal Touch

While mobile devices have always served as tools for communication, the way we interact with these devices is quickly changing. Personal calls and texts are commonplace activities but more and more, online time is spent in communication between consumers and retailers. Increasingly, new tools are allowing brands to communicate with customers through mobile devices in new, innovative and personalized ways.

The idea of conversational commerce, coined by Uber’s Chris Messina, speaks to this growing trend of communication between businesses
and consumers through messaging apps. Rather than just clicking through pages on a website or emailing and calling companies to get information, users can now communicate with businesses instantly and in real-time through chatbots (automated chat agents), for a more personalized and conversational experience.

The explosion of online mobile device use in recent years has forced businesses to reinvent how they engage consumers; mobile devices accounted for almost 2 in 3 minutes spent online in December 2015, and more adults accessed the internet via mobile only than desktop only. While most adults still use both platforms, one in five Millennials (18-34) are mobile-only.  With this move to mobile, messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become the go-to for communication on mobile phones. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, we can easily converse with chatbots (automated chat agents) in our messaging apps, much like we would any other contact. They can assist with everything from online shopping, to calling a cab and order food for delivery. We also interact with digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. Essentially, consumers are getting used to talking to machines

A big reason chatbots are increasingly popular, is the fact that people are tired of downloading an app for everything. With the exploding popularity of messenger apps, an alternative to creating yet another new app is to offer your service inside an app they already have. Sites like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are introducing integrated bots to help with shopping, booking and customer service. These chatbots will answer customer questions and serve as a first point of contact for a brand, through text or even voice.

While chatbots offer a solution for ecommerce business owners to manage a high volume of one-to-one conversations, there are risks. Bots can lack personality and conversational flow, and often can’t deviate from a programmed script.  Also, when a bot launch goes wrong, it can be pretty embarrassing, like Microsoft’s chatbot Tay on Twitter.  Many retailers are experimenting with a mix of live support staff and automation for customer service, sales support and other commerce-related functions. Chatbots are intended to improve the user experience, not replace real people, and the right mix can make all the difference.

Ecommerce is becoming increasingly integrated into our lives in a more personalized and conversational way. Businesses are creating new and innovative touch points to reach consumers and sell their brand. With the amount of time consumers spend on mobile devices every day and the huge popularity of messagin

Ecommerce Trends – The 2017 game changers!

It’s another bright and shiny new year, and ecommerce continues to evolve with new and innovative trends. Online spending is growing and is expected to exceed $400 billion per year in the U.S. by 2018 and nearly $40 billion in Canada by 2019. In order to actively engage customers and stay ahead in today’s competitive market, consider the following game changers affecting ecommerce in 2017.

Mobile Engagement

While consumers have been using their smartphones and tablets to shop online for a while now, to date they’ve been less likely to convert on purchases than desktop users. However, according to think tank Gartner, by 2017 ecommerce-driven mobile revenue in the U.S. will increase by at least 50%. This creates huge potential for motivated retailers to improve the performance of their mobile sites and increase mobile conversion rates. Just think—if you’re not offering your customer an effective and engaging mobile shopping experience, you’re missing out on a huge audience for your brand, and potentially losing sales.

More Pay Options

Offering customers quick and easy online payment options results in more conversions and improved customer retention. Rather than entering payment and shipping information over and over, digital options store the information for repeated use on the site. Most ecommerce sites at the very least offer a mobile payment option for PayPal.

Another incentive for mobile engagement, mobile wallets will play a big role in how consumers pay going forward, often replacing traditional wallets altogether. They hold information about credit and debit cards, store coupons, loyalty programs and more. Some of the most common mobile wallets used by consumers include PayPal, Google Wallet and Apple Pay. In addition to smartphones, consumers will now be able to make payments from other accessories like watches and rings.

User-Centric Shopping

The best way to gain and retain a customer is to deliver content that is relevant to that individual. Customer-centric technologies let retailers track past orders and anticipate future needs, allowing them to focus advertising, sales and location-based deals at a highly personalized level. Companies like Kissmetrics offer software that delivers real-time analytics of detailed consumer shopping behavior. This allows retailers to provide a unique online shopping experience to each consumer, increasing conversion rates and repeat business.

Virtual Sales Force

Expect to see more virtual sales teams on ecommerce sites in the coming years. Addressing customer questions and concerns in real time allows a shopper to get information at anytime, anywhere, without delay. We’ve already seen success with chatbots (fully automated chat agents) and digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. Live online sales assistants, however, offer a truly personalized shopping experience. Spending and conversion rates are shown to increase following live chat sessions.

Faster Delivery Times

In today’s world, not only do consumers want to easily make purchases from anywhere, they want products delivered quickly. Amazon Prime led the way and other retailers are following suit, working through the logistical issues that arise with such quick turnaround times. Startups like Postmates often begin by offering same day service in select cities, with the aim to expand in time. And Amazon’s idea of a crowdsourced delivery system where regular people will deliver packages for a small fee could change the way businesses look at shipping in the future.

These are just a few of the ecommerce trends that will continue to pick up steam in 2017. Ecommerce selling is becoming increasingly personalized and interactive; engaging customers in real-time and customizing their experience has never been more important to sales and brand loyalty.

Seeing is believing: New product imagery trends for ecommerce

Successful online retailers know how important product photography is. Online shoppers don’t have the benefit of touching, smelling, or trying on products, so they rely on images to help make a decision. Professional photography is crucial for presenting products because it helps reduce the number of returns and exchanges, not to mention disappointed customers.

Consider these four product photography trends when planning your next photo shoot session:

What’s behind the product?

According to BigCommerce, 76% of the seven million images they analyzed had the original product background replaced by pure white and an additional 16% opted for transparency. The rest kept the original background, which was usually white.

But a new trend is taking hold for category pages: Solid colours, themed backgrounds, or even on location images are popping up on eCommerce sites. Clothing store, Zara, for example, uses dramatic solid colours on their category pages mixed in with traditional neutral and white backgrounds.

Not surprisingly, the actual product pages still favour neutral-coloured or transparent backgrounds. This provides an opportunity to focus on images highlighting the product, as opposed to eye-catching backgrounds enticing the customer in.

Hover and highlight

More of a display option than actual photography, the hover-over is nonetheless gaining in popularity. Sports and fitness tracker FitBit features the hover-over effect on their home page. The different FitBit trackers are pulled forward or rotated as the mouse hovers over the image.

E-commerce stores are able to use the hover-over effect to flip, angle, zoom, and fade images for dramatic effect and to allow the customer to see multiple sides and angles.

360° Imaging

Bang and Olufsen, long recognized for their superior images, use 360-degree imaging to display loudspeakers from every angle. The view-from-every-angle image mimics the instore experience where a shopper can physically pick up a product and turn it around to see features on the front, back, and sides.

Wiggle is a U.K. bicycle shop that uses 360-degree imaging to show all angles of a bike wheel. Steve Mills, head of eCommerce at Wiggle, told digital marketing firm, Smart Insights, “Through multi-variate testing we have seen adding 360 images lead to double-digit conversion increases across certain categories.”

In fact, according to eCommerce site Internet Retailer, when images are rotated automatically, the conversion rate on products sold on those pages is approximately 27% higher than for standard two-dimensional images. Although the 360-degree view has been around for several years, product image photographers have finessed and refined polished images specifically for eCommerce sites.

Mobile zoom options

One of the most popular trends in eCommerce product photography is the sleek zoom or mobile zoom image. This is used on many sites, including clothing and accessory pages. Hover the mouse over an image and it is automatically enlarged.

The benefit of this type of zoom is to give the consumer a detailed, close-up view. For example, New York’s Kate Spade uses zoom imagery successfully to show close-up details of products.

Professional product photography is key to converting sales. Whether you choose still shots on exotic backgrounds, all-around video clips, hover and zoom functions or all four, realistic and detailed images are certain to increase sales and reduce returns and exchanges.

Click and Collect –It’s a win-win for eCommerce

According to “Ecommerce Trends for 2016” by Absolunet, up to 40% of customers who shop online prefer to pick up their purchases in a physical store.

Although this statistic is dependent on the number of physical stores and the distribution network a retailer has, an increasing number of big chain names are making click and collect a standard way of moving product to people.

Here are five reasons why providing the option to purchase and pick-up is essential for eCommerce retailers with physical stores:

1. Customer convenience

With the advent of eCommerce retail giant Amazon.com, ordering online and waiting for delivery seemed the way of the future. However, that process assumes that postal or courier delivery can get the product to the customer in short order. That’s not always the case. And, even if they can, the customer needs to be there to accept delivery, and that’s not always convenient.

According to Cognizant, a leading provider of technology information, online shoppers see in-store pick-up as an essential convenience because they can pick up their purchases on their own schedule and they enjoy the security of knowing they can return the product immediately if it’s not what they expected.

2. Increase sales and conversion rates

Major furnishing retailer, Ikea, has plans to increase the number of pick-up and order points for their eCommerce customers. The retail giant has found that net sales increase when customers see items in-store—at “inspiration displays” and stations that assist with the home furnishing planning process—that complement their purchase decision.

In addition, conversion rates have been shown to increase as customers find it easy to order online and quickly and easily get access to their purchases.

3. Decrease returns

Customers purchasing online and picking up at a physical store have a lower rate of return than those receiving delivered packages. The reason is simple: in-store exchanges. If the product turns out to be the wrong size, wrong colour, or all together wrong, a helpful assistant in the store can direct the customer to a more appropriate selection and orchestrate an exchange.

4. Reduce shipping costs

This works both for both retailer and customer. Mail or courier delivery to the home is expensive in Canada. Customers purchasing online who face delivery costs are likely to pay much more than if they drove to the nearest store or outlet and picked up their package. They may also be deterred from buying by the delivery price.

For eCommerce retailers, the click and collect approach can streamline the distribution process, reduce shipping expenses, and improve profit margins.

5. Enhance customer experience

Finally, click and collect eCommerce retailers are finding that they have an opportunity to deepen their brand or product experience with customers through an in-store interaction. Increasing customer loyalty is key to driving eCommerce sales and developing a connection with the customer helps.

Online shopping can be a solitary experience and not one that offers a lot of opportunities for interaction with the merchant. However, by convincing customers to enter the store to collect their merchandise, eCommerce retailers have the tools to both generate additional revenue and create brand loyalty.

Better UX, Site Usability: What’s in it for the eCommerce store?

Creating a seamless user experience and improving usability is the goal of every successful eCommerce store. From how the site looks to how it functions, the goal is to move the customer effortlessly from the home page to the shopping cart to the checkout.

Take a look at five ways to leverage UX/Usability in the eCommerce sector that aim to improve design and boost conversions.

Let’s get logical

An eCommerce store must offer a simple, intuitive layout that engages the buyer immediately upon site entry. Without such ease of use, the potential buyer is quickly lost to other websites.

Taxonomy is about classifying the store’s product catalogue according to a logical hierarchy, allowing the user to arrive at the product of interest in as few steps as possible. Product taxonomy supports indexing, categorization and facilitates item retrieval through onsite search. Ultimately, an increase in the number of conversions can be tied directly related to the ease by which a buyer can find the item they’re looking for.

Remove the clutter

Cleaning up clutter and extraneous information leads to more focused browsing. Placing navigation menus off screen, revealing only when needed, leaves a more striking visual impression. Interaction can be a click or a simple hover; menus can drop down, pop up, or slide along.

Target’s Awesome Shop and the U.K.’s House of Fraser are two examples of eCommerce stores using the hidden menu design option to leave room for more interesting images.

Faceted search: simplifying the shopping process

Faceted search analyzes data and excludes anything that doesn’t match specific results. It simplifies the user process and offers consumers specific choices and selections. In other words, it allows the user to filter products based on the components they most desire.

Moving directly to the product that fits their shopping list means that customers are more inclined to buy rather than browse further. Faceted search gets them to where they want to go faster.

Product Loading

While the performance of different types of product loading – pagination, infinite scrolling, or “Load More” buttons – varies according to the context of the page and the eCommerce sector, research has shown that using “Load More” buttons combined with lazy-loading, gives the user a more seamless and positive experience.

Pagination won’t be going away any time soon as it works on just about every eCommerce platform, but test results have shown that users perceived it to be slow to load. More than a few pagination links were found to be off-putting and discouraged shoppers from browsing a product list.

Product data and a clear way to buy

According to market analysts, home improvement store, Home Depot, made a significant eCommerce gain in 2014 after overhauling its eCommerce direct fulfillment network. The business saw an increase in online sales by 36% or $1 billion.

What Home Depot knows is that customers need adequate information before they will purchase online. Home Depot and other online hardware stores have realized that effective product pages use a combination of text and images to detail not only the product but also the price, availability, and a clear way to purchase the item.

The successful eCommerce store will design a site that details the product and presents it in a way to entice users to purchase. Keep it simple and quick to load, especially on mobile devices. Above all, be logical and allow for product filtering.

Bro: Millennials are turning eCommerce on its head. Here’s how to reach these shoppers!

Millennials are becoming the single most influential generation in the eCommerce universe. In the U.S., millennials (now aged 18 – 35) comprise more than half of online shoppers. In Canada, one in five shoppers in that age group made a purchase from a mobile phone. In Europe, 78% of millennials chose to purchase from one retailer over another based purely on delivery options.

Some known facts: millennials like to browse in-store, then seek out the best price online. They’re won over with the cheapest delivery options. They want to buy when stores are closed. They’re more likely to buy personal care items and cosmetics offline but flock to eCommerce sites offering products such as electronics, music, clothing, furniture, and e-books.

Here’s how online stores can respond:

Make Supremely Shareable Content

Millennials are tech-savvy and social media-hungry. They expect eCommerce sites to be optimized for digital devices.

Rather than relying on brand advertising, millennials are adept at searching the web for information and typically turn to review sites and social media outlets. They’re active participants, both seeking out information about an intended purchase and posting reviews on products they buy.

They fill out surveys on everything from customer service, to products and content. And they’re not shy about sharing experiences, both positive and negative.

Offer an Array of Related Products

Millennials love to window-shop and will click on cross-sell and up-sell opportunities where they happen to be shopping and on social media sites. In fact, millennials are notorious “clickers” without completing sales. They have been shown to put products in the shopping cart and leave the site in the hopes that the retailer will email or target them with a special offer.

On the upside, this generation is amenable to retargeting, also known as remarketing. Retargeting is a cookie-based technology that uses code to anonymously follow a targeted audience over the web to determine shopping habits and product preferences. A recent survey indicated that 72% of millennials view this type of targeted marketing as acceptable.

Make Saving Fun

Compared to their parent’s generation, millennials have grown up in relatively lean financial times and have an eye for a bargain accompanied by the technological know-how to find it.

Virtual coupons and loyalty programs are popular with this group. Surveys have indicated that millennials are a key segment for brand loyalty programs. Almost 70% of millennials surveyed said they would change where they shopped if it meant getting more rewards, and one-third responded that they had bought something online that they didn’t need or want to simply earn points or increase membership status. Gaming techniques are popular with this generation.

Embrace Their Unique Tastes

The millennials are a challenge to eCommerce. E-retailers are responding by optimizing their sites for mobile devices. They’re offering a personalized experience, targeted ads, loyalty programs, and easy-buy, easy-return options.

Above all, millennial-savvy eCommerce stores offer great customer service and keep in touch – via mobile devices and social media sites, of course.

The BIG round-up! Site add-ons that are helping sellers build better online stores.

Major DIY eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and Bigcommerce have extensive app stores offering hundreds of add-on applications designed to help merchants build more successful online stores. From inventory and shipping management to customer service and cart abandonment, the focus of these applications is to help sellers drive sales by improving their online stores.

Although not exhaustive, here are some apps that can help an eCommerce store drive purchases and boost revenue:

Product Description Generator

A downside to operating an online store is the necessity to describe every single product in a way that is not only concise but also persuasive and unique. It’s a specific skill that not every company has the time or expertise to put together. Enter the automated product description generator.

kopigin draws from a deep database of product descriptions—written by a team of professional writers—and automatically generates content for eCommerce stores. Easily customizable and export-friendly, kopigin tailors the descriptions by attributes chosen by the user. It’s a quick and affordable way to generate hundreds of product descriptions that will help drive sales.

Live Chat Feature

In a physical store, a consumer typically has access to a salesperson to ask questions and get guidance before buying. The eCommerce equivalent is the live chat feature. Research studies suggest that consumers who take advantage of live chat are more likely to complete their online purchases.

ZopimOlark and LiveChat are just three of the many web-based apps that offer to engage your customers and drive conversion. There are apps that wait for the customer to initiate the conversation and others that offer intervention strategies when it looks like a shopping cart is about to be abandoned.

Reviews and Referrals

Studies indicate that online customer reviews have a positive effect on buying completion rates. Sharing those reviews via social media helps spread the word. Yotpo is designed to help eCommerce stores generate customer reviews and, because it’s integrated into social media, makes it easy to share those reviews on a store’s Facebook page or Twitter account. The result is more qualified traffic on the eCommerce website.

Another app, Kudobuzz, authenticates customers via a log-in from their social media account. It solicits comments after purchase to assure potential buyers that they can trust reviews on your site.

However you choose to garner reviews, customers love to know that other people are happy with their purchase.

Cart Abandonment Solutions

Shopping cart abandonment is the bane of many eCommerce stores. Anywhere between 60% and 75% of shopping carts are left without a purchase. Picreel offers exit strategies that target customers about to leave the store and direct them to special deals. ShopStorm has created a number of eCommerce apps, such as Jilt and Happy Ending, to tackle the abandonment issue, increase conversion, and turn customers into fans.

New apps appear on a daily basis and many of them are geared towards the eCommerce market. Review your store with an eye to where apps might be useful to take your customer service up a notch, drive conversion, and increase revenue.

7 Common Questions and Answers to Online Merchandising

As technology progresses and retailers increasingly make use of the internet, there has never been a stronger need for excellent online merchandising strategies. But what are the most effective and efficient strategies?

1. How can I use images effectively? 

Avoid stock images and make high-quality, high-res photos your priority because images are what an online customer sees first. By showcasing your product in the most vivid way possible, you’re giving visitors answers in a visual, immediate way. For example, if you’re selling a couch, set it against a plain backdrop and show how it’s used by photographing a person on it in an audience-appropriate way (for example, a family on a large couch or a hipster on an egg chair). This creates context for your customers and allows them to visualize themselves on it instead of looking at a plain photo of a nondescript item.

2.  Should I use mannequins or models? 

The choice between mannequins and models is often a personal one, and each has its pros and cons. For example, Old Navy uses mannequins with goofy expressions, which are synonymous with the brand but largely ineffective because they distract from the clothing they’re wearing. Using a live model, on the other hand, helps visitors see exactly how a product looks on an actual person.

3. What should my home page look like? 

Your home page should be as simple and streamlined as possible. When it comes to websites, the current trend is high minimalism (Google is an excellent example), so only the most basic, concise information is immediately visible. By not overwhelming visitors and giving them easy-to-see navigation options, you have an edge over your competitors in terms of stay rates and click analytics. One of the worst things you can do is present a home page that’s busy and difficult to navigate. With so many other options available, visitors won’t bother with your site anymore.

4. Once I’ve set up my home page, how should I arrange the merchandise? 

Categories are a highly efficient way of organizing merchandise and the next logical step in a minimalist home page design. A good way to categorize your merchandise is by use. For example, if you own a clothing store, create categories such as men’s and women’s, brand, upper or lower body garments and length of sleeve or leg. It also helps to cross-reference your products so that visitors won’t miss finding something, as your method of categorizing clothing may be different from theirs.

 5. How can I sell more expensive items or items that need to be cleared to make way for others? 

Select the items you want to move and feature them alongside searches to cross-sell, upsell and downsell. Using the clothing store example, if a visitor searches for white T-shirts and you’d rather they spend twice as much on black T-shirts, upsell the latter as an alternative. However, if you have an excess of white T-shirts and visitors are searching for black T-shirts, simply reverse the process (downsell). As for cross-selling, feature a row at the bottom that lists the most commonly searched for and purchased items.

6. How can I urge visitors to buy “neutral” items?

Reviews are one of the most important, effective ways to help visitors make a purchase. And with today’s tech-savvy visitors being more discriminating than ever, you need to give them real-life proof of the quality of your product. In this way, reviews aren’t simply a nice-to-have option that will set you apart; they’re a necessity, especially since word-of-mouth marketing is the predominant way to spread the buzz about your merchandise.

7. Do I really need good copy if my site is well-designed and easy to navigate? 

Absolutely. While a well-designed site is essential for bringing in traffic, good-quality copy is vital for keeping it there. A clear, high-res image can only say so much about any given product; the copy has to fill in the rest. You should have a catchy headline, a brief yet informative short description, a fleshed-out long description that summarizes the main points and a bulleted features list that outlines all the specs. Each product’s copy should tell a story, but it shouldn’t be the main star. Rather, good-quality copy should seamlessly blend with the product image so that, together, the two create a fully realized guide, with everything the visitor needs to know.

5 Principles of In-Store Retail Merchandising that Apply to Online Stores

The line between online and offline shopping is becoming increasingly blurred as shoppers use both in tandem to fulfill their needs. Smart retailers know that, despite the two being separate entities, shared merchandising principles exist between them. Here they are;

Principle 1. Think about product placement as the first item of importance. 

Brick-and-mortar stores are familiar with the importance of strategic product placement, with supermarkets being especially savvy at this. Consider the last time you went grocery shopping: Produce is placed at the front of the store so shoppers will fill their carts with fruits and vegetables; this makes them think that once they’ve checked off the healthy items on their lists, it’s okay to throw some junk food—which is marked up considerably—in their carts as well.

Smart online retailers have learned this lesson well from offline stores, placing products that showcase their brand on the front page and drawing a lot of attention to it. They also tailor landing pages to their customers, offering a search bar and brand descriptions for newer shoppers so they can familiarize themselves easily and providing suggestions for returning customers.

Principle 2. Showcase product use by placing similar items together.

Walk into any bricks-and-mortar store and you’ll immediately notice that the retailer demonstrates how the product is to be used. In clothing stores, mannequins wear layered outfits; bookstores surround novels with blankets and candles; and music retailers arrange CDs with earbuds and headphones.

While mannequins don’t have the same efficacy online as they do offline, online retailers can still use the same concept by placing like-minded items together, showcasing testimonials and reviews and creating an “ideas” section where shoppers can compare items side by side.

Principle 3. Recognize holiday-targeted marketing as an opportunity.

At least one month before major holidays—or more than two for Christmas—offline stores start ramping up specialized marketing campaigns aimed at the holiday using a variety of colour schemes, buzzwords and themed sections. A furniture store will group chaise lounges, umbrellas and patio tables together with summer accessories for the May long weekend, while movie theatres will bombard shoppers with posters of hit movies around awards season.

This is a fairly common concept for online stores because it’s easy to code different images and layouts for holidays—for example, all that is required during the Christmas season is rearranging the coding to showcase Christmas wish and gift lists, shopping options and holiday-related themes. Another trick that online merchandisers use is sorting their products by price and category, with the former offering shoppers options for gifts under X number of dollars.

Principle 4. Recognize the habits of impulse buyers. 

Just about every bricks-and-mortar store features a selection of low-price items beside the till, with convenience stores being the best example. Colloquially known as stocking stuffers, impulse buys and till-side advertising, these value items have been shown to increase purchasing when placed in front of the customer when they’re paying.

Although it’s physically impossible to place actual objects beside a till in online stores, the essential concept remains the same: The final purchase is split horizontally in half, with the basket and checkout on one side and featured items on the other. Another incentive for using this strategy in online stores is motivating shoppers to add a few more items to their basket so they can meet the minimum requirements for free shipping, if offered.

Principle 5. Cross-sell low-margin items with high-value items.

Department-store retailers understand shopping psychology and know that buyers aren’t nearly as likely to act on impulse when it comes to higher-priced items. Therefore, they place lower-priced items in high-traffic areas in anticipation of drawing the customer deeper into the store and closer to higher-value items. Retailers also make a smooth transition between the two by sporadically placing a high-value item amid low-margin ones at the front and gradually increasing its appearance.

To transfer this strategy to online stores, retailers can research high-traffic areas on their site—landing pages are the most obvious example—and strategically place items they need to sell in these areas. Another way to use this concept is to place a “suggestion row” underneath a shopper’s current selection, with the idea of showing how two items work together so the customer will be more likely to pick up both.

Although online and offline stores vary in their marketing and merchandising strategies, they actually have a lot more in common than what appears at first glance. By implementing the five key principles that in-store retailers use, their online counterparts can appeal to shoppers more efficiently and strategically. Take time to visit bricks-and-mortar stores regularly to see how they implement these principles, and adopt them in your online store accordingly. Some will work and some won’t, but never be afraid to try something new. After all, the most successful online stores are those that learned from the hits and misses of offline stores.