June 29th, 2022 | 5 MIN READ

What is Product Merchandising?

Written by author_profile_images Emily Kathi

Emily Kathi is a Senior Content Marketing Writer at Elastic Path. She writes about product, trends, and all things related to digital commerce.

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Imagine you’re shopping for new kitchen appliances for a renovation. You’ve been browsing for months both online and in-store; you’ve even checked in with friends for recommendations on features. You find the perfect model front and center online at a big box retailer, and it’s even the right color: modern French doors, fresh filtered water and ice, LED controls, and full-width access drawers.

The problem is, when you go to find it and add to cart for purchase, you can’t find the specs you wanted, or that perfect fingerprint-resistant shade of slate gray (as shown), that complements your white cupboards and marble countertops.

Back to square one in your search.

Product Merchandising in Traditional Terms

Merchandising is any practice which contributes to the sale of products to a retail consumer. At a retail in-store level, merchandising refers to displaying products that are for sale in a creative way that entices customers to purchase more items or products.

Product Merchandising of Today

Product merchandising plays a critical role in the path to purchase. As Julie Mall, Vice President, Solutions Engineering at Elastic Path, recently said in an interview with PYMNTS.com about a more modern approach to product merchandising:

“The challenge is really how to meet the customer where they are with the products they want in that moment.”

Examples in the Wild

Today’s commerce involves more complexity in how products are shown with the blending of the in-store and online experiences. Consumers demand both based on shopping behaviors and trends; despite public perception, the brick-and-mortar store is not going away but is enhanced to incorporate the digital path to purchase to meet the consumer where they are.

So what does that look like?

Inspired Layouts with a Composable Catalog

Take for instance home retailer Pottery Barn. They are known for creating compelling in-store sets to inspire the consumer and allow them to touch and see qualities like bedding textures, glassware quality, thread count, and measurements. They’ve integrated a similar experience for digital.

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Notice in these two interior pages, they’ve carefully curated specific room designs entitled “Room Inspiration”, supporting the notion that many of their core customers may know exactly what they want to flesh out a living room space; but taking the additional step of providing useful content to shoppers who may need extra help design-wise, and then providing the specifics on how to purchase those items they like.

Each room slide features a breakdown of the contents, complete with specs, pricing, and SKU information/add to cart.

Notice the chat feature in the bottom right corner. This feature provides real-time support for shoppers as they browse; ask a myriad of questions and get quick answers to avoid cart abandonment or reduce bounce rate such as: When will a duvet cover be back in stock? Can I get notified? What other pillow style would you recommend in a similar color scheme that’s in stock now?

 

Ready to Start Your Unique Product Experience Management (PXM)?

Elastic Path PXM combines re-imagined Commerce PIM, Product Merchandising, and Catalog Composer capabilities into one central place for merchandisers to create the complex product experiences that drive conversions and loyalty.

Go to Elastic Path PXM

#Social Proof

Social commerce has entered the commerce conversation when it comes to building trust with your brand. Most shoppers rely on reviews or examples of how a product performed, versus how it was marketed.

Social media platforms are the most influential on the buying journey from discovery to purchase. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and newcomer TikTok have mastered the algorithms for curating “shoppable” content down to checkout and fulfillment. When examined with a commerce-forward eye, it does make sense that consumers would be more apt to buy (or pass) once they know how others have experienced the same product.

Retailer giant Target is seen here with their hashtag campaign “Target Style” for shoppers to share what they’ve purchased and how they’re using it. Beyond building consumer confidence, Target marketing teams use the photos in various places from in-store to web, and app. Notice how the language is easy, neighborly, and downright friendly! Target’s brand identity is based on these qualities and reflects what a shopper sees and experiences in-store.

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The 360 Experience

As technology refines in the merchandising space, we’re seeing more virtual/augmented reality functions to bridge the gap of the sensory deficit experienced online (sight and touch unseen). Take for instance the “360 view” function now widely used across online retail:

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Source: Yofia.com

This feature offers more of the up close and personal view of an online purchase. Details of the backpack will hopefully answer potential buyers’ questions and give them greater confidence in purchasing if they can’t try in-store such as: how does the closure and buckling work? Can I see it on an actual person? What is the weave or texture of the sides? How durable is it? Can I see the inside pockets and how easy it is to get to them, and what fits inside? (Ex. Keys, a tablet, laptop, etc.).

A Reimagined, Recalibrated Approach

In the eCommerce world of today, shoppers are more sophisticated, tech-savvy, and have less time to shop than ever before. They demand easy navigation and filtered searches to find exactly what they need in seconds, they want personalized offers based on their buying habits, they demand fast page loads and simplified checkout, they want options for payment that fit their lifestyle and budget… the list goes on. The eCommerce landscape of today is that every moment is shoppable, convenient, and customized.

We’re taking product content management to the next level with Elastic Path Product Experience Manager (PXM) that combines commerce PIM, product merchandising, and Catalog Composer capabilities in one single product. This is the first-of-its-kind for merchandising support in the space. Read the full blog post and Q&A.

Give Shoppers Unforgettable, Friction-Free Experiences

Let’s think about that perfect refrigerator again. Imagine now an experience where you click on the image of that same refrigerator on the homepage and now you have options: available color swatches (complete with a swatch marked “as shown”), a dropdown menu of all the functionalities, measurements, and a function to “see it in your kitchen” with virtual showrooming. And lo and behold! There is a 2-day sale going on for online customers only with free delivery. How’s that versus the frustration of starting over?

Talk about a better experience. Which experience would you prefer?

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