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Retailers’ top online merchandising priorities for 2013

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Those of us fortunate enough to attend the Shop.org Merchandising Workshop got a good dose of what’s hot in online merchandising: imagery, redesign, responsive design, and more. As the recent “State of Retailing Online 2013: Marketing and Merchandising” study further underscored, retailers are laser-focused on enhancing the customer experience. Here are the top merchandising initiatives according to this year’s study:

Honing the product detail page. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of retailers surveyed are investing significantly in the product detail page. This includes streamlining and upgrading product imagery, adding and upgrading product videos, or testing product descriptions that are concise and detailed. These features are all essential for clearly communicating with customers to give them the confidence to buy – whether they are online or in the store with a smartphone in hand. Video is a particularly exciting area this year as retailers and brands experiment with short formats like Vine and Video on Instagram for brief and engaging product introductions, special offers, behind the scenes footage and more.

More personalized shopping. Three out of five retailers are also upgrading capabilities to personalize the shopping experience. Retailers mentioned everything from identifying cookie-d shoppers and providing different shopping flows for new-versus-repeat customers, to showing cross-sells that speak to the customer’s profile and purchase history. Gilt’s new user-specific sales page is a good example of algorithm-powered features in action.

Test, test, and repeat. Almost half (47 percent) of retailers surveyed said they plan to focus on A/B testing this year. It is an area that has languished toward the bottom of retailers’ priority lists for years, but smart, structured testing making a big impact on customer engagement and conversion and was a focus at the workshop. Regular testing is vital to get the site experience right for customers and brand.

Online and offline integration. Two out of five retailers cited initiatives that we categorized as “omnichannel integration.” One strategy is making it easier for both consumers and retailers to see what inventory is available in distribution centers and stores. To give customers access to more inventory information, retailers are figuring out how to tap product sitting in the store or merchandise available from a supplier via drop ship. Since consumers now expect to be able to shop anywhere, anytime, there could be much more of cross-channel integration going forward.

Shop.org members can download the full study from the Shop.org site, which was produced with our research partner, Forrester Research.

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