Best-in-Class Merchandising Tactics for Back-to-School E-Commerce Success
Back-to-school (BTS) is the second-biggest event of the year for most retailers. It’s estimated that this two-month period generates more than $70 billion in revenue, with roughly a third of that being spent online. While BTS shopping is similar to holiday shopping, BTS shoppers aren’t as willing to open up their wallets and pocketbooks — at least not without some coaxing — as they are during the holiday shopping season. That means retailers may need to adjust their strategies.
For instance, more than 45 percent of BTS shoppers said coupons influenced where they planned to shop during the season, according to the National Retail Federation. Furthermore, the bargain hunting mind-set reveals itself in that more consumers plan to shop at discount stores and thrift stores during the BTS time period compared to holiday.
So how do you ace BTS retailing? Specific tactics around merchandising, such as stock availability and product recommendations, will help you go straight to the head of the class this season.
The Merchandiser’s Back-to-School Cheat Sheet
Today’s shoppers know what they're looking for, and they want to find it fast. Therefore, make product discovery easier for consumers, use product recommendations to promote complementary items and accessories, and eliminate surprises and customer headaches by showing stock availability. Specifically, here are a few merchandising tactics to consider as you prepare campaigns to get the most out of this BTS season.
1. Incorporate product recommendations. A major part of merchandising is using data from a customer’s context to build product recommendations. Product recommendations give retailers an opportunity to promote high-margin products, products you want to liquidate from inventory and seasonally relevant items. While that may work if you have information about your customer, if you only run campaign-based product recommendations, you miss the point.
A successful method for first-time visitors is to base product recommendations off of a customer’s context. For example, target recommendations from that person’s search terms or their path to your site. In this instance, you can still run a campaign-based recommendation. This provides benefits to you, while also making it more contextually relevant, which benefits your customer.
For returning customers, use historical on-site data to make better recommendations. However, it’s important to be careful as shopping motivators during the BTS season may differ from the rest of the year. As a result, create a tiered approach to recommendations. Use historical data if you have nothing else, but use recent browsing data if a customer has already visited your site during the BTS shopping season.
2. Clean up listing and product detail pages. A better customer experience can be achieved by creating clarity on listing and product detail pages. It’s best to do this as early as possible. That’s why showing accurate stock availability is a critical component of merchandising, rather than playing the game of customer roulette.
For instance, if a product is out of stock, indicate it right on the listing page. Furthermore, try testing different ways to convey this information, such as “out of stock,” or “more in stock soon.” On the other hand, if product inventory is low, create a sense of urgency by indicating how many items are left in stock on the product detail page. Once again, test which language is the most persuasive to convert shoppers, such as “One item left” vs. “Three left in your size.”
These are just a couple of merchandising tips to help you move your BTS retail campaigns to the head of the class. For more best practices and helpful insights, be sure to check out the Monetate blog.
Brett Bair is senior director, digital marketing insights, at Monetate, a cloud technology company providing marketing and website optimization solutions.