The Power of WebSphere Commerce Merchandising

Jan 9, 2017 | eCommerce, IBM Commerce

The famous saying, “if you build it, they will come”, unfortunately does not always apply.

Merchandisers and marketers in the eCommerce industry know that from a marketing standpoint, it takes a lot of time, effort, and budget to guide shoppers to your eCommerce site through both organic and paid approaches, like social media and Google Ads. Plus, once you have traffic coming through the door, that’s just step one. Your work is far from over and now, it’s time for merchandising to step in.

Keeping shoppers interested is the next part of the equation, and to do that, you have to create an on-site experience they can’t resist. This involves marketing, of course, but it’s putting into place the right merchandising tactics that are really going to set your site apart and make shoppers feel at home. Turning shoppers into customers and ensuring they come back to make another purchase later requires marketers and merchandisers work together to set the stage for a positive customer experience. By forecasting the expectations of your customer and developing the right user experience (UX), you can empower your business with a positive feedback loop of loyal, satisfied customers.

With every eCommerce platform, there are merchandising best practices you can implement to achieve these customer experience goals. IBM’s WebSphere Commerce, however, makes it super easy and straightforward. Many of the platform’s best merchandising features can be activated out-of-the-box, and business users have the ability to manage and impact these components without having to involve IT.

To show you the benefits of this platform, we’ll walk you through four elements of merchandising that your eCommerce site simply can’t ignore.

By constructing experiences, engaging shoppers, converting shoppers to customers, and retaining customers, you’ll be well on your way to the positive feedback loop we mentioned above.

Construct Experiences

Whether the customer knows it or not, the moment they land on your site, they’re seeking an authentic, unique experience they can’t find anywhere else. Shoppers today are inundated with constant messaging and non-stop distractions to click somewhere else or open another tab. In order to fully capture their attention, you have to show them what they want before they even know they want it.

By following several merchandising best practices, you can make browsing your products easy and enjoyable for shoppers, thus creating a positive experience. With WebSphere Commerce, you can easily manage catalogs, product descriptions, product attributes, and associated assets — details that make merchandising simple and straightforward, for both you and the customer.

In addition to merchandising products, there are several additional steps you can take on the backend of your site to enhance pre-sale engagements and nudge customers closer to conversion from the get-go — all for the purpose of constructing a positive experience.

Manage customized promotions

Create a memorable experience for your shoppers is by offering them customized promotions. With WebSphere Commerce, you can easily manage how customers receive and redeem discounts and promotions.

Configure search to make finding products easy

Enabling features like auto-suggest, creating search synonyms, and setting up, “Did you mean?” functionality will ensure searching never becomes a frustrating activity for your customers.

Optimize for Mobile

Chances are, shoppers will be finding your site via mobile first. Ensure your mobile experience is just as engaging and intuitive, if not more so, than the desktop version of your site.

Automate marketing touchpoints

By automating marketing actions based on the specific behaviors of your customers, you’re offering them a personalized experience and showing them, essentially, that you value them as a customer.

Engage Shoppers

So, we’ve established that online shopping should be an experience, and a memorable one, at that. Once you’ve put those experiential components into place, the next step of the equation is to engage shoppers. How do you do that? Well, we touched on this briefly in the previous point, but the key to engaging shoppers in your online experience is largely dependent on how personalized you can make that experience.

This goes back to automation. Assign, automate, or dynamically categorize the shoppers who visit your site based on their profile, shopping and browsing behaviors. Then, use that data to send personalized marketing messages to specific shoppers so they’ll be more likely to engage with your site. There are quite a few behaviors you can track in order to successfully understand your customer—catalog browsing behavior, purchase history, and shopping cart criteria are a few key places to get started.

Enabling social interactions are another way to encourage shoppers to engage with your site. Social media integrations allow shoppers to easily “like” products and share their shopping activity with their friends and followers. These types of integrations allow customers to more conveniently interact with your site. Take note of those interactions and reward them for it, using automated marketing that makes sense for that specific shopper.

Convert Shoppers to Customers

Shoppers only become customers when they make a purchase on your site — a coveted conversion. Whether or not a shopper decides to pull the trigger on their shopping cart can come down to a few different UX factors that you, as a merchandiser, can and should anticipate.

For one, make sure you’re practicing your best merchandising and promotions tactics both during the shopping experience and at check-out. There’s nothing worse than a shopper getting all the way to the checkout page, only to abandon cart right before they convert. You can make this less likely to happen by being strategic about your calls to action.

For example, leverage merchandising tactics like offering customers search recommendations as they shop, bundling deals, and creating product associations like, “Others bought,” to keep shoppers engaged and moving firmly towards checkout. In addition, use promotions and pricing tactics that encourage shoppers to add more to their cart while on-site. Offers tied to minimum orders and multi-item price promotions are a great example of how to effectively encourage this type of shopper behavior.

When it comes to product recommendations like these, you should be doing constant A/B testing to ensure their effectiveness with shoppers. Approach these merchandising tactics with an analytical, data-driven mindset and soon enough, you’ll be able to convert customers like a well-oiled machine.

Retain Customers

In eCommerce, there’s no better feeling than earning repeat customers. Getting customers to return back to your site again and again means you’ve been consistently delivering a positive, promising shopping experience. In that vein, you can see that customer retention and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. In order to boost customer retention rates, you have to work backwards, thinking about how you can positively impact customer satisfaction from the moment shoppers land on your site.

This goes back to creating a personalized experience for your customers and automating marketing triggers that reinforce their behaviors and profile. This is especially important as a follow-up, after the shopper has left your site. Personalize their visit to your site with targeted follow-up content and events like birthday promotions, thank yous, reminder emails, and in-stock notifications. You can also incentivize repeat purchasing by offering exclusive discounts, private sales, or members-only offers.

Finally, ensure sure your checkout process is streamlined and simple for everyone, but especially for returning customers. Allow them the option to save previous orders and lists for quick reorder. Keeping your customers well informed throughout the entire checkout and fulfillment process will build loyalty, but don’t forget to reward them for it. Establish a rewards or loyalty program to further incentivize your repeat customers to keep coming back to your site. With most eCommerce platforms, including WebSphere Commerce, you can easily integrate third-party loyalty points programs so you don’t have to start from scratch.

As you can see, this is a continuous cycle that relies on merchandising taking customer satisfaction seriously, and making it a top priority. Follow these four major steps to ensure your eCommerce site is meeting the merchandising standards that customers have learned to expect.

WebSphere Commerce is built to help merchandisers and marketers do their jobs better. Here at BlueSky, we can help you get your store set up so that these merchandising best practices are at the foundation of your user experience.

Contact us to learn more.