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Are you missing a trick with your online merchandising?

Optimizely’s UK country manager, Marie Despringhere, calls on retailers to get creative to drive up conversions

Portrait marie despringhere

Marie Despringhere

Identifying product quality is the number one frustration when it comes to consumers’ online shopping experience. While retailers are constantly looking to assess the reasons for consumers failing to convert online, many may be surprised by the number that head in store.

Around 74% of UK consumers research and browse online but then opt to potentially complete the purchase in store, research by Opinionography on behalf of Optimizely regarding consumer shopping habits across Europe showed. Most respondents said it is the ability to see, touch or try the product and ensure its quality that drives them to visit the store.

The fact that so many consumers are heading in store to check the look, feel and quality of a product suggests that retailers may be missing a trick. Why are customers not getting an accurate, trustworthy view of the product online? The concern is not just that retailers may be missing out on those customers that don’t manage to make it to a bricks-and-mortar outlet, but also that poor product description will also have a knock-on effect on returns, in turn damaging overall profitability.

At the most basic level, retailers need to be testing customers’ reactions to different presentation options – for example, with or without models, or showing pictures from different angles. Critically, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Consumer response can vary by category type and between demographics. For example, one retailer discovered that, although products sold better when displayed on a model, baby clothes sold better with a simple photograph of the clothes. It is also important to test the value – or not – of product reviews on the customer base, as well as the performance and display of options of individual items or service categories such as ”click and collect” or “reserve and collect”.

“It is important to test the success of these initiatives on a subset of the audience to assess their overall effectiveness and value”

But that is just the beginning: retailers, especially fashion retailers, have a chance to get creative with product presentation. Would a catwalk section as seen on Asos work well? Or the maybe an option for a customer to input sizes and create her own mannequin would give better understanding of how they will look in real life? For retailers of high-end and luxury goods, there is the option of adding video to the mix, as well as product configurators to provide the customer with an even more engaging experience. Again, it is important to test the success of these initiatives on a subset of the audience to assess their overall effectiveness and value.

This optimisation of product presentation also ties into the overall drive towards personalising the online experience. Once a retailer has gained insight into the overall preferences of the customer base, options can be personalised, for example, ensuring the reviews section is highlighted for individuals who use this feature regularly, promoting the “create your own mannequin” option or presenting items in similar fabrics or complementary colourways. By harnessing and personalising innovative techniques for product description, retailers can not only encourage more customers to convert online but also avoid expensive returns.

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