Live from Net.marketing: Best Practices for Online Merchandising

May 07, 2003 9:30 PM  By

(Direct Newsline) The way a marketer approaches merchandising on their site can make or break the customer experience, said Donna Lucolano, president of Scholastic Online, in a session on Top 10 Best Practices here at the DMA’s Net.marketing conference.

Lucolano’s tips are:

* Product photography must be shot specifically for the Web. “It must be excellent, Lucolano said, citing Pottery Barn, which “does a great job” of showing merchandise in large and colorful photographs. Pottery Barn also demonstrates products in use, and the viewer can zoom in for close-ups of products.

* Product copy should be thorough and written in a way to anticipate questions from customers. For example, “Eddie Bauer has detailed copy and gives swatches for sample colors and information on apparel care.”

* Offer as many ways to browse and shop as are relevant. Lucolano said to make sure the Web visitor knows whether there is a catalog and retail stores and how to find them.

* Don’t forget to upsell and cross-sell. Lucolano, who had formerly been at 1-800-Flowers.com, said the e-merchant provides an upsell and a cross-sell offer for every gift on the site. “The only category they don’t upsell is sympathy,” she said.

* Education is important to the consumer. Eddie Bauer presents a chart listing all its sizes. Another chart shows how to measure oneself. Dell’s online learning center provides a set of queries to help the customer choose the computer or accessory that suits their needs. Services such as these “give the customer comfort that you are an expert,” Lucolano said.

* Good channel integration means offering the same products in all the channels the marketer has. Make it seemless–easy to buy an item online and return it to the store, Lucolano said. Feature a big promotion that works online and offline. The point? “Don’t punish the consumer for shopping on one channel or another,” she said. Levenger, for example, presents its catalog on the Website, and the customer can browse the catalog page by page—online.

* Build merchandising tools, such as a product finder or a virtual model. Buying a bathing suit may be the toughest apparel decision a woman has, Lucolano said. Lands’ End provides a “virtual model so you can see how bathing suits look on a mini-me,” she said.

* Set up a catalog quick-shop feature. This lets the Web visitor log on to the Web site after having browsed the catalog, key in a catalog number and transmit, Lucolano said.

* Use sales promotions. Customers respond to percentages and dollars off, free shipping, and free gifts. “The important thing is you need to keep testing to find out what works,” she said.

* Feature exclusives. This allows you to take advantage of the online medium, pushing customers to shop there.