What is merchandising and what is it used for?
Merchandising is an important step in the development of a business idea, product or going concern.
Today "visual merchandising" helps sustain commercial activity related to the main product or products of mainly retail businesses.
Note that, visual merchandising is a different process to merchandising.
Visual merchandising is about creating visually alluring shop fronts and in-store displays for the purpose of selling more products.
Merchandising is finding or creating the products to sell alongside your existing product range (or single product).
Merchandising does not strictly apply to retailers only. For example, football and baseball players use merchandising to increase their earnings.
Without merchandising it may be difficult for a business to remain in business selling its main products as these products may be low volume high margin items. With cash flow being an important concern for most businesses, without merchandising these businesses would quickly run out of capital. Because of this reason, many business sell other business products along with their own.
A simple example of merchandising which we see every day is how petrol stations (which we'll call gas stations from here on). Gas stations have evolved to sell groceries! How did this happen? In the beginning, gas stations where pretty much all about filling-up with gas and then getting oil and water checked by an attendant. These days, petrol stations have had a complete visual merchandising make-over, making them highly lucrative, self-sustaining businesses that just happen to sell fuel.
Benefits of Merchandising
Merchandising gives consumers more choice when they visit a website or brick and mortar establishment. Merchandising gives businesses supplying the merchandise a larger consumer base or more supply-chains, decreasing the merchandisers overall dependency on their existing supply-chain - creating a more stable operating environment for the merchandise supplier. Merchandising gives the owner of the business selling their primary product (e.g. fuel, as in the above example) increased foot-traffic or in the case of the web - increased click-traffic. With smart visual merchandising and careful design and layout of a website, visitors won't feel overwhelmed by choice, but instead they will feel they have made an informed decision, compared prices, won't feel like they've been forced into a buying decision, and feel much happier with their purchase.
Merchandising Boot Kidz
In order to stay in business, "The Boot Kidz" chose to merchandise its primary product - The Boot Kidz coat stands - designed by Karen Henry (Furniture designer, London, UK). "Boot Kids Coat Stands with Wellington Boots" has a pretty obvious link to Wellington Boots and Coat Stands, but a less obvious link to umbrella stands, wall clocks, coat racks, and children's toys. Healthy sales and increased traffic have seen Boot Kidz grow from strength to strength.
How to build traffic
Merchandising works, selling products related to your main product line and using these products to attract attention to your main product works. Merchandising is a fantastic tool for web-marketers. They can use traditional merchandising techniques to build traffic and make sales.
Other merchandising techniques
Finding related products to your main stock item is not that difficult. A quick search on Google for your main product will bring up hundreds of other websites that use web merchandising techniques. These techniques include:
- Having a visual merchandising manual - on the shop-floor this means standardising product layout throughout the shop - in terms of the web this means keep the site looking consistent
- Putting your best selling stock at eye-level - on a screen this means putting items in the middle of the screen on loading (not at the top)
- Colour sells - bright primary colours always attract more attention
- Simple sells - finding and buying should be easy
- Group by brand for expensive items and group by product-type for less-expensive items
- Cross-merchandise - putting different products next to each other for example: expensive soap and fast selling shoes
- Know how users read web pages
- Mix and match - keep it interesting
- Display product in use by people
- Know the seasons your product sells best in and change the merchandising on a seasonal basis
- Keep improving the website