biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: merchandising makeover

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Meredith Keller, the blogger behind Smaller Box and co-founder of Ex-Boyfriend. Smaller Box covers marketing, PR, branding, social media and other topics of interest to creative business owners with online storefronts. Meredith’s writing for Smaller Box is based on her experiences operating Ex-Boyfriend, an apparel label featuring t-shirts and accessories for men, women and kids. Today she’s sharing her advice and expertise on merchandising your products wisely and effectively. Thank you, Meredith, for such an insightful and easy-to-understand guide to a merchandising makeover! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

When most of us begin to organize our online stores, one of the first things we think about are product categories. If I sell t-shirts, hoodies and messenger bags, it’s only logical to have links to each of those product types. In fact, that’s how I started out when I began my apparel line. I didn’t have a ton of products and organizing the product line was easy. As time went on and we added more products to our collection, the product categories grew unwieldy and we started to think about how shopping on a site with so many items could be frustrating for a customer. With that in mind, we did a merchandising makeover and organized our product offerings in about half a dozen new ways.

The benefits of our merchandising makeover were two-fold:

First, the shopping experience got easier for the customer. No longer constrained by product categories, our customers were free to browse by color, gift guides, style and more. This made finding the right product easier and increased likelihood of a purchase.

Second, merchandising in new ways means new pages on our website and more search engine optimization (SEO) benefits. The more pages you have on your site, the more tickets you hold to the search engine lottery and that means more chances for search engines to bring customers your way. For example, once we merchandised our products by color, we had pages that were optimized for phrases like “black t-shirts” and “pink t-shirts.” It wasn’t long before we had traffic coming to our site from visitors who had Googled these phrases.

Below are a few ways you can think about merchandising your products, for both SEO purposes and for improving your website’s usability:

Shop by Color
Color can play a huge role in purchasing decisions. Allowing customers to browse by color makes it easier for them to find the products that tickle their fancy. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s best to group color families so customers are not overwhelmed by the options. For example, if your have products in navy and aqua, you may want to just group them under “blue,” rather than displaying every product color in your line. (Unless, of course, you only have a small number of options.)

Shop by Occasion
When you’re in a creative business, it’s likely that people are shopping with you for a special occasion. Maybe they need a birthday or graduation gift, or maybe they’re shopping for Valentine’s Day or back-to-school items. You can draw these customers from search engines by optimizing for the right keywords, and then drive them to make a purchase by putting the right products in front of them. Make a list of all the different occasions for which your products are designed. Think seasonally and keep all holidays in mind. Some options include Christmas, Hanukkah, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, weddings, graduation, Independence Day, Halloween, back to school, get well soon, housewarming, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversaries, baby showers and the like. There are dozens of occasions that prompt people to buy gifts. Merchandising by occasion gets your items in front of those customers when they’re already in shopping mode.

Shop by End-User
In addition to thinking about occasions, it’s wise to think about who would use your products. Do you have items for men, women, kids, teens, babies or dogs? What about other categories of people, like school teachers, artists, cyclists, diabetics, petites, plus-sizes, etc.? Try to think about all the different kinds of people who might use your items. Consider the unique features and benefits that make your items appealing to a specific audience.

Shop by Style/Theme
Some brands have such a cohesive look; all of their items have the exact same style. My apparel company definitely isn’t one of them, so we broke out our products by style. We separated our designs by themes like zombie, cute critters, geek humor and so forth. That way customers looking for items with a specific theme could jump right to the items they’d most enjoy. While this type of merchandising may not be suitable for every brand, shops with a diverse range of products may want to consider this organization strategy.

Shop by Price
Face it, most of us don’t spend our days swimming in a Scrooge McDuck-like money bin, so when we shop, we’re usually on a budget. Help your customers find the right fit for their wallets by allowing them to browse by price. You could make pricing a separate category or allow customers to sort by price within existing categories like gift guides.

If you’ve spent any time on major e-commerce sites, you’ve probably run into cross-sells. You’ll see this on Amazon.com when you visit product pages that note “other customers who purchased this item also bought . . .” and then show you a list of related products. Sometimes they’ll even try to sell you products in a bundle for a small discount. These are cross-sells and they’re a great way to help customers find items they like and increase average order value. Amazon gets customers to buy multiple books or CDs with free shipping over $25 and then shows buyers items to help them reach the $25 mark.

You can display cross-sells on product pages, shopping-cart pages or even check-out pages. You may want to offer an incentive like coupons or free shipping for orders with multiple items.

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  • Very helpful – I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I prepare some new style/theme offerings for my Etsy shop. For now, I have things by category but I am seriously mulling over switching to a theme system, or some combo since you can’t put things in multiple sections on Etsy currently.

    Zoe from A Quick Study Paper Goods

  • This makes a lot of sense… I’m on etsy too (nice products Zoe!) and recognize that there are limitations to making this work here. Timing is good as I’m looking to broaden my internet profile – and have a lot to learn about SEO. Thanks so much!

  • I just thought it was worth mentioning, that before I even get to the text of these posts I’m turned off. I really wish these posts weren’t gender specific. I subscribe to your blog and look at every blog post, but I never read these because they bother me. This information would work for men as well.

    • bryan

      the name comes from the origin of this series, which was a series of in-person meetings designed to help women running their own businesses. i was experiencing a number of issues related specifically to being a woman in business and decided to help people dealing with the same gender-bias issues. when i couldn’t afford to travel around the country for meet-ups anymore i decided to move the series online. like many columns at d*s, the name had been around for years and already stuck, so i continued it. i’m sorry if it makes you feel as it the information isn’t for you- i promise you the information is well worth looking past a title that happens to have the word “lady” in it. i certainly read my share of business articles written by men and seemingly only mentioning male-run businesses and it doesn’t stop me from benefitting from them.


  • Bryan, although I am a lady, I wrote this post based on what I did with Ex-boyfriend, which is co-owned by a guy. So I like to think we represent both genders.

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