What is online merchandising?

According to Wikipedia, merchandising is broadly defined as all activities that contribute to the sale of a product to a consumer. At a retailer, the merchandiser is usually responsible for managing the assortment on a day-to-day basis, price and promotions, making sure of its availability (inventory) and that it is displayed in such a way that it stimulates interest to buy the product. In some cases, the merchandiser is also more strategically responsible for the assortment strategy of the company.

Online merchandising supports the following phases in the customer journey:

  • Orientation: The customer is searching for a certain product. The online merchandiser supports this step by making sure products can be found online through, for example:
  • Selection: When the potential customer is visiting the online shop, the merchandiser makes sure the products can be found, filtered, selected and compared in a user-friendly and enticing way.
  • Transaction: The customer has found the product he is looking for. The merchandiser now has to provide all necessary product information to make sure the customer actually hits the "buy" button.

The online merchandiser’s job really begins the moment a visitor enters the online shop and is finished when the customer has placed one or more products in his shopping basket. In other words, an online merchandiser must take care of the optimal shopping experience for the company's customers.

However, the merchandiser's responsibility in this process usually is limited to product information, product category structure and product display. To be effective, an online merchandiser should be part of the ecommerce team as he (frequently) works together with:

  • online marketing and branding experts
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts;
  • SEA (Search Engine Advertisement) experts;
  • CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) specialists;
  • Supply Chain experts (for the delivery time, for example).

The role of the online merchandiser is often compared to that of the visual merchandiser for physical stores. The visual merchandiser is responsible for the layout of the store, the way products are ordered, sorted and visually displayed.

 

In addition to securing an optimal shopping experience for the customer, the merchandiser is often also responsible for optimizing the inventory and margin of the assortment. This role may, however, also be assigned to the purchaser. Some examples:

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