Searchandising Strategies for Merchants


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An effective way to optimize search results is through online merchandising for search, or searchandising, which directly impacts the user’s experience and the retailer’s results. Like creating category pages, retailers can merchandise search result pages to drive more sales to the items that benefit the store most. Merchandisers can use an AI or rules-based approach to organize and sort search results to align with business goals, trends, and customer preferences. These rules include profit margin, availability, discounts, and release dates. From there, a merchandiser can adjust search keywords and queries accordingly. On the merchandising side, the rules can impact new products, brand products, or bundle collections for relevant products.

Rather than manually creating merchandising rules in search, searchandising allows merchants to incorporate machine learning algorithms to sort products. Removing the manual, labor-intensive system for a self-optimized solution generates excellent results. This article will explain why searchandising is an important merchandiser strategy and outline popular use cases.

When and How to Use Searchandising

With e-commerce searches, there’s an outcome in mind. While ensuring an excellent customer experience is essential, many other factors also come into play to ensure that the customer purchases items and returns to the site. Whether it’s average order value (AOV), conversion rate, profit margin, revenue per visitor, inventory management, or customer satisfaction, merchants want shoppers to buy. More specifically, they want customers to buy what they most want to sell. Searchandising helps merchandisers drive the organization of search results.

Here are six use cases:

Boost or Bury:

A retailer can choose to prioritize items whose sales benefit them most, like new arrivals for the season or high-profit items, at the top of search results. Effective searchandising can prevent older styles or the most unpopular (e.g., least clicked) designs and colors from appearing first in a search. Another reason to adjust the priority of a product is margins. A merchant can arrange search results and interweave best sellers or loss leaders with higher-margin products. Also, when a retailer wants to promote a particular brand to clear that merchandise or boost their white-label brand, they can apply searchandising rules.

Make Searches Inspiring:

A search result might elicit the most popular items, such as the component of a whole product. But the merchant might know that the entire product would inspire the customer to buy more than the actual product. And just because the customer found the component first, due to its popularity, the merchant realizes that was not their intent. Using rules, the merchant can steer the customer to the products they want customers to see first. An example is a site selling drones. However, the merchandiser can inspire the visitor by showing the complete drone and only then displaying results for parts.

Group by Category:

A merchandiser can group products with similar attributes by category, such as color, based on the season or let AI generate it automatically. Grouping merchandise by color within a collection, for example, creates an eye-catching experience. Arranging several products to display together as a part of a set makes it easy for shoppers to see the item in context and might motivate them to buy the whole set. By doing so, the retailer can nudge customers toward products they want to sell and easily adjust this over time to handle changes in consumer taste, product lines, or business goals.

Diversify by Intent:

Counter to grouping, another strategy is to diversify results, particularly in the case of low intent. Typically, search is high intent, but not all search terms are alike. For example, using the search term “jeans” in an online jeans shop is not valuable for the merchant, nor will it necessarily immediately yield what the customer wants. Broadening the search on a range of styles you want to show the shopper will influence buying behavior.

Adjust for Inventory:

In the fashion industry, there is the notion of a full-size run when the merchant promotes all-size products, so every customer has a size. In the case of searchandising, the merchant can boost search results on inventory they have in all sizes. The retailer can also push down a product that is selling quickly to avoid depleting stock or move it to the front of collections and pages if it’s not selling well.

Weigh the Search Data Source:

Many search results relate to how merchants organize their search data. Sometimes, merchants want to weigh the search data source to match users’ intent. For example, if someone is looking for a blue dress, the data shows they looked at the title, description, and type of clothing. Depending on how a merchant organizes the data, one quality might be more important than the other. The title might not say “blue maxi dress” but rather “spring came early,” which means it’s likely that this dress is hidden in another data source. If a merchant assigns a high weight for titles and a low weight for other data sources, they won’t be able to glean good information from the search results.

Searchandising should be part of a merchant’s overall strategy to control the order, ranking, and assortment of search results to fit the business need. When incorporated into the rest of the business goals, searchandising can retain customers, grow profit margins, and create experiences that foster loyalty and keep shoppers coming back.

Zohar Gilad
Zohar Gilad is an experienced technology entrepreneur and executive. In 2013, he co-founded Fast Simon, Inc. (formerly InstantSearch+), leveraging his experience to bring state-of-the-art site search to millions of publishers and e-tailers at an affordable cost. Throughout his career, Gilad has been the driving force behind more than 20 software products for millions of users worldwide.


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