Consumers can’t purchase what they can’t find, whether that be in-store or online."

From the surge in e-commerce brought on by the pandemic to the rise of TikTok and its influence on global trends, omnichannel commerce is changing the way consumers shop and buy, disrupting retailing as we know it. Now is the time for retailers to develop omnichannel strategies to drive loyalty and sales and to grow market share.

Consumers can’t purchase what they can’t find, whether in-store or online. To remain competitive, retailers must provide an accessible online shopping experience across display and search ad platforms, one that accurately reflects their assortment akin to the in-store experience. From there, optimization of an integrated omnichannel strategy incorporates merchandising, product information, package design and marketing to drive omnichannel success.

Aligning In-Store and Online Merchandising

Effective in-store merchandising provides implicit and explicit cues to consumers about the category’s dynamics and product-quality tiering, which impact purchase decisions. How and where items are displayed can take the shopper on a journey. Placement level at shelf cues product quality or brand role, such as placing primary brands at eye level for maximum visibility and access. We know secondary placement options such as destination sets and endcaps create multiple touchpoints, feature opportunities and cross-category connections to further drive purchase.

In designing the digital shelf, retailers should align their in-store merchandising and e-commerce strategy, considering user experience and how consumers are shopping. Categories, products and promotions need to be clearly defined and easily found through search. The top two rows should be for primary results placement, inclusive of dynamic results featuring promoted items, private brand products and recommended items based on purchase history.

A retailer’s e-commerce platform offers unique merchandising opportunities not found in stores. For example, over a third of online shoppers use the search function to guide them within a product category and when looking for a specific brand. Retailers have an opportunity to leverage the power of their e-commerce platform by augmenting their search capabilities.

What’s more, our 2021 proprietary research on shopper behavior found nearly 50% of consumers who regularly purchase items online shop from a list. Best-in-class retailers are incorporating this feature and one that highlights previously purchased items to increase basket size and encourage repeat purchasing.

Perfecting Product Information and Packaging

The most shopper-friendly e-commerce experiences feature brands that have fully optimized product display pages (PDPs). Shoppers rely on page descriptions to learn about a product, its benefits, attributes and usage occasions. It’s imperative retailers place a priority on ensuring PDPs are fully developed and SEO results are optimized to provide consumers with an experience equivalent to in-store shopping, where they can easily compare products. These PDPs not only feed search on a retailer’s website, they drive internal and external SEO. Each item should have page content that includes multi-angle and/or 3D dynamic item images, enhanced nutrition claims and product descriptions.

The online digital shelf and PDPs offer a unique opportunity not found in-store. Using selling features such as ratings and reviews will entice purchases; our study found more than 20% of consumers say these features influence their purchase. PDPs may also include enhanced product information, such as a link to a recipe featuring key items that can be easily added to a digital cart, which highlights adjacent category options — the equivalent of cross-merchandising in a store.

Product images are often the first, and potentially the only, impression consumers have of an item before making a selection. This moment of truth online is equal to a first impression at the physical shelf, but an online consumer’s view is limited, often to just a thumbnail image. PDPs that incorporate additional product images, nutrition facts, a full ingredient panel and usage occasions need to be developed for every item.

Providing shoppers with easily accessible product information is an essential element of package design for the traditional and digital shelf. Shoppers want simple, easy-to-read packaging that focuses on key claims and clearly communicates what the item is and what its key benefits are.

Getting the Most From Marketing

In stores, retailers have used traditional merchandising methods such as aisle blades to draw shoppers’ attention and endcaps for secondary placement to catch impulse purchases or bundle products in different categories. Basic marketing tactics like shelf tags may highlight new items or promotions. These in-store tactics are still effective drivers of in-store sales. But as e-commerce sales continue to grow, it’s imperative to connect the dots between in-store and online objectives and strategies. The most successful retailers are using their digital landscape to drive awareness by category, by brand and by time period, such as holidays, to drive e-commerce sales for in-store pickup and same-day delivery. Website banners, sidebar billboards, display ads and videos engage online customers as they’re shopping.

With the rise of social commerce, it’s more important than ever to strategically integrate marketing within Instagram, TikTok and other platforms through in-app advertising or livestreaming shopping events that increase follower engagement, drive trial and capture sales. As retailers dedicate more resources to their social channels, there’s an opportunity to create promotions personalized to customer segments that are executed exclusively through e-mail and social media channels. Best-in-class retailers are integrating a blend of national and private brand promotions into their social content, sharing video demos, promoting digital coupons and amplifying user-generated content to sustain growth and drive shopper loyalty.

Fully leveraging digital commerce tactics — while considering how these elements connect back to in-store implementation — is imperative. Creating a seamless experience isn’t easy, but it’s essential to building loyalty and driving growth.

Michael Taylor
President, Global Customer Solutions
Advantage Solutions

Michael Taylor leads Advantage Solutions’ global retailer-focused businesses and teams, including Daymon, SAS Retail Services and retailer experiential marketing services, plus shopper marketing agency Promopoint and The Data Council, a content creation and syndication agency. He also leads Advantage’s Customer Collaboration Center of Excellence.