Navigating the Evolution of Mobile Merchandising

Online merchandising is both a science and an art. It’s about much more than making sure the cans are amply stacked on the shelves, and mobile merchandising is a whole different ballgame that requires its own unique approach.

Despite this reality, online merchandising hasn’t evolved to consider the mobile channel. Tools and techniques specific to online, like site search, product recommendations software, and visualizations, are the extent of the evolution towards mobile. And most are built from a desktop perspective; they don’t consider the part of the consumer journey that’s increasingly funnelled through the mobile channel.

Mobile Needs to Catch Up

Why is this important? For a number of reasons. It’s evident that there’s a massive disconnect between retailer expenditures and what their shoppers are spending. According to the latest BRC Retail 2020 report, retailer costs were up 33.8% in 2014 from 2004, while consumer spending was only up by a marginal 2% in the same timeframe. Those figures represent historic lows. Failing to effectively merchandise through every channel, including mobile, can contribute to this growing discrepancy.

Desktop traffic is on the decline, and increased mobile traffic suggests that some users aren’t even going near their desktops nowadays. Google reported in 2015 that more searches are taking place via mobile devices than desktops in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Missing out on mobile means missing out on a significant proportion of predominantly mobile customers. And, in turn, missing the opportunity to connect with them through other channels as well.

Merchandising products in just one channel doesn’t translate to the next, and profit margins are negatively impacted because of an inability to leverage mobile effectively within the equation.

Building the Science and Art of Mobile Merchandising

Shifting focus to mobile merchandising is the logical next phase in the development of online merchandising. This can help reach customers regardless of where they are in their shopping journey.

Mobile merchandising can be approached through a number of strategies, like uploading localized inventory to a mobile CMS, or using an online campaign to direct customers to an in-store experience.

Key techniques for the web space, like site search tools, product recommendation engines, product videos, side-by-side product comparisons, visualization tools, and reviews and ratings, should be optimized specifically for the mobile platform.

It’s essential to determine how to get dynamic content in front of people who are using the mobile web, like promotions, discount strategies, and links associated to offers. It becomes even more powerful with the social-local-mobile combination, and connecting in a way that provides the underpinnings for you to merchandise across all those areas. Remember: the end goal is to get the information directly into consumers’ hands as quickly as possible. And what device is typically in their hands, 24/7?

Keep in mind that responsiveness may be difficult to assess: a customer may see a promotion on the web, but subsequently buy on mobile, or convert in store. The challenge is to promote the brand across all three channels to increase the likelihood of conversion from one to another.

Bottom line

The focus of a merchandiser, put simply, is to maximize sales and profits and minimize stock and costs. While it may seem as though the return on merchandising investment is coming mainly from the desktop channel, there’s no denying that mobile usage is on the rise. While its role may not be as easily assessed, it will be of growing importance as we move forward. Those dots need to be connected to leverage every possible channel at one’s disposal.

The realization of omnichannel means considerations for merchandising need to be made holistically. The store might still be the highest conversion point, but merchandising in a way that lets you optimize stock levels in all areas can result in a much more magical proposition, and help reverse the growing gap between cost and profit.

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