Guest Column | May 11, 2020

The Evolving Role Of The E-Commerce Merchandiser

By Alex Sweaney, Searchspring

ecommerce boxes packaging

While the role of an e-commerce merchandiser continues to evolve, at its core, merchandisers are responsible for ensuring shoppers can find the right product, at the right time, based on trends and consumer behavior. Successful merchandisers must present items in a way that is palatable and attractive to shoppers to drive conversions. To put it into perspective, a recent report by ACI Worldwide highlighted that retail categories across the board saw a 74 percent increase in e-commerce purchases in March 2020 compared to March 2019 – ultimately turning up the pressure on e-commerce merchandisers to deliver.

However, merchandising team sizes and roles are drastically different across companies. For smaller businesses, the role of merchandisers might be multifaceted, encompassing tasks that go beyond merchandising, while larger companies can create more nuanced roles that allow different merchandisers to focus on a single product line.

Regardless, the need for technology that provides insights and actionable data around how customers interact with their website is essential. Without these tools, the role of the merchandiser becomes much more difficult and inefficient as it requires the need for constant adjustments and manual analysis. In today’s retail environment, organizations must consider additional resources to help their merchandiser succeed.

A Merchandiser’s Main Challenges

While needs may differ based on the vertical and the products that are sold, most e-commerce retailers face similar challenges when it comes to syncing supply chains with their online merchandise. With the help of automated tools, retailers can set rules for products to be demoted and hidden to the last page once it’s out of stock. Additionally, these rules can be adjusted when inventory is restored.

Similarly, fashion and apparel retailers might look to set rules around size availability or promoting items with high units and sizes that are actually in stock. After all, having a full inventory of five sizes of a product, ranging from XS to XL, is significant compared to only having three out of five sizes.

In the case of industries such as home improvement or technology, a merchandiser in these spaces are more likely to focus on the highly technical and descriptive nature of their product names to optimize the search experience. Search on these sites is essential, and if a shopper is unable to find what they need, they’ll move along to a competitor.

A Typical Week For The Technologically Empowered Merchandiser

For merchandisers utilizing tools to strategically manage an e-commerce site, what does a typical day look like for them? When Monday morning approaches, merchandisers might run an analytics report to receive insights on detailed search behavior and product performance. With information around why products rank the way they do and sources of revenue, merchandisers can share this with their team to help direct decision making for the week, and work to find solutions for underperforming products.

Throughout the week, the merchandising team will likely look into the searches that bring back zero results and adapt or redirect results accordingly. The behind-the-scenes work of smart search tools will provide further insights into how shoppers utilize the search bar and will resolve any issues in delivering the products they’re looking for.

Every few days, a merchandiser might also log into their dashboard to check in on individual campaigns, and manually adjust as needed. This includes setting triggers around date and time, as well as coordinating banners and imagery to match the marketing team’s strategy.

The Benefits Of Automation

Luckily for today’s merchandisers, many processes are automated where manual intervention might have been needed in the past. Ecommerce merchandisers focus a majority of their time ensuring that the most frequently viewed search terms and category pages are displayed in a way that makes sense for the business – including sorting by newest or bestselling.

Using an antiquated system, merchandisers would have to manually rank and order these products on each page. Now, all that is involved is creating rules and utilizing drag and drop features to optimize web pages based on campaigns and objectives. With additional insights through reporting, merchandisers can both understand the most popular search terms and pages as well as merchandise them in a way that makes sense. For example, when looking to create a campaign, they can highlight products that are both in-stock and new. They simply have to set up this rule once, and it can be carried over to any relevant pages on the website.

Arm Merchandisers With Tools They Need

Merchandisers now have the tools and technology to make in-the-moment merchandising decisions, as well as the ability to slice and dice all aspects of an e-commerce site to gain instant and valuable insights on their strategies. All heavy lifting is eliminated when it comes to determining what products should be promoted, as merchandisers can see metrics around views, clicks, add to cart, purchase, and even what is most interacted with based on how consumers are searching.

As the role of merchandiser continues to change and grow, it’s important to remember that a website’s success is greatly influenced by the tool’s merchandisers can utilize to meet the demands of consumers.

About The Author

Alex Sweaney is Team Lead - Customer Success at Searchspring.