We looked at several e-tailers’ approaches to online merchandising last week. One company has pushed the limits of online merchandising and is willing to share some of its best tips. TigerDirect.com is one of the most-visited consumer electronics sites on the Web, with sales exceeding $350 million. Shoppers spend an average of 12 minutes on the site with an average ticket of over $200.
Lonny Paul is director of e-commerce at TigerDirect. He offered me a glimpse into the site’s merchandising future, as well as five tips everyone can use.
Paul’s merchandising philosophy should resonate with this column’s readers. He believes consumers want to have control of their shopping experience and don’t want the pressures of a salesperson online. He believes consumers deserve many pieces of information they may be looking for to make a confident and educated buying decision.
Based on this premise, TigerDirect tries to offer consumers every possible bit of information they may want or need. It even responds to every customer inquiry one on one.
TigerDirect puts a lot of thinking behind its navigation. It makes extensive use of its Web analytics solution and has a whole team dedicated to online merchandising, including several photographers and photo touch-up artists. It even note features on the photos (scroll down the page to view).
Most products feature several tabs of information. One tab offers an extensive product info write-up that details features marked on the images, plus information on what’s in the box and detailed specs. Another tab offers a photo gallery, which includes enlargeable pictures of the product from just about every angle. Other tabs offer detailed specs, warranty information, additional resources, and recommended accessories.
The company recently added customer reviews to specific products. That’s a lot of work for each product. What’s the return on investment (ROI) for such hard work?
Paul explains, “TigerDirect was recently ranked the number 22 retailer by Internet Retailer Magazine. This ranking isn’t based off of industry specialists — this is actual consumer response speaking. Consumers are glad to have TigerDirect as not only a place to shop but as an informational resource. And it’s only going to get better!”
Here are Paul’s five tips:
- Don’t work against the grain. Paul advises a good seller, properly promoted, will sell even better. Many retailers work hard to sell items because they have them in inventory, even when they just aren’t that popular. Remember the Pareto Principle: 20 percent of products (or at least, a significantly smaller subset of inventory) will be responsible for 80 percent of sales.
- You can dress a dog in the prettiest attire but it won’t be any prettier. Hiding a good deal behind a bad one does customers a disservice. Paul says merchandising is like fishing: You wouldn’t use old bait when you have fresh bait (he admits he’s not a fisherman). You’ll catch customers by presenting the products they’re interested in the best way you can.
- Personalize without exaggerating. Don’t get too finite with personalization. Don’t guess what consumers may want to purchase based on past history. Imagine a consumer who purchased three printers from you in the past. Many retailers will insist on selling this consumer ink and paper. Don’t be so granular. Instead, try to sell the consumer a higher-end printer or a new computer to go with that printer.
- Provide a huge experience. “Virtual shopping is only possible when you provide a quasi-physical experience,” declares Paul. “We do everything we can to provide the consumer with as close of an experience and perspective they could get if they were looking at the product in the real world, maybe better.” The Web provides limitations and benefits unique to this medium. In a retail store, there are just too many options and stock keeping units (SKUs). You can’t educate every salesperson about every detail on every product. A catalog is constricted by cost and space. The Web offers limitless space. Take advantage of it.
- Let people make up their own minds. Consumers spend a lot of time on the TigerDirect site. It’s easy for them to browse. The site puts the best deals forward, and the rest follows.
A few more tidbits: Paul’s team spends a lot of time deciding where to exhibit products in multiple categories. That’s because people look for the same products in different categories. Last time you were at Home Depot, did you notice WD-40 is all over the store? Of course, TigerDirect spends a great deal of time working with Web analytics and other tools to monitor how consumers use the site, then uses that information to modify and optimize the experience.
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