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From data to deals: the art (and science) of mindful merchandising

Georgie Wilson
Georgie Wilson
Lead Merchandiser
6 min read
13 October 2023

It’s no accident that certain products catch your eye when you walk into a store. 

Visual merchandisers meticulously plan the organisation and promotion of products in-store to create an engaging and effective shopping experience. It’s an art, science, and skill that can make or break the success of brick-and-mortar stores. And when it comes to e-commerce, digital merchandising is just as, if not more, critical to get right. 

E-commerce marketers and merchandisers deal with vast product catalogs and wide audiences. Determining which products to showcase out of thousands (or even millions), on the world’s leading marketplaces such as eBay, is a challenge that can determine the success of online retailers. Doing so effectively requires a deep understanding of marketing and sales data, as well as shopper behaviour and needs.

Digital merchandisers must navigate a complex landscape of seasonal shifts, client preferences, product quality, and ever-changing consumer trends, to ensure the right products are surfaced at the right time to the right shoppers. 

Sitting in a unique position between marketing and sales, merchandisers need to collaborate with these teams to determine and track the right KPIs — beyond surface-level metrics — to inform impactful decisions on curating their e-commerce site. At DEPT®, we think of this as mindful merchandising. 

Beyond the obvious

Mindful merchandising is the art of guiding online shoppers through an e-commerce site and providing a natural experience for discovering new, relevant, or unexpected products, all while ensuring no shopper slips between the cracks. 

Any e-retailer can throw their newest or most popular products up on their shop’s homepage and hope customers will be enticed. But to truly deliver a captivating and logical consumer journey, merchandisers must look deeper than the obvious sales metrics or seasonal trends. By taking a holistic, data-driven approach, digital merchandisers can act as an extension of their creative and marketing teams to:

  • Identify the most popular searches, inventory, and categories
  • Promote products that are high in demand
  • Create targeted marketing campaigns for owned channels
  • Track and analyze performance and engagement metrics
  • Develop and action strategies

At DEPT®, our merchandising experts have decades of experience crafting and executing digital campaigns — and we’re sharing the top data sources our team uses to drive strategies for our e-commerce clients. 

Site navigation and user engagement metrics

The customer journey begins before visitors even land on your site, making tracking entry and drop-off points crucial. Analysing the path customers take — from search engine, to landing page, to inventory page, to checkout — provides valuable insights into user behaviour and helps identify areas for improvement.

Metrics including click-through rates, bounce rates, exit rates, clicks on page, views, heat mapping of module interactions, and sales data influenced by specific pages offer a comprehensive view of user engagement. These provide essential feedback on the performance of your content and product placements, enabling you to fine-tune your strategies for higher conversion rates.

User engagement A/B testing

It’s essential for merchandising teams to work in collaboration with creative and marketing to continually test and optimise product ads and promotions across all channels. Through A/B testing emails and onsite banners, you can experiment with various creative elements — visuals, copy, and more — to understand what truly resonates most with audiences and create a unified, engaging customer experience at all touchpoints. 

In reality, many brands overlook this aspect. Amidst the whirlwind of day-to-day operations, the significance of continuous A/B testing often takes a back seat. But the digital realm offers an incredible ability to test and learn, so even when deadlines loom large, brands can’t afford to miss out on these valuable opportunities. Every test provides you with insights and learnings that can be leveraged for future campaigns. 

Targeted customer personas and demographics

In today’s retail landscape, achieving personalisation is a top priority. Customers seek a genuine connection with brands, wanting to feel understood and valued. Personalisation, at its core, involves leveraging customer insights to tailor interactions and craft unique experiences. However, major e-commerce giants such as Amazon, Woolworths, and emerging players like Temu face the challenge of catering to massive audiences. The question then arises: How can personalisation be achieved at scale?

Meticulous audience segmentation is crucial for personalised experiences, especially for retailers with extensive customer bases. Understanding how to construct segments based on customer behaviour and aligning them with business objectives is paramount. This directly impacts targeted messaging, offers, and your brand’s presentation to these distinct audiences, forming the cornerstone of effective personalization at scale.  

Merchandising plays a vital role in this approach. Once audience segments are defined, merchandisers can curate offerings and experiences that resonate with each segment — strategically placing the right products, promotions, and messages to engage and guide customers seamlessly through their unique journeys.

Top searches on-site

Similar to tracking organic keyword data, mindful merchandisers should regularly track and review top searches at both a category and brand level within the e-commerce platform. This lets you curate experiences featuring in-demand inventory within a category, highlighting the brands users search for most frequently. 

Reviewing seasonality scores of searches across categories, an index indicating a category’s level of seasonal popularity, allows you to determine which categories are most seasonally relevant at a given time. This historical data makes it possible for you to forecast category spikes and plan timely experiences that align with expected user behaviour.

Inventory levels

Both historical and real-time inventory levels are essential for campaign planning and ensuring you can push relevant products with deep inventory for promotions — especially during peak shopping periods like Black Friday. By analysing previous year inventory levels for trends and patterns, merchandisers can predict shopper behavior more accurately and create content that resonates with customers. 

Turning collaboration into conversion

With so many potential metrics to track, we know that the most difficult part of e-commerce marketing is determining which KPIs should drive your strategy. By working with an e-commerce agency like DEPT®, digital retail brands benefit from having data analytics expertise, an external perspective on all things e-commerce, and the power of a creative studio all on their side — the ultimate trifecta for mindful merchandising. 

More insights


Lead Merchandiser

Georgie Wilson