eCommerce Apparel Merchandising: Everything You Need to Know to Dominate

Without an advanced eCommerce apparel merchandising strategy, you're likely leaving significant revenue on the table. With a strategy in place, you not only attract potential customers and move them toward checkout but also captivate existing shoppers to drive retention.

When done right, online merchandising will engage store visitors just enough to move them smoothly through your brand’s shopping journey — in as few digital touchpoints as possible — while generating product excitement. This means more conversions at higher revenue, ultimately boosting long-term profits. 

So, what is the best way to build your eCommerce apparel merchandising strategy to ensure you are able to compete in the highly saturated niche of online clothing brands? This post has the answers! 

We will cover: 

But first, let’s quickly recap the basics. 

Online Fashion Merchandising vs. Traditional Visual Merchandising 

From enticing shop windows to last-minute goodies placed strategically down the aisle, traditional visual merchandising has been successfully drawing in brick-and-mortar shoppers for years.

However, while there are some things tech and machine learning tools haven’t been able to duplicate just yet, online retailers have been able to translate traditional visual merchandising into digital sales. For the most part, anyway! 

Let’s look at the key areas of difference between online fashion and traditional visual merchandising and show how eCommerce apparel merchandising has adapted tactics for the digital world. 

  1. Storefronts. While traditional brick-and-mortar stores rely on physical storefronts that are location-dependent, online stores are digital and accessible from anywhere. 
  1. Displays. Instead of window displays and store layout optimization of in-store signage, online retailers utilize UX and navigation optimization and strategic onsite product recommendations and promotions. 
  1. Product placement. Online retailers have upgraded traditional in-store product placement based on predicted customer movement with SEO optimization, advanced category merchandising and product sorting, and offsite digital campaigns. 

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. 

Personalization vs. Online Merchandising vs. Advanced Merchandising 

Traditionally, online retail merchandising focused on how products were organized onsite and ensuring your store was visually appealing. Usually, these displays were based on marketing KPIs, such as best-selling products. 

On the other hand, personalization is/was based on specific customer preferences and data, enabling online stores to tailor a potential customer’s shopping experience. 

Here is how the main differences between personalization and online merchandising strategies looked in the past: 

  1. Strategy focus. Personalization is centered around tailored shopping experiences for individual customers, while online merchandising focuses on general product display and categorization. 
  1. Data. While online merchandising used broad data analytics in the past (such as trending products for decision-making), personalization strategies use more customer-specific data, such as past purchases and browsing history. 
  1. Objectives. Personalization strategy objectives aim to increase relevancy and engagement for each customer. On the other hand, online merchandising strategies aim to present products to a broad audience in the most attractive way. 
  1. Delivery. While online merchandising relied on personalized product recommendations, targeted emails, and customer-specific offers, personalization relied on homepage layouts, category pages, and featured products.

But thanks to advanced technologies, the growing trends in eCommerce AI, and advanced merchandising tools like Kimonix, this is no longer the case. 

Advanced Merchandising 

Advanced merchandising combines merchandising strategies based on retail and marketing KPIs with the power of personalization. This enables it to: 

  • Use real-time, individual customer data for dynamic product displays
  • Integrate machine learning algorithms for better-targeted suggestions
  • Combine general product display techniques with individual preferences
  • Adjust product rankings and featured items based on user behavior (e.g., past purchases, items viewed)
  • Personalize navigation menus, search results, and promotional messages based on user data

Ultimately, this enables you to boost customer engagement, increase average order value, and improve conversion rates by merging broad retail merchandising strategies with individualized customer data. The trick is finding the right tool that enables you to do that and more, on auto-pilot.

Pro Tip: Invest in the Right Advanced Merchandising Tool

Kimonix is not just another personalization tool. Instead, it offers a holistic, AI-powered merchandising solution for online retailers looking to execute an ROI-driven merchandising strategy based on your real-time business needs.

With Kimonix, you or your retail apparel merchandiser can build, sort, automate, A/B test, and optimize intelligent collections based on your current business goals, inventory constraints, and shopper demand. Ultimately, combining real-time sales and inventory data with insights on your shoppers’ preferences in order for you to build tailored customer journeys that maximize profitability.

When all is said and done, you have to use advanced eCommerce apparel merchandising strategies and tools to compete in such a saturated market. The following sections will give you everything you need to do just that.

7 Key Elements to Build Your eCommerce Apparel Merchandising Strategy 

There are seven key elements to focus on when optimizing your eCommerce apparel merchandising strategy. These include: 

Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Homepage Displays 

The fashion and apparel industry is all about aesthetics, presentation, and style. Therefore, your online store's homepage should exude these qualities, regardless of your specific niche.  

Take, for example, the fashion designer brand Gucci. Every aspect of their retail website aligns with their image and style. Using simplicity in their display, they let their online fashion merchandising tell the story in a minimalistic way. 

The bottom line is that your homepage is often the first point of contact when a potential customer is learning about your brand. You need to make a significant impact quickly, combining advanced retail merchandising with aesthetics. This means: 

  • Optimizing for humans (shoppers) and bots (SEO) 
  • Highlighting key products, categories, collections, and promotions 
  • Personalizing product recommendations 
  • Enhancing navigation triggers to keep potential customers engaged 
  • Having a less-is-more approach to content that makes important information easy to find 
  • Testing and tweaking continuously for maximum performance
  • Showing off your apparel design items as cleanly as possible 

2. Online Clothing Store UX  

Next, you want to audit and optimize your website layout. 

Your website layout is the digital version of how a brick-and-mortar store designs and structures its floor plan to push customers through well-placed displays to the cash register. A prime example of this, to the extreme, is IKEA. 

But how does that translate to a fashion retailer? A few ways to duplicate that strategy include:

  1. Leveraging good quality product images or videos and well-thought-out product descriptions
  2. Streamlining your checkout process to reduce friction 
  3. Displaying sufficient sizing information and using buttons for each size variation prominently (something Baymard Institute says 94% of fashion retailers neglect to do!) 
  4. Opting for intuitive navigation and robust search functionality 
  5. Using advanced product sorting machine learning — to ensure the right potential customer sees the right fashion trend at the right time — to elicit a sale 

An excellent example of a brand using these tools is discount e-retailer DailySale. By employing AI retail merchandising strategies and optimizing category page UX, DailySale increased its YoY click-through rate by 221%. (You can find out more here.) 

[Source: Kimonix]

3. Product Recommendations and Displays 

Well-placed product displays are not just about UX; they're also about showcasing the right product to the right buyer at the right time. This is where advanced fashion merchandising is vital. 

Why? Because advanced fashion merchandising factors in both marketing and retail KPIs to ensure that you not only increase your conversion chances but improve overall profitability, as well. 

Whether it's a well-placed upsell or an offsite personalized recommendation, it is vital that you factor in as much data as possible into the products you’re recommending to shoppers. Here are some key data points to consider for 1:1 personalization within this merchandising element:

  • Financial metrics: AOVs, conversion rates, sales, margins, etc.
  • Customer metrics: Customer lifetime value, cart abandonment, etc.
  • Product metrics: Product reviews, inventory value, days to finish inventory, etc.

These considerations also apply to your category and collection pages.

4. Category and Collection Pages 

Simply showing best-selling products is not enough. Your apparel merchandising strategy should factor in the combination of the data mentioned above. 

When done right, an online fashion category or collection page offers prime online merchandising space, boosting SEO and traffic, improving user engagement and shopping experience, and driving more shoppers to your product pages. 

To optimize category or collection pages for conversion and profits, you will want to: 

  1. Optimize your collection page UX 
  2. Introduce advanced product sorting and retail merchandising automation 

[Source: Kimonix]

You can read more about these and other strategies here

5. Product Filters and Store Navigation  

Optimizing your store’s product filters and navigation is vital for your merchandising strategy. They act in a way in-store signage directs customers through a brick-and-mortar: filtering and site navigation directing potential customers and regular shoppers to just the products they are looking for. 

At the end of the day, shoppers want to find your latest fashion trends as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Your merchandising strategy should factor this in.

6. Product Pages 

Your product pages are probably your most important merchandising element. After all, as an online clothing retailer, you can’t put on an in-store fashion show or display themed mannequins. Instead, you need visual ways to digitally show your products off.  

At a minimum, ensure you invest in high-quality images and videos. However, you may want to invest in other online fashion technologies, such as online fitting rooms that use augmented reality (AR) or 360-degree images.  

[Source: Threekit]

Here are some questions you or your retail apparel merchandiser can ask when auditing your product page design:

  1. Does your content sound human? Does it speak to your shoppers?
  2. Do you have social proof displayed in a way that encourages shopping?
  3. Have you included convenient links to related or recommended products? 
  4. Do your product pages include upsells? 
  5. Does your product photography exude quality? Does it showcase every angle or fashion feature?
  6. Are you giving enough information and details to justify the selling price?  
  7. Have you included a clear, to-the-point CTA (call to action)? 

7. Cart and Checkout 

We know that any advanced merchandising strategy doesn’t stop when a buyer adds a product to their basket. In fact, this is the most crucial part of your strategy. Optimization here ensures better conversion chances and can help increase AOVs with the help of a well-timed product recommendation. 

In essence, cart and checkout merchandising aims for frictionless shopping. This means:

  • Being transparent and upfront with costs, such as shipping rates 
  • Showing checkout progress along the way 
  • Including a cart promotion or discount 
  • Opting for a simple and effortless checkout process with a clean design 
  • Offering guest shopper log-in 
  • Including as many payment options as possible 

For example, Crate and Barrel's cart design makes the shopping experience convenient by offering relevant products, shipping promotions, and essential buyer information.

[Source: Convertcart]

Expert Tips and Advanced Practices 

Competition in the online apparel industry has never been tougher. Therefore, investing in advanced retail merchandising strategies, tools, and techniques is a must if you want your brands and products to not only stand out but dominate in terms of sales and profits. 

Effective merchandising makes sure that the most relevant products — both to your buyers and your brand — are more visible and appealing. Additionally, it enables you to improve your shopping experience, which is vital for long-term retention. 

Here are a few expert tips, strategies, and techniques you can use to take your online apparel merchandising to the next level.

1. Invest in Top-Notch eCommerce Automation and AI 

The bottom line is that without investing in good AI and automation, real-time product sorting and personalization is just not possible. The easiest and most cost-effective way to do that is to invest in a good stack of eCommerce SaaS tools. In terms of merchandising, this could include a combination of the following tools: 

  1. Kimonix advanced product sorting and merchandising
  2. SealApps back in stock alerts
  3. Yieldify customer journey personalization and segmentation
  4. Hotjar advanced analytics
  5. Cogsy automated inventory management

You can read more about these top retail merchandising SaaS tools here

2. Let Your Products Tell a Story 

Another must-do is to ensure your products, no matter where they are displayed, tell a story. This is particularly important in the apparel industry. After all, it’s all about fashion. This means everything should tell your customers a brand story, outlining what sets your fashion store apart. 

A standout example of a brand winning in fashion merchandising and storytelling is the apparel accessory store Brevite. With strategically placed subheaders, clear product names, and detailed descriptions, they're acing product page merchandising.

3. Use the Right Data for Product Recommendations and Product Sorting  

Yes — as personal as you can make your product recommendations and collection sorting, and as striking as you can display them, the more effective they will be. At the same time, it’s crucial that you’re recommending products that align with your current business goals.  

This implies you should consider not just customer behavior data but also marketing and retail KPIs.

This is something that the prestigious brand Davosa USA did, increasing their conversion rates by 32%. As an added bonus, they were also able to decrease non-moving inventory by 16% with the same advanced merchandising strategy. (You can read more about this case study here.)

[Source: Davosa USA]

4. Get Ahead of Retail Merchandising Trends 

As technology advances, so do merchandising capabilities for digital stores. Whether it is a VR fashion show or highlighting new sizing trends in product pages, you need to make sure you are keeping up with the latest developments. 

Here are some of the current retail merchandising trends to get you started: 

  • More demand for product simplicity 
  • Increased size diversity 
  • Flexible product bundling 
  • Increased preferences for sustainability  
  • Combining online and offline shopping experiences 

A good example of the last tip in action is the Kate Spade 24-hour shoppable window display that allows passersby to shop online any time of day.

[Source: This Is Retail]

Pro Tip: Follow top retailer content sites like McKinsey to catch retail merchandising trends early.

5. Get Even More Personal with Your Shopping Experience 

Personalization is certainly not a new or advanced concept. However, the level of personalization that customers have come to expect is growing. 

With the right tools, you can increase access to a broader range of consumer behavior data, enabling you to go above the average, expected personalization. Some of these growing personalization trends include: 

  • Real-time website one-to-one personalization
  • One-to-one personalization category-place personalization
  • Customer-specific product pricing 
  • Advanced product recommendations 
  • Predictive search
  • Personalized payment methods 
  • Email marketing collections  

6. Capitalize on Viral Channels for Offsite Merchandising 

It’s vital to stay on top of offsite merchandising trends and ensure you adapt your strategy to fit new channels. For instance, social shopping and live streaming is super popular right now with specific audiences. 

And they’re here to stay. Live shopping is set to reach $55 billion in revenue by 2026 in the US alone. The trick is ensuring you choose the right channels for your market — and the right products to highlight — based on consumer behavior, fashion trends, and internal retail and inventory optimization goals. 

Wrap Up 

There you have it, everything you need to know to take your eCommerce apparel merchandising to the pro level. 

Still have questions? Reach out to our retail merchandiser gurus here, and they will point you to the latest tools and trends. 

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