Category Merchandising in eCommerce: best practice for Adobe Commerce & Magento
What is Category Merchandising? Why is it important in eCommerce? And how can I create great Category Merchandising strategies for my Adobe Commerce or Magento store?
Once you’ve cracked creating great product recommendations on your Adobe Commerce or Magento store, Category Merchandising is the natural next step for improving your customer journey – but many eCommerce businesses fall short of delivering a truly great experience on their category pages.
So to help any merchants out there struggling with this concept, we wanted to create a best practice guide to Category Merchandising on Adobe Commerce and Magento – packed with advice for setting your store up for success, no matter what tools you decide to use.
What is Category Merchandising?
Category Merchandising is the eCommerce version of Visual Merchandising – in short, displaying stock in such a way that will attract customers to a store, and encourage them to make a purchase.
Whereas in a physical store, this might include window displays, signage, and the way products are arranged – for eCommerce businesses, it’s more about designing and arranging their category pages to deliver a better customer experience: with decisions often based on past sales and browsing data.
This may include:
- Arranging products within a category
- Prominently displaying – or completely hiding – specific categories
- Creating dynamic category landing pages
- Adding complementary content to category pages
- Designing hybrid category pages with additional features
- Ensuring search results are relevant and helpful to the customer
- Developing user-friendly product filtering options
Why is Category Merchandising important in eCommerce?
The importance of Category Merchandising in eCommerce cannot be understated – very often, it’s a key element holding online businesses back from unlocking that next level of their customer experience – and consequently, business growth.
For physical retail stores, it’s very common practice to hire a visual merchandiser – but most eCommerce businesses don’t do this! Why not?
It’s arguably more important for a website – eCommerce businesses have minute control over what their customers are looking at on their stores, and with so many digital tools available, can even personalise the experience down to each individual customer.
Without a dedicated visual merchandiser, control of all these complex tools and strategies fall to an eCommerce Manager – who already has a lot on their plate. Often this causes a bottleneck, and with new product launches and website features always on the agenda, category merchandising can drop to the back of the queue.
There is good news though – thanks to the array of smart tools available, it’s easier than ever to automate many day-to-day category merchandising tasks, freeing up more time to work on the top-line improvements that will make a big difference.
How to do Category Merchandising on Adobe Commerce and Magento
Manually arranging and ordering products within categories is probably not what you want to spend your time doing – and luckily, there are both native and third-party tools that can help take the load off. Whether it’s setting up rules or managing AI learning, while you won’t do away with the need to have oversight on category merchandising for your eCommerce store, you can minimise the time you need to spend on these tasks.
For merchants on Adobe Commerce, the Visual Merchandising tool offers an easy, drag-and-drop way to visually rearrange your products within categories – or work from a list if you prefer.
Merchants on both Adobe Commerce and Magento Open Source can also implement merchandising strategies by setting up logic on individual categories using the Product Listings settings – to bring special prices or new products to the top, or out of stock products to the bottom.
There are limitations with these options though. You can’t apply a combination of logic rules, and the sorting options in the admin panel are limited to a select few. Plus, default product sorting doesn’t work well with configurable products.
If the native options are too limiting for your brand, you might consider a SaaS platform to support your eCommerce store’s category merchandising. Many of the SaaS based platforms out there use AI to automatically merchandise your products, based on sales data, logic, pinned products and more.
Once set up, you can automatically populate and rearrange products within categories based on data from your store – which will get more accurate over time, as the platform collects more information.
Using AI to bolster your own decision-making is a great way to cut down on the time needed to set up these processes manually – but it’s always worth checking the results now and then, in case any sorting needs to be overwritten with manual rules.
Category Merchandising strategies
Once you’ve got the technical areas covered, it’s time to start thinking about your category merchandising strategies. All the options in the world are no use without the strategic thinking to back them up!
Here are some of our recommendations of areas to focus on…
It’s likely you already have some degree of control over the order your products are sorted and displayed within categories. Maybe you show the newest products at the top, send out of stock products to the bottom, or always show your bestsellers first – or perhaps you use several of these in different parts of your store.
But you may want to think about arranging your categories in different ways, and use them to promote products for a whole host of reasons – for example:
- Highlighting particular products to sell off overstock or an older product range
- Showcase bestsellers at the top of a category
- Offer paid promotion to third party brands, where they can pay a premium to have their products featured at the top of a category or search result
- Combining different logic rules – like new products at the top of a category, but out of stock products always at the bottom
- Feature your highest-rated products based on customer reviews
Having all these options at your fingertips can make it easy to align with your marketing team and support new campaigns – and if you’re on Adobe Commerce, you can even use Content Staging to create and schedule these changes to go live in advance, meaning you can support campaign launches out-of-hours too, without being tied to your computer.
Leveraging category landing pages
Another great tactic is to create category landing pages – these can help you achieve your marketing and sales goals by offering a more seamless, personalised experience to your customers. Instead of using a standard product listing page for a particular category, you might choose to create dedicated category landing pages, with additional content.
A good category landing page might include:
- A description or explanation of the category
- What products, brands or ranges can be found in the category
- Any applicable subcategories, with a menu, descriptions or images
- Highlighted special offers or featured products within that category
- Personalised recommendations, based on audience trends or individual behaviour
As a rule, the above can improve the customer experience if your site sells products so complex that many customers need to be educated before they are able to browse effectively. It’s also helpful for sites with large categories and many subcategories of products – providing some type of category page with these sub-categories listed, can help customers find what they are looking for, or at the very least, somewhere to start.
Knowing when not to use a category landing page
In some cases, having a slick, cleverly designed category landing page might actually work against delivering a better experience to your customers – as it can add an extra step between customers and the products they’re looking for.
Some categories might work better with just a simple category listing page, showing all the products in that category – this works especially well for ranges where customers prefer to browse through product photos, like on large fashion, homeware or grocery sites. On the flip side, if a category has many sub-categories, or 1000s of products within it, a category landing page might be best – helping to narrow down the scope of what is shown to your customers, and reduce overwhelm.
It’s worth thinking about your categories individually, and deciding which ones would benefit the most from adding additional design features – this is also a good way to build a priority list if your site already has many categories.
Hybrid category pages
Another option you may want to consider for your site is a hybrid category page – which sits somewhere in between a slick category landing page, and a product listing page. This page type combines a small amount of information you’d find on a category page — such as brief product explanations or a short subcategory menu — within the main product listing page, alongside the products.
Showing bestsellers, recommendations, or key categories at the top of the page are also ways you can provide your customers with shortcuts, to alleviate the need for them to read through long lists of categories or use filters unnecessarily. This can be the best of both worlds, removing additional steps for impatient customers while also offering additional opportunities for marketing content.
Dedicated search landing pages
Why limit your strategies to your category pages? Especially for merchants with larger product catalogues, it’s definitely worth investing some time and thought into your search results pages too. Tweaking and curating search results in eCommerce stores, to deliver a better experience for the customer (or result in higher conversions) is often referred to as ‘Searchandising’.
A great strategy we’ve seen is to build dedicated landing pages for searches with a large selection of results, to help customers get over an overwhelming results page. As well as an opportunity to showcase the different brands or products within this range, it’s a great opportunity to showcase new launches, bestsellers, or special offers they may be interested in. However – sometimes it’s better to just show the results – if a customer searches for a brand name, they may already know lots about that brand, and just want to see a list of available products. Utilising customer research – or investing in a tool like Hotjar – can help you understand which options are best for your customers.
And if you have a library of content on your site – why not feature some of this on your search results pages too? Imagine a customer searches for ‘curly hair shampoo’ – as well as product results, they may be interested in a ‘Top 10 shampoos for curly hair’ blog post, curly hair styling tips, or product reviews from other curly-haired customers, all of which you could feature on search results pages.
Creating a robust filtering system
Especially for larger categories, or those where you use a product listing page (rather than a category landing page), ensuring your site offers a robust set of filters will go a long way to empower your customers’ browsing experience.
While this can vary between industry and product offering, some of the standard filtering options might include:
- Product type
- Size options
But depending on the types of products you sell, there might be specialist attributes that would be helpful to your customers, too. For example:
- Grocery retailers could add filters for common dietary requirements: like vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, nut free, or sugar free
- Help customers find the skincare products right for them by offering filters based on the result they’re looking for, active ingredients, or skin type
- Homeowners of older houses, shopping for lighting, may wish to view only products deemed safe to fit onto non-earthed circuits
Not sure what filters would be helpful to your customers? Hosting a survey or feedback session with some repeat customers would be a great way to gather this data.
Need advice on moving your eCommerce business to a strategic mindset?
We help businesses using Adobe Commerce and Magento across the eCommerce sector level up their thinking, breaking through growth blockers and unlocking the next level of potential for their online stores. If you’d like to find out what partnering with JH might look like for your business, contact us on +44(0)115 7940060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.