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Displaying Products Effectively in Your Online Store

Effective marketing in your online store begins with how your product line is displayed. Most online stores are arranged hierarchically. At the top level, a storefront page displays thumbnails representing every category (equivalent to a department).

Depending on the nature and size of the inventory, categories are sometimes broken down with navigation into subcategories that make sense to shoppers. You might subdivide the category Shoes into Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s, for instance. Clicking a category or subcategory takes the user to a thumbnail display of products within that category. Clicking a product thumbnail brings the user to a product detail page.

Make key merchandising decisions for each product category:

  • Choose which products to feature: You might want to feature products within a category because they are bestsellers, have high profit margins, or are ready to be dumped. Place featured items at the top of a category display, and certainly above the fold (high enough on the page that users don’t need to scroll to see them). Put the others in descending order of importance.

    That way, new customers can quickly find the products they're most likely looking for. Online always plays to strength!

  • Sort products: Although it’s appropriate to offer an option to sort by alphabet or price, don’t rely on them as your only method. Sometimes you can insert an extra space before a product name to force an item to the top of the alphabetical display, much like putting the letter A before your company name so that it appears at the beginning of the yellow pages.

  • Provide product detail pages: An individual page for every product makes displaying searchable text, color and size options, upsale items, and additional photos much easier. A product page also provides a specialized landing page for the desired product when a user conducts a search or clicks an ad.

  • Position special items on the page: Think "grocery store." The upper-right corner of your home or catalog page acts like an endcap in a supermarket — that’s where your specials go. You can use that space for sales, gifts, events, seasonal items, or an internal banner. Link from there directly to a specific product detail page where users can make a purchase.

The rows of products above the fold are like shelves at eye level, holding items that are heavily promoted, such as high-margin granola or fancy soups. The rows below the fold display items that people will search for on the bottom shelf, no matter how inconvenient, such as corn flakes or chicken soup.

Viewers can scan more products at once if you display categories with three to four items in a row than if you have arranged category contents in a long, scrolling column only one product wide.

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