The Do’s and Don’ts Of Digital Merchandising

By Alan Wolf

Following up on CEO Jim Ristow’s plea to members to merchandise their websites with the same urgency as their physical showrooms, Chief Merchandising Officer John White offered up three key tenets to follow online.

First and foremost, White instructed members not to sort their online catalogs alphabetically, as customers will typically search only the first two or three product pages of a website at best. “You must put your best and most relevant product upfront,” he advised.

Second, every product offered for sale online must be priced; otherwise, customers may think the retail ticket is too high to disclose. “‘Call for price’ doesn’t work,” White said.

Finally, members should remember to include all the add-on sales accessories that would be offered in-store, such as extended warranties, delivery options, and hoses and other parts. White assured dealers that customers will purchase a warranty online if offered, as “They want to shop locally with someone who can complete the sale.”

White’s guidelines followed Ristow’s General Session wake-up call to digital merchandising, in which he implored members to no longer think of their online stores as second showrooms. “Your website is your flagship store; it’s the most important store in your arsenal,” he said. 

Indeed, a July case study of member sites found that online traffic is five times greater on average than footprints in dealers’ brick-and-mortar storefronts, regardless of market size or real estate. Other studies have shown that the web is where most customers begin their purchase journeys today.

Ristow further compared a poorly merchandised website to a store without salespeople. Proactive merchandising through AVB’s LINQ portal keeps online pricing and promotions current and in lockstep with in-store merchandising, he stressed, and, as White noted, allows members to present their most popular products on the front end of their e-commerce catalog pages.

Conversely, members are also leveraging digital technology in-store in the guise of AVB’s electronic price tag program. The digital tags are saving dealers time and money by keeping their pricing and promotions current, and by no longer printing and placing throughout their showrooms by hand.

For dealers without the time or inclination to actively merchandise their websites, AVB has developed a new program, LINQ4U, to provide online merchandising assistance, including a one-time set-up and monthly merchandising support.

But whether dealers utilize LINQ themselves or employ the new service, Ristow’s message was clear. “I’m pleading – merchandise your website,” he said. “It’s so critical. Please do this.”

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.