I try to spend at least one week per quarter visiting our retail customers in the UK. In addition to my regular stop for the best Fish ‘n Chips in the outskirts of Covent Garden, I always enjoy hearing what our English friends are doing to drive their merchandising initiatives.

First, let me dispel any myth that the Europe is still trying to catch up to the US as far as eCommerce goes. Due in no small part to some pretty savvy merchandising, UK eCommerce has experienced significant growth in the past two years (one retailer I know says online sales now represent more than a quarter of his total revenue!).

So what stands out for me in terms of online merchandising in the UK? One consistent characteristic I noticed was the use of “what’s new”.

It’s clear that British shoppers are still very interested in what’s hip and trendy. The British invasion doesn’t only refer to music. Whether it’s the hot new trainers (sneakers or tennis shoes for us Americans) or a recent vintage of a South African wine, the English shopper is truly swayed by “What’s New”.

We’re seeing these products presented to the customer at the top of their pages with prominent merchandising zones that highlight the newest products available in the catalog(ue). This not only provides a great conversion tool for merchandising, but also provides “stickiness” to your site. While a “Best Seller” will stimulate a sale today, a “New” product will not only provide merchandising benefits today (conversion), but will also act as a customer retention tool that inspires the shopper to return to your web site to see what else is “new”. (And hopefully they will come back soon!)

I am also seeing quite a bit of tagging of new products in search results so that if you don’t have the space dedicated to a merchandising zone, your customers will be able to scan through either search or browse results to easily find the newest items. You will recognize these tags as a simple starburst or highlighted text on the product thumbnails to pop the new products on the page.

Taking this one step further, we have quite a few customers who have indicated to us in their data feed that a product is “new” or “fresh”. Once this data is in place we can then apply a business rules to sort the results accordingly through both search and browse. The end result is a dynamically generated user experience that pushes your newest products to the top of the search results.

So, if you want to boost not only conversion and sales, but also provide some lift to customer retention and visits, then take a lead from the UK and get trendy.

Cheers!

2 comments
Michael Klein
Michael Klein

Dear John, Thank you for reading my blog and your response. I've always thought that Europe has been ahead of the US in terms of brand integrity. Perhaps, at times, at the expense of conversion and revenue. What I mean is that for a long time the web was a place for European retailers to market your brand in order to drive traditional retail sales, not necessarily for trading online and shipping a product to someone's home or office. Many of the UK sites were fantastic to visit and kept you engaged, but trying to actually purchase a product was a challenge. Now with increased bandwith, and media technologies such as Scene 7, retailers can enjoy the best of both worlds. Clear paths to product conversion with an engaging, rich user experience. I also think that from a Mobile Media perspective the European community has been ahead of us in terms of widespread adoption to new technology. Sure the US has pockets of concentrated users such as the SF Bay area and Seattle, but if you look at the percentage of the overall population, you might be surprised to see how fast Germany, France and the UK are adopting new technologies. Cheers! Michael

John in New Zealand
John in New Zealand

Michael, Did you see any areas where the UK companies were *ahead* of US eCommerce sites ? PS: great blog !