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 !