By Penelope Ody

Merchandising is all about encouraging the sale of products. In the real world, it can include visual displays, product assortment and availability, and promotional activity – anything that will encourage shoppers to buy. Online the same rules apply, to which we can also add such factors as ease of checkout, product reviews, effective search and social media.

1. Highlight bestsellers

Only 7% of IREU Top500 sites use bestseller ribbons (flash strips across the corner of product photographs declaring the item to be a top seller), and the practice is most widespread among Austrian, German and Lithuanian websites. Even here, however, many prefer to highlight top sellers either in pulldown menus, as with German furnishings specialist XXXL.

(xxxlshop.de), or signal the most popular (Beliebteste) when ordering search options as with Austrian cosmetics company, MeinDM. Another Austrian site, Weitbild, offering books, music and household goods, runs a stream of bestsellers on its website that changes each day.

Many of the IREU Top100 retailers, similarly put bestsellers on home pages: American Golf singles out bestselling golf balls and bags, while Polish site Empik has a home page column giving the top 10 “bestsellery” for each of the product categories that it sells. Click through and you reach listings of the top 100 sellers.

In an age when shoppers are often more concerned with keeping up to date with their peer group’s purchases than choosing something different for themselves, highlighting bestsellers is clearly an easy way to engage customers. Providing a top 100 seems a little excessive – especially if it involves searching through 10 pages of 10 items each. At peak times of the year, as in the run-up to Christmas, providing a daily list of “Unsere aktuellen Bestseller” (current bestsellers) may help sales.

2. Filter search

Allowing shoppers to filter search by brand, product type, size, price or other relevant parameters can help make the process quick, easy and accurate as possible. Around two-thirds of the IREU Top500 offer some sort of filtering, most usually by product type. Clothing and sportswear retailers tend to be the most specific. Dutch retailer Aktiesports.nl offers filter choices by brand, style detail (fit, neck finish, leg length, etc, depending on garment), material, colour and price; French fashion retailer Camaïeu, like many other clothing sites,…