As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things that sets successful, established designers apart from struggling, emerging designers is that established designers tend to have larger, though still cohesive, product lines.
Yet many designers and makers hesitate to add more products to their line for fear of overwhelming their customers. The thought process is that too many products can lead customers to “analysis paralysis.” That they’ll get so overwhelmed by choice that they won’t make a purchase at all.
But this flies in the face of most successful designers, not to mention most successful e-commerce platforms. (Look at Amazon. They’ve got infinite choices, but people still buy plenty of things.)
And no, I’m not suggesting you try and become the Amazon of whatever product category you’re in. (You’ve got to use some discretion. Plus, you’re only human.)
What I am saying is that expanding your line and giving customers more options is actually a good thing. IF you also help them navigate your collection and make decisions.
So how do you do that?
First, we need to acknowledge that helping buyers navigate a large collection in person (say at a wholesale or retail show) is different than the ways you would help buyers navigate a collection online. In person, you have the benefit of steering the conversation and pointing the buyer or customer towards key pieces. Online, you’ve got to use your website’s navigation (with a little help from email and content marketing) to help shoppers make decisions.
So as your line grows, here are some ways you can help buyers navigate your collection, both online and off.
How to help buyers navigate your line in person:
1. Group by collection and type. It may seem fun to organize your booth in a playful, random fashion, but this can really make it difficult for shoppers to scan and make decisions between similar pieces. (Imagine going to a store and learning that the nail polish was spread out across six different parts of the store, like some weird Easter egg hunt!) This is especially true at a trade show, where buyers need to make quick decisions about an overall group of products they want to carry in their store. By grouping pieces by collection, buyers can narrow in on a specific grouping and easily decide which pieces work for them. And by putting similar products together, shoppers can easily decide between several similar items. (Like which size earring they like best.)
2. Point buyers towards your best sellers. Helping buyers navigate a larger collection means you actually have to do a bit of selling. (Not just stand there.) But a larger line can actually make selling easier, because you’ve got more to talk about. And a great place to start is with your best sellers. Of course, wholesale buyers want to know that things are going to sell, so hearing something is a best seller makes them more confident about putting it in their store. But it can also help make a retail buyer more comfortable, especially if they’re on the fence. Hearing that a piece is a best seller is a great way to throw in a little social proof and help them feel like they’re making the right choice.
And calling out your best sellers doesn’t have to be limited to in person selling. I started designating my best sellers on my wholesale line sheet, and it really helps buyers there as well!
How to help shoppers navigate your line online:
1. Give buyers multiple ways to sort your products. (Like by collection, product type, size/length/color, etc.) I don’t know about you, but nothing frustrates me more than trying to shop on a website where I can’t navigate a collection in multiple ways. Yes, sometimes I want to see all the products, but more often than not, I want to sort by a particular collection or product type. And I find that makers and designers tend to be the worst when it comes to making their sites easy to navigate. But adding in lots of navigation options doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you’re using a platform like Shopify. Since you’re able to create lots of different collections (essentially just groupings of your work), you can create as many as necessary and then add them to your site’s navigation.
For instance, on my own site, you can search by product type (necklaces, earrings, rings, etc.), collection (Contra, Bold, Silver on Steel, etc.), necklaces by length, and rings by size. (Since I sell a lot of one of a kind rings in specific sizes.) And within each of those collections, you can change the page to sort by price, best sellers, most recent, and more. That gives shoppers lots of ways to sort through my collection to find the perfect piece for them! And this can work regardless of what you make. For example, a painter could set up her site so customers could shop by collection or body of work, size of paintings, dominant color, theme and more! A painting might appear in multiple places across the site, but it increases the odds that a customer will find exactly what she’s looking for!
2. Call out your best sellers. (In your shop, email, blog, and social media.) Just like you can call out your best sellers in person, you should do this online too. In your online shop, you can do this by setting categories to sort by best selling by default or by adding words like best seller to your product tile or description. But calling out best sellers doesn’t have to stop in your shop. This can actually be a perfect way to generate marketing content. Not sure what to email your list about this week? Highlight the piece that’s been selling the best. (Here’s a hint. If you sold one of something, and nothing of anything else, boom, you’ve got your first best seller!) Struggling to come up with blog content? Why not do a roundup of your five best selling pieces for the month or year. Need to share on social media? Post a pic of a piece that’s been selling really well! Sharing your best sellers is a great way to increase social proof while helping customers navigate your collection, which is a win win!
3. Give buyers ways to compare similar products. If you do have a lot of similar products (such as necklaces that only vary a little in size or shape) it can be difficult for customers to compare online. (At least not without a lot of jumping back and forth of browser windows.) That’s why if you really want to help buyers compare similar products, a great resource is to create blog posts (that you can also email out to your list) or social media posts (that you should also put on your blog) that let them compare products at a glance.
For instance, as I added more necklaces to my Contra Collection, I knew buyers needed some help deciding which style was for them. So I photographed all the necklace styles with the same shirt and then created a blog post (and email to my list) so they could see them all side by side. (And bonus: because I was able to analyze the click through data in my email, I could immediately see which styles were proving more popular with customers!) Just like with creating content around best sellers, creating these types of comparison posts gives you more content ideas for your marketing AND helps customers navigate your line better!
And while all these strategies are designed to help buyers navigate your collection as it grows, the beauty is that, regardless of the size of your line, you can start employing many of these strategies now to help make it easier for buyers to shop. Which in turn should help you generate more sales!