Online retailers continue to make strides in their mission to replicate the in-store experience on their websites. A key focus of these efforts has been online merchandising, with badging—the use of graphics, text, or both to call attention to the specific attributes and promotions associated with a product—emerging as a powerful way to connect shoppers with the right products.

When done well, product badging on the web has been shown to improve conversion rates by 55% for retailers (noted in Monetate’s infographic, below, which also offers 10 best practices for badging). So there’s good reason for the buzz around this burgeoning tactic. But there’s also an execution challenge.

Plenty of retailers have struggled to implement badging properly, hampered by technical constraints. As a result, their efforts are falling far short of what is possible—or, even worse, might actually be depressing response.

What marketers need is a better approach to online badging, one that is integrated into the overall merchandising strategy to support a continuously relevant customer experience. What does the future of badging look like? Four success mandates define the practice:

1. Relevance Through Targeting: In order for any badge to add value to the online shopping experience, it has to help customers find the items that are relevant to them. For example, best-selling products will be of interest to first-time visitors; returning customers, on the other hand, usually want to see the newest products. Use demographic, geographic, and behavioral data to target product badges by visitor segment.

2. Test, Test, Test: You can target badges all you want; unless you test them, you’ll never know if they’re actually getting good results. The goal is to continually optimize your badging efforts to provide visitors with the ultimate shopping experience—leading to improved conversion, repeat visits, and revenue.

3. Be Consistent: Forty-two percent of companies rely on at least 10 to 20 different systems to support their website capabilities, according to a recent Forrester Thought Leadership white paper, “Getting the Most From Your Replatforming Project.” So it’s no surprise that badging consistently across the entire visitor experience—email creative, on-site banners, landing pages, search results pages, product recommendations, detail pages, etc.—is a major problem.

But inconsistency creates confusion … and confusion is an enemy of conversion. Don’t let sales slip away due to fragmented messaging.

4. Be Holistic: Traditional merchandisers have control over the entire in-store experience and use it to highlight their offers. And that’s what online merchandisers should strive to do, as well.

Badging doesn’t exist in a vacuum for your customers, so it can’t be siloed from your overall merchandising plan. Bring a campaign perspective to your badging efforts, building your promotional messages into your visitors’ entire shopping experience.

A final note: Badging is not just for products any more. The concept of badging might have originated in the store, with sales signs in the window and shelf signs to promote new products, but it can work for verticals other than retail.

For example, travel firms can badge trips that appeal to seniors. Publishers can badge articles that are exclusives. And insurance companies can badge packages that offer customers the best value. The possibilities go on and on.

The bottom line on badging: If you can slice and dice your “content,” then this powerful merchandising tactic definitely could work for you. So get ready for the future of badging, because it’s already closer than you think.

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