Category / Visual Merchandising with Shopify Plus – Solutions & Providers

With Shopify Plus being such a popular choice with fashion and lifestyle retailers, one of the questions I get asked most commonly is how the platform can be improved for visual merchandising of collections. Different retailers have different requirements here, but overall most are trying to achieve a similar end goal, to reduce manual effort and make the products users are seeing more relevant. 

Native collection merchandising in Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus isn’t terrible when it comes to collection merchandising – users are able to choose from base ordering options and also manually order products, which is better than a lot of platforms. You’re also able to set a base order and then switch to manual and re-order from there, which is ok for a lot of users. 

The options for base ordering are:

  • Best selling
  • Product name A-Z and Z-A
  • Price high-low and low-high
  • Newest and oldest

You can then use manual also, which allows for users to drag and drop products in their chosen order, as below.

A lot of our clients tend to set to best sellers and then re-order to prioritise some of the key products within the given collection, which can be quite a good approach. We tend to recommend manually merchandising key collections and then leaving less important collections to base ordering, if the team is low on time.

If you’re using custom collections, you can also dictate the order of products in a collection via API, which can be very helpful. We’ve done this via Akeneo for one of our clients recently and helped to make things a lot faster as part of the migration and is a much nicer on-going solution.

Desired / common collection merchandising features for Shopify Plus

Almost all of our clients have asked about moving to a third party to improve collection merchandising, but there isn’t really an obvious solution that ticks every box, they all tend to have compromises in places. The requirements that we’re most commonly faced with are:

  • Clean visual merchandising interface with preview
  • In-line reporting around product performance
  • General reports around product and collection performance
  • Broader rule-based merchandising 
  • Blended rule-based merchandising (e.g. weighting of different values)
  • Ability to use rules across multiple collections
  • Ability to pin products whilst still using rules
  • Ability to pin products on groups of collections
  • Personalisation within the product grid / segmentation of users
  • Machine learned results within the product grid
  • Campaigns and scheduling of rules and merchandising
  • Product grid to be served in-line on the page

There’s no solution out there that can achieve all of these features, partly due to limitations with Shopify – e.g. a lot of these can be achieved if you embed a JavaScript product grid, which many are unwilling to compromise on due to potential SEO impacts.

Some of the following third parties get close to achieving most of these, but there’s generally one or two things that you miss out on. The other factor is cost, as most of the really strong third parties are quite costly. 

Third party solutions for collection merchandising

Collection Merchandiser App

The collection merchandiser app is relatively basic, but it creates a nicer interface for manually merchandising collection, as below.

It doesn’t offer many of the features listed above, but it does give you in-line stock visibility and create a more familiar UI for merchandisers. 

This app is free to use.

Visual Merchandiser App

The visual merchandiser app is very similar to the first option (collection merchandiser), but with some level of rule-based management and the ability to easily add and remove products from collections.

Again, the main benefit of this app is for those that want a richer merchandising UI, but it does allow you to order products based on tag values, in a basic way. 

This app is priced at $8.99 per month.

Klevu

Klevu launched their category merchandising solution in 2019, offering a way for retailers to merchandise their categories via rules (based on attributes, tags etc) and also a level of machine learning (based on shared search data).

The main limitation with Klevu’s solution is the same as most of the third parties – the grid is embedded via JavaScript, which can cause issues with some search engines (rendering the grid and ultimately crawling links to products).

This solution starts from around €500 per month and is almost always used alongside search, as part of a package.

NOSTO

NOSTO’s category merchandising solution is very new, but it has a huge amount of potential. Although they’re still looking at the integration side with Shopify, it is able to offer a lot of the functionality listed above, including personalised results, advanced rule-based merchandising, rules by customer segment etc. It also benefits from NOSTO’s standard super clean interface and strong reporting.

Overall, I would say NOSTO’s solution could be really strong and is well worth keeping an eye on. This solution is likely to start at somewhere around in the €1,000 per month region.

Attraqt

Attraqt have been in the viusal merchandising space for years – offering a really broad set of features (across search and recommendations as well) to generally more enterprise-level retailers. Historically, their weakness was in their integration, however they’ve supposedly developed a much cleaner app-based solution for Shopify Plus, which does appear to have the same issues as the other providers around a JavaScript grid. 

One Shopify Plus client that uses Attraqt is I Saw it First, which shows that the product grid disappears when you disable JavaScript in the browser. 

Attraqt allows for very advanced merchandising rules, as well as personalisation and machine learning in the product grid. It also has the richest features out of any of the providers that are likely to be an option for Shopify Plus users around blending tag values.

I’ve never had a client that’s used Attraqt and it’s a lot more expensive than the other options, but it does have a very rich set of features.

The only thing that does change this is if you’re doing headless, where you’ll have access to the front-end server to create a static version of the product grid. If you’re able to do this, my recommendation would be to look at Klevu and NOSTO’s solutions and then use something like Pre-Render to create a static version for search engines. 

Overall, I think if you can create an SEO-friendly implementation – for those who need more advanced merchandising features, I’d look at Klevu and NOSTO, purely because they’re really good third parties anyway (for search and product recommendations) and they have good features for a reasonable cost.

If you have any questions around merchandising in Shopify Plus, please feel free to ask them below or drop me an email.

Paul Rogers

Paul is an experienced eCommerce Consultant, specialising in all aspects of replatforming, requirements gathering and platform selection projects.

Paul has worked with most mainstream eCommerce platforms and has supported complex replatforming projects with retailers from all over the world. Paul also works on customer experience projects and solutions-focused work with various platforms - primarily Magento and Shopify Plus.

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