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Curated Retail: When Less Choice Equals More Sales


As online retailing matures and expands, the number of choices available to shoppers grows exponentially. Moreover, offering more product choice can result in a confusing clutter that slows down or inhibits the purchase process.

Despite the online retailer quest to find the ultimate automated, personalized recommendation system, there has been a simultaneous rise in sites that provide hand-picked item selections and online retail models offering fewer products -- instead of more.

"Curated ecommerce is becoming recognized by both retailers and shoppers for its simplicity and ability to help fill an online void," said Krista Garcia, eMarketer analyst.

There will always be a place for comprehensive, multi-category retail sites, but fine-tuned collections enhanced by personal touches also perform a necessary function in the ecommerce ecosystem.

Sites surveyed by the e-tailing group in Q4 2011 reported online curation was a growing merchandising tactic with savvy retailers that seek ways to increase both sales and their profit margins.

Organizing items into branded sections was their leading approach to curation (89%), and the similar concept of grouping products according to themes experienced a 64% increase in adoption, the largest increase among tactics used.

"Failure to convert can be attributed to countless factors, but one common online buying complaint is not being able to find what one was looking for," said Garcia.

Whether the fault of poor merchandising, limited product detail, confusing display or too many options, a typical browse or search will not always bring up the desired results.

An abundance of products does not automatically translate to sales, which is why online retailers are exploring new ways of connecting shoppers to their product catalog.

Celebrity endorsements, book-of-the-month clubs, finely tuned product selections and expert advice have long been used to sell products -- so these curation techniques are not unproven.

What is new is how they are being translated to the web, with its greater capacity for immediacy and ability to enable sharing and socializing between customers, brands, retailers and taste-makers.

Online retailers have the opportunity to offer a distinct point of view and re-contextualize products in more focused ways -- often with a reduced product offering and a highly visual style that immediately conveys brand values.

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