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Merchandising & Search Personalization Guide
Merchandising & Search Personalization Guide

An in-depth guide on setting winning merchandising strategies for products discovery through search and categories

Lari Lehtonen avatar
Written by Lari Lehtonen
Updated over a week ago

Merchandising is a powerful and versatile tool that allows merchants to control search results and category listings ranking to maximize sales potential and sell important products to a business.

Every found product has its score that consists of relevance score and ranking score. In Merchandising, you can manipulate ranking scores to find your preferred products on top dynamically.

To promote or demote certain products, you must select an attribute and set a specific weight for it, adjusting the ranking score. You can manually write anything more than 100% as weight if you don't see your desired outcome. You can also filter products to control which products are included or excluded from search results and pin products in certain search results positions.

Merchandising rules can target all search queries (we also call them global search rules) or specific search queries (we also call them query rules). They can also target all category pages or specific category pages.

Global rules are the most powerful because they significantly impact discovery performance and apply to every query and/or every category page. Therefore we recommend starting with one merchandising rule that will apply to every search/category and a segment "Everyone", which means all users and all search queries will be affected by the rule.

Global Rules: target all search queries and categories

For the main global rule, we recommend using performance metrics like Revenue, Conversion, Availability Ratio, SKU Availability, or others. This will boost currently relevant and well-performing products on top. You can also use attributes that indicate the importance of products that you want to sell; sometimes, it's Margin to promote more profitable products, Date Added to promote new products, and so on.

To find your perfect merchandising formula, first, have 5-10 different search queries, and while playing with attributes and weights, keep an eye on how ranking changes in the Preview section below. This way, you can find what looks best for you.

Query Rules: target only specific search queries and categories

Query rules will enable you to override global rules for specific search queries and categories. It works the same way as global rules but can target particular search queries and category pages. Main use cases:

  1. If certain product groups or categories have different ranking strategies than global;

  2. Adjust search relevance when search finds irrelevant products.

The easiest way to learn using query rules is by experimenting with them or learning from use cases. Here are a few:

Use case 1 - search relevance adjustments

Challenge: users search “table” but the first results find a ping-pong table. They’d like to prioritize dining tables in search results ranking.

Query Rule: target search query “table” with stem matching, so it also matches plural too, select attribute Categories, select Dining Tables category, and promote by 80%

Result: when users search “table”, they first find products from the category Dining Tables.

Use case 2 - personalization based on segments

Challenge: users search “shoes” and, as the first result, find sneakers. For Dresswear segment, merchant wants to promote more expensive shoes, mostly dress shoes like oxfords or tuxedos.

Query Rule: target search query “shoes”, select attribute Price, and promote higher price products by 90%.

Result: when users search “shoes” and are in the segment of Dresswear, they first find more expensive shoes, most of which are dress shoes.

Use case 3 - apply a different merchandising strategy for a limited time

Challenge: while global rules promote highly converting new arrivals, for search queries “face cream”, “lipstick” and “moisturizer” merchant wants to move inventory faster and sell discounted products that are a lot in stock. The rule should work until Black Friday.

Query Rule: target search queries “face cream” with an exact match, so it matches only this query, “lipstick” with contains match, so any query where lipstick is a keyword matches and “moisturizer” with contains match too. Select attributes On Discount and Inventory level, promote by 80%. Schedule a rule to work until the 20th of November, which afterward will be automatically disabled.

Result: with the search queries above, users will find discounted products with more inventory, while all other search queries will return the global rule strategy - highly converting new arrivals. The rule will work until Black Friday and will be auto-disabled.

Exclusion mechanisms

Segment exclusion

When setting up merchandising rules, there is often a requirement to include or exclude certain segments from the rule (e.g. you want to apply a certain rule to all users but not for the segment first time visitors). You can easily do this during the configuration of your rule by selecting them from the related modal.

Category exclusion

You can also exclude certain categories from your global rules, that are targeting all of your categories, if you want to deactivate your global rule on these specific categories. Simply use the exclude category functionality in the merchandising rules UI.

Note, that you can also use this functionality to include categories to rules set up for specific categories.

Search results Personalization

Use case 2 in the Query Rules paragraph above describes search personalization based on segments. Another, more scalable option is to personalize search results for every visitor. 1:1 personalization based on visitor’s affinities and preferences that Nosto CXP learned.

To set it up, you should simply use a Personalization attribute in the merchandising for your global rule. You can use it as a global merchandising rule or target only specific categories or search queries where personalized products ranking is more important. An example of what you can expect:

Context: A new visitor browsed a few pages, and Nosto CXP learned that this visitor has an affinity to Women category.

Result: Products from category Women will be prioritized in search results. User searches for shirts, Nosto’s search finds women's shirts on top.

Other actions: Filter and Pin

You can create merchandising rules with other actions, too - filter products to include or exclude products and pin products to specific positions.

Action: Filter

Sometimes you don't want some search results to be found, or only some specific search results to be found. To accomplish this, you can exclude products by different attributes so they wouldn't be found or include products, so only they are found.

Use case with exclude

Challenge: when users search "sale" and "clearance", merchant doesn't want to find gift cards.

Filter action: first, target search queries "sale" and "clearance" as a contains match. Then create a filter rule by selecting Category attribute and the condition is not Gift Cards.

Result: when users search sale and clearance, they don't find products from the category Gift Cards

Use Case with include

Challenge: when users search "apple", merchant doesn't want to find fruit air fryers that are found because they contain keywords apple, referring to fruit air frying. Merchant knows that the intent here is only Apple electronics.

Filter action: first, target search query "apple" as an exact match. Then create a filter rule by selecting Brand attribute and the condition is Apple.

Result: when users search for apple, they find products only with the brand Apple.

Action: Pin

Sometimes some products should just be pinned to a specific position. Pinning action allows merchants to do so.

You can pin by either manually typing product's ID or directly in the Preview box when in Merchandising. Once it's pinned, adjust in which position the product should appear.

Note: products now could be pinned only to the first page of search results or category page. There is no hard limit for the number of products on the first page.


Finally, you can schedule the merchandising rule to work only for a specific period.

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