Merchandising has been a key component of retail commerce for as long as retail has existed. But it has been made increasingly complex in the digital world as shoppers search for products with a high degree of granularity, and merchants struggle for the easiest way to showcase exactly the products they want.

That’s why Demandware is introducing major advancements in Visual Merchandising, which greatly simplifies and empowers retailers to present shoppers with the right product, the right way and at the right time.

At the 2015 XChange London customer conference, Demandware unveiled its merchandising roadmap, while early adopters of these technologies (some just emerging from beta) shared their experiences and findings.

The most effective online merchandising capabilities let shoppers quickly and easily find what they want, while giving the merchant the flexibility to promote or de-emphasize specific items based on business needs.

That’s much easier said than done. It’s hard to overstate the complexity in delivering results that match a search for a size six, sleeveless navy blue dress, on sale, with an A-line skirt, in linen, priced between $100 and $150. It’s even harder when a merchant has a catalog of tens of thousands of products.

Enter Demandware Visual Merchandising, of which there are two primary components:

Visual Sorting provides a visual way to merchandise category pages, with drag-and-drop product positioning capabilities on category pages. This enables merchants to easily and efficiently organize product assortments within categories.

Variation Groups is a new product type enabling merchants to create groups of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) within a master product based on certain attributes, and merchandises them on the site in the same way as a master product.

See this video for a more in-depth look at Demandware Visual Merchandising.

Previously, “slicing” by any attribute didn’t allow for “slices” to be merchandised independently,

Variation Groups enable sorting by color, attribute-based promotions, curated product sets by attribute, and ability to assign colors or sizes to a content slot.

Merchandising is, of course, a highly critical component in any retail enterprise, and the application of innovative merchandising capabilities is universal.

“This capability knows no vertical. It’s for everybody,” said the head of ecommerce technology at a major luxury retailer. He says the key benefits his company realized are full manual merchandising in Demandware Business Manager, fixed product URLs for SEO and link building and the reduction of catalog data. (Very large product catalogues are resource-intensive, as they require a higher degree of maintenance.)

He says the merchandising team has more control and can spend more time merchandising rather than poring over spreadsheet-based workarounds they previously required to achieve the same result.

Further, it is much easier to manage the display of various colors out of full price and into sale categories.

“I can’t think of a retailer who doesn’t want this capability,” said Robin Blackwell, senior architect at eCommera, a global systems integrator and Demandware Certified LINK Partner.

The best merchandising capabilities optimize inventory to increase profitability, letting merchants easily create product promotion rules that blend customer and inventory information to produce results that are beneficial for the shopper and the retailer.