By Larry Alton
There's no one way to improve your ecommerce site's conversion rate, but all successful ecommerce sites share one common element: superior product filtering options. Product filtering lets potential customers search your small business ecommerce site for products based on certain criteria—like size, material, and compatibility, to name just three examples.
Bottom line: if you don’t offer helpful product filtering options available to shoppers, then your conversion rate isn't as high as it could be.
[SEE ALSO: Conversion Rate Optimization for Small Business]
Why Product Filtering Matters
Online retailers with many different SKUs and large amounts of inventory face a severe disadvantage when compared to brick-and-mortar retailers. In a physical store, retailers can display inventory in different departments, aisles, and shelves. An ecommerce website limits how much information etailers can display. In fact, it's impossible to neatly display your entire inventory at once.
Figure 1: Layered product filters simplify the online shopping experience.
This is where product filtering—and the value it provides—comes into play. An ecommerce site's product filtering system allows online shoppers to sort through products by filtering inventory and pulling out only the items that interest them.
Unfortunately, very few ecommerce sites currently take advantage of this valuable technology. According to a benchmark study of 50 large ecommerce websites, only 16 percent of sites provide a "reasonably good" product filtering experience to shoppers. Roughly one-in-three ecommerce sites analyzed has a "poor" filtering experience.
Not coincidentally, these same ecommerce sites experience "inexplicably" low conversion rates. Business owners can't seem to figure out why people spend time on their site and then leave before visiting product pages or putting items in the shopping cart. A lack of good product filtering could be the problem.
Thanks to large ecommerce sites like Amazon and Wayfair, people expect an excellent filtering experience. If you don't offering exceptional product filtering, then your customers will go spend their money at a site that does offer the convenience.
Simple Tips to Improve Product Filtering
The good news is that you can revamp your product filtering options. Keep the following tips in mind and keep your eyes open for opportunities to improve your customers' shopping experience.
1. Enable Multiple Product Filters at Once
Give your customers plenty of ways to filter products. The more products you carry, the more filtering options shoppers need to find products that meet their preferences. Layer these filters on top of each other to gradually simplify the shopping experience.
SoccerLoco, an online footwear retailer, provides a perfect example of layering multiple filters. Notice the column on the left side of the page (see Figure 1). Simply mark the checkboxes that apply—gender, brand, collection, size, price, or color—and the site repopulates with products that match the chosen criteria. This method provides a much better, faster way to search for a product than manually sorting through hundreds of different options.
2. Incorporate a Search Bar
In addition to product filtering, sometimes shoppers want to simply search based on a keyword or an item number. Add a functional search bar onto your sales and product pages to meet this preference. For example, Auto Zone's search bar lets shoppers search by keyword, vehicle, part number, and more.
Figure 2: Using bread crumbs is an effective way to show shoppers how they reached their current location on your site.
3. Use Bread Crumbs
The top ecommerce sites use a product filtering secret called "bread crumbs." Shoppers filter through multiple options, layer-by-layer, until they find what they want. The entire time—usually at the top of the page—the site lists the hierarchy of pages they clicked through. This lets shoppers easily follow the trail of bread crumbs back to where they started at any time.
As with most things, Nordstrom does a great job with bread crumbs. In the upper-left section of the page, you'll see a line that reads "Home/Men/Ties & Pocket Squares/Neckties" (see red box in Figure 2). That logical flow of information shows shoppers exactly how they arrived at the current page.
Product Filtering Maximizes Ecommerce Conversion Rates
A number of factors contribute to low conversion rates. And while it would be foolish to assume that your low conversion rates are solely the result of poor filtering, you need to consider the possibility that it's one of the primary culprits. Make an effort to improve your site's product filtering experience and see what happens to your ecommerce site's conversion rate.
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