22nd August 2014

Optimising E-commerce Navigation

Optimising E-commerce Navigation

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Product find-ability is key to any successful E-commerce site — after all, if customers can’t find a product, they can’t buy it.

How do users navigate, find and select products on E-commerce websites? Well that’s what web designers need to establish in order to build successful sites. Lets explore some of the ways you can help your customers find what they are looking for.

Search Bars

Lets first presume that in some cases consumers may already know what they want from your site. If this is the case then, providing customers with a clear and easy to identify search bar is key.
Your search function field needs to be above the fold, i.e. in the top part of your website where the viewer doesn’t have to scroll down the page. Many E-commerce sites go for the traditional top right hand corner placement. When designing your search bar just make sure the text is big enough and legible. You’d be surprised how many sites get this crucial detail wrong and render search bars unidentifiable.

Parent Categories and Subcategories

When it comes to creating a basic navigation level, start with the top-level or global menu, which is the menu that will be visible throughout your site. If you have a small collection of products then it is best to separate them into a small number of static top-level categories. Always ensure that you never have less than 10 products in a category. If you have a large selection of products then use sub-categories to break them down further.

Bear in mind that some subcategories may fall under more than one other parent category. Opting to feature for example, the mobile phones subcategory underneath only “ products”, could be a mistake if your site features other relevant parent categories such as “ Gifts “. You have to list your products under all the parent categories, that your customers will potentially look under for the products they seek to buy.

Filters and Sort Options

  • Sort options are also highly favourable, especially when it comes to search results. Give your customers the options to filter based on variables such as ‘New’, ‘Price’ or ‘Top Seller’. This again allows consumers to get to their desired destinations quicker and complete their transactions in fewer clicks.

 

  • Consider giving customers the option to refine their searches. Allow them to refine the products that are displayed in a category by ticking boxes next to certain criteria. This could be colour, length, size, brand and price of a product. This allows the customer to reach the products they want to purchase much quicker, by narrowing the results down to those with the features they are interested in.
  • Bear in mind that there may be visitors who regularly frequent your website. Make things easy for them. A “What’s New” filter-based category is a great way to support returning visitors, so that they can easily identify what new products have arrived since their last visit.

Listing relevant items on product pages.

Items we recommend

If a customer is viewing a particular product, why not go for the old method of cross selling and include recommended items in your navigation. An “items we recommend” section, just below the product that is being viewed can be incredibly effective. It keeps users engaged by offering them alternatives that they might not necessarily buy, but will compare against their original option.

Recently viewed

Equally as important, is including a list of recently viewed items, preferably spread across the bottom of the page in a breadcrumb layout. Customers may have been looking between two similar products to check whether certain features of the previous item were compatible with the new one. Other times they just want to compare two products before deciding on which one to purchase.

Compatible items

If you are selling electrical equipment it is advantageous to include a list of compatible items. Again, they can be shown below at the bottom of the product pages. Besides being great for cross-selling and SEO, dedicated pages of compatible products can be mined for data to create filters and to improve cross-selling recommendations. They would enable you to avoid suggesting incompatible products, which is critical.

Some hot trends now for you to consider:

  • Clustering. This is where you could focus on outfits rather than single items of clothing. You could look at how items all go together to create a finished piece and display them in an interesting graphic or video. Clustering allows you to sell more products at the same time and encourages your customers to engage with how the products will appear in a real-life scenario.

 

  • Animation. Right now it’s all the rage in E-commerce. Allowing your customers to interact with your products as much as possible without physically touching them has proved enormously successful. Mix and match outfit tools and graphics similar to in store staples such as dressing rooms and shelving units, gives the consumer a familiar feeling, eliciting immediate trust in the brand and it’s site.

 

  • Keep in mind any forth coming events that maybe of interest to your customers and weave these into the layout and themes of your site. For example; if its coming up to Valentines day, feature appropriate outfits on the landing page, perhaps in a cluster ( see above). You could insert a banner at the top of the page further promoting the event and how your site can cover it, in terms of providing appropriate products and then even change the colour slightly, if appropriate. Adding the logo of say Wimbledon or Ascot next to your brand logo around the time of that event, will further remind your customers that you stock related goods.

So remember, make it easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for on your site. The sooner they can identify the product of their choice the sooner they can complete those sought after transactions. Bear in mind, never make alterations to your site just for the sake of it. Any changes you implement should be based on sound data. Once you’ve made your changes, test and test again to see whether or not your new structure has been effective.

 

 

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