In eCommerce, your category page is most often the first touching point when customers land on your page and get a view of your products. So category pages double as landing pages, giving them an equal importance to product pages.
The main aim of your category page is to drive people further down the sales funnel, by making them view specific products and ultimately buying from your store. Your category page should already enable customers to determine if a product they like, is what they ultimately want.
If they need to go to the product page and do some major extra work to confirm on all individual products, then you best start tweaking your category pages.
Grouping categories by customer expectations
Customers who reach your site from search engines are mostly driven there by narrow search terms. They will land on your category pages and have very specific expectations what awaits them there. For example, if a customer searches for “men's snow jackets” the search term determines that they expect to land on a page displaying snow jackets for men.
As your category pages also double as a landing page, then it makes sense to put your best selling product on the first page.
Categories can be broader and narrower, based on the depth you wish to offer, but you don't need to go overboard and sorting and filtering will provide more depth. We will cover that in the article as we move along.
This will rarely ever happen, but at all costs avoid letting a children's scarf get lost in a section for men's shirts. Also, keep in mind that this article only touches grouping of the categories and does not address navigation, as that's another in depth topic.
Choosing the correct product display view for your industry
You can choose between displaying your products in a grid or list view and also provide the option to let your visitors alternate between the two. To understand which view is best for you to use, let's establish the difference between the list view and the grid view.
Gridview is a grid of products displaying only the essentials: picture, price & product name. Some clothing brands like, Gap, have removed even the price and product name, and letting the product solely sell itself. However, depending on your needs you can instead add a bit more info, by including things like review counts etc, while still keeping the focus on the product itself.
Benefits: Images alone can give all the information needed for people to make the decision
Disadvantages: When poor images are used, people will be put off by checking the larger view every time.
Listview consists of a picture on the left and some product information on the right: price, product name, short description and availability. So grid view focuses on the picture and the listview adds additional room for a more detailed view.
Benefits: a list view will give you more room to display product information.
Disadvantages: You can's show as many products per page and customers will usually end up filtering and sorting. Creating a list view also takes more time, as you create extra descriptions.
Allow switching or not?
Lots of shops allow alternating between those two as standard. Your eCommerce platform must also have the option to let visitors switch. Deciding if you allow switching, you need to establish if your customers will even see the option to switch. If it's prominent and noticeable and you do allow switching, make sure you put equal effort into developing them both. Otherwise, the neglected view will start hurting conversions, and that is the opposite you are trying to achieve!
Which to choose?
Think about the types of products you offer and which will satisfy your customer views by trading sector and relevance. For example, you would want to choose list view for products with more technical information (computers etc). For apparel and fashion, you would want to go for the grid view as the product picture will be the main selling point.
If you don't have the opportunity to let visitors switch or if you think it's best to choose one, or you are deciding on a default view, then go for the one that best suits your industry.
Sorting & filtering products
The Nielsen Norman Group report on user experience found that typically users wouldn't look any further than the 2nd or 3rd page. If your product base is huge and category product counts large, then sorting and filtering help customers make their searches more relevant.
Sorting products means rearranging the order in which a group of products is shown. The most popular way customers sort is by price (low to high). In addition to price, the other common sorting options (usually default options) are by alphabet, date and most popular.
Depending on your niche and what options your e-commerce platform provides, you can implement more useful ways of sorting.
Filtering is a more advanced way to allow customers narrow their options, by letting them filter out products based on their specific criteria, that they want to include. For example, a customer visiting a category page for leather boots may want to filter out all boots in that category that are black.
Industry specific filtering
Deciding on filtering options is again industry specific, but options are more varied than with sorting. Common filtering options for fashion and clothing include brand, size, material, style and colour (commonly added as swatches).
For electronics and more technical items, it's essential to also use product features. For example, a merchant selling computers would include filtering options like by memory size, screen size etc.
To display or not?
The more products you have the broader your filtering options should be. However, If you have a relatively small product base, then consider not displaying any filtering options. It is always best to follow the idea to not add anything that might draw unnecessary attention from the products.
For example, Imagine a store where you sell 100 different kinds of men's products, 10 of them are men's ties and only one of them is red. The 10 ties will probably already fit to be displayed on the same category page, so you would actually not need the filtering options.
Picture quality on category pages
Pictures have paramount importance in the shopping experience and you have to ensure good image quality. On the category page pictures are not displayed as big as on the product page. That's why you have to choose the picture that best portrays the product when viewed smaller. The picture has to convey the main feature of the product.
If you want to go the extra mile you can also allow zooming images straight on the category page. This will save a click to the product page. As an addition, it will also promote multiple items being added to the cart straight from the product page.
We have written an article on DIY product pictures, but we always tell customers to get them professionally taken, if budget allows.
Pagination and navigation
Pagination means how many products are displayed on your page, so a set number of items per page. Typically categories are paginated at 12-20 products per page. If you paginate your products then that allows the customer to control the speed of page load. Fewer products take less time to load. In an ideal world, your site should load at lightning speeds, but that is always not the case.
To make navigation easier don't just display “next” or “previous”. In addition include page numbers like this: 1 2 3 4 5 6. Customers can then anticipate how many products are there still to browse and it makes navigation more transparent.
Avoid displaying the number like this: 1 2 3 … 7 8 9, as it will lessen clicks while navigating from page to page.
Additional things to consider
The header space
This is sort of a given and should be generated automatically, but make sure you have a heading displayed on top of the products.
In the header, you can add descriptive banners of product representing that category. You can also use that space to announce that you have value to offer, like promoting deals you are currently running.
To boost SEO, you can also write up a header description but keep it short, to a couple lines, giving an overview of the products in that specific category. This will help you reach more customers via search engines.
Category Wide Sales
Consider using category-wide sales, by offering discounts on all products across that category so shoppers will not have to look twice for discounted items, and this will improve your chances of multi-product purchases and increase average order value.
What's next on the list?
Improving conversion rate on your eCommerce site is definitely a task that takes time and effort but following this tutorial will help improve on the essentials, together with some optional points. Next step on the way is learning how to improve conversion rate on product pages: “7 Step eCommerce Checklist For Better Converting Product Pages”
Share your thoughts on things you’ve found that boosted conversions. Have you ever had a sudden increase in sales after adding or modifying a particular element on the page? If so, tell us about it!
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