Smart businesses have always prepared for the holiday shopping season in advance. What is new, however, is the presence of a global pandemic that’s already changed virtually every aspect of our lives. We’re headed toward a holiday shopping season unlike any we’ve experienced, and need to start thinking now about making adjustments.
This is the perfect time for you to take a good look at your online stores before kicking off any sales campaign and see what tweaks you can make.
In this article, we’ll discuss eCommerce mistakes with a focus on navigation, product filtering, and site search, as your e-businesses can hinge upon these findability factors. Minor mistakes they may seem, but these deadly overlooks can cause your conversion rate to drop dramatically.
After defining the problems, we’ll cover useful tips that you can pick up to optimize your online stores, and subsequently your conversion rate.
Let’s get started.
Overwhelming Website Navigation
A great website relies on many different elements but navigation is one of the most important. Poor navigation could significantly impact your website traffic, search engine rankings, and conversions. This is the reason why any e-business should put a major emphasis on website navigation.
It is evident that your customers may get confused in your site’s navigation ‘labyrinth’ if it is not properly designed.
Remember: Navigation is key. Up to 94% of consumers in a survey by Clutch say that the website must be easy to navigate because they’re spending less time online, it only makes sense consumers want more efficiency. E-business owners, therefore, should create websites with a great user experience (UX) to ensure their audience stays engaged and returns in the future. It is safe to say that if your customers can’t figure out how to go through your site, your beautiful product photos and lightning-fast load speed don’t count for anything.
For e-tailers with a huge inventory, it’s easier to overdo the navigation for the belief to present every single subcategory of products. However, this can lead to the over clutch in the mega menu and cause customers hardship when trying to narrow down what they want to find.
An example of overly complex menus that may drive your customers to lose direction. Source: Devgap
Tip #1: Clear grouping navigation
By grouping relevant products together you’re making it easier for potential customers to find what they are looking for. You also make it possible to view and compare a group of products that share a similar set of qualities.
Website information architecture map. Source: Shopify Plus.
A parent category is the name given to a group of subcategories that best describe the shared qualities of that group, while a subcategory is used to group specific products together. Products such as shoes, hats, pants, etc.
Sometimes it can be hard to choose the exact subcategory that a given product should belong to and it could logically appear in multiple parent categories. For example, users might be looking for a coffee table in the “Living Room,” “Office” or “Tables” section.
Another effective way to design your navigation is to put your products under collections that are categorized “by feature”, “by use”, “by brands” or “by price”.
In this way, your customer can easily navigate through a Shopify filter-like menu and manage to find what they want. For merchants with technical products, this might be a good idea since some not-so-tech-savvy customers can take a good look through your website and pick products that are suitable for them, without having to remember all complicated technical names.
Headphone Zone has created a friendly navigation system that everyone can find it easy to use. Source: Headphone Zone.
Also, you should check your analytics regularly, especially site-search analytics, to understand where your visitors are dropping off and then optimize your eCommerce site accordingly.
Complex checkout process
You need to put more focus on shopping cart optimization process as this is the holy gateway to your revenue.
Typically in the eCommerce industry, a large portion of cart abandonments are simply a natural consequence of how users browse e-commerce sites. Many users will be window shopping, price comparing, saving items for later, exploring gift options, and so on.
However, this is only true for the “just browsing” type of customer. Unlike this segment, a lot of abandoned checkout issues can be resolved through intuitive changes or purely through design adjustments.
In a report by Baymard on reasons for abandon checkout, a process that is long, complicated, and has a lack of well-designed navigation can disappoint customers who already have buying intentions and drive them to leave.
Tip #2: Clear and distraction-free UI, UX design
First of all, make sure the checkout page is free of distractions and easy to navigate. Consider all the navigation elements on your checkout page because they play a huge role in how customers finalize their transactions, especially in the holiday season, when many sales shoppers have already pinned their favored products.
If the buttons required to complete the transaction are hidden or miswritten, it’ll kill your conversions. Furthermore, you need the checkout process to take place in as few steps as possible. Analyze your site and figure out where customers are abandoning the page.
Make sure your purchase buttons are big, bold, and clearly displayed on the screen.
Mavi follows a traditional checkout design from the location of the buttons to the copy. This will help customers easily navigate where to buy in just a glance. Source: Mavi.
Once a shopper has reached the checkout page, you don’t want them navigating away from it. No popups, live chats, or anything else should interfere with this process.
You can learn from Amazon, they remove the normal site navigation options from the checkout page to help eliminate any distractions that could potentially take the customer away from completing their order.
Amazon offers a seamless checkout process that eliminates distracting factors, which helps customers easily finish their orders. Source: Amazon.
The ideal checkout process includes a single page for consumers to check their order and enter their billing and shipping information and a confirmation page before they submit their order. Anything more than that is only an obstacle to completing the checkout process.
Ineffective product filter strategy
Product filters are one of the essential eCommerce elements that can affect website performance. When it comes to user experience and search engine optimization, well-organized category filters can make a huge difference.
You’ll be surprised to know that only 16% of eCommerce websites provide their customers with a proper filtering experience. This is your chance to stand out from the competition in one of the most intense times of the year and deliver the best user experience.
Although there are several things that can go wrong when implementing faceted navigation, if considered carefully, and with a methodical, technical approach, most of the following mistakes can be avoided.
Research among major eCommerce sites like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dell, Apple, and so on shows which industries do product filtering best. Apparel, sports and hobbies, electronics, and office all lag behind the competition, falling under the “acceptable performance” mark.
Product filtering fails among leading eCommerce websites. Source: CXL.
Another common problem with many online stores is they choose product filters based on what’s common without paying attention to other filters that customers need.
For example, it’s difficult to find an apparel site that doesn’t use brand, size, color, and price as their standard filters. That’s fair enough, but how about other filtering requirements, such as priority, display order, and so on that could also be helpful?
You should remember that every filter you show on your collection or search page needs to cater to customers’ demands. What works well for others won’t necessarily work for you too.
Tip #3: Create a filtering system that caters to customers’ needs
For each product category, you need to think about the filters that will be useful and ask yourself these questions. What features do your customers actually care about? How do you decide the order of filters? How do you want to present your product filters? The deeper you dig into, the clearer you will find out which product filters to use and how to utilize them.
- Filtering Priority: It’s not about having the most filters, it’s about having the most useful filters. If you do decide to go with a lot of filters because of your product nature, the least you can do is to prioritize them so that they pop up at the most relevant moment. For example, some filters are collapsed by default if they are useful, but not as commonly used. It simply makes the product filtering seem less overwhelming.
- Filtering Presence: Your filter types should appear in order of importance (most to least frequently used), with each filter within sorted intuitively. This is when you can take advantage of your built-in analytics too keep track of which filters work and gradually optimize them.
A good analytics tool can help you save time and effort in optimizing your filtering system.
Source: Boost Commerce.
- Filtering Experience: Make sure the filters applied are clear and easy to remove with a click or two. This thoughtful design allows discarding any filter since they are arranged on top, or add a new one. Users will become frustrated if there are long load times between each click, or if filter selection is too fiddly on smartphones.
Golden Nile pins to the top applied filters to help customers summarize what they chose and easily navigate. Source: Golden Nile.
For faceted navigation to work efficiently, you must invest time into accurate product categorization. Fail to include all appropriate meta tags, and users won’t see every relevant result after applying filters — that means missed sales.
Tip #4: Optimize your metadata
When new pages are created once filters are selected, you want the really important content-related elements of the page to update to reflect the filters that have been selected. So if we imagine a user is still trawling Google for that perfect black maxi dress (and using the modifiers ‘black’ and ‘maxi’ in their query), we want to reflect that in elements of our filter page, like the meta title, the meta description, the H1 of the page, and ideally the content.
Another handy tip, to Shopify merchants, metafields can be a helpful hand in managing your resources. You can create a filter option or search by product metafields, check out how to do it.
Hard-to-find search bar
Your customers should never have to play hide and seek when it comes to the search bar. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals starting even earlier, shoppers are doing their research to find the best deals. Notably, according to a survey by MineWhat, 81% of shoppers use search before buying. Therefore, if your first site search bar already fails their expectation, it is highly likely that your potential customers will leave your site for the competition. Making your site search function hard to find is almost equal to not offering a search option at all.
“Where’s Waldo” is fun but it should never be applied to designing your site search box. The search box here is so hard to find that customers may feel lost where to put their queries. Image source: Bridge55.com
Tip #5: Prominent search box is always best
There is nothing wrong with placing important site functions in predictable places. On the majority of websites, the search function is located in the top right corner. That means customers will arrive at your page with their eyes focused on that exact spot, looking for the little magnifying glass that signifies a search form. If you want your search option to be easily located, that upper right corner is an option to go for.
GAP follows a simple and minimal search bar design but the location is predictable and visible, so customers won’t waste time looking for a means to search. Source: GAP.
If you decide to be divergent, make sure that your search box stands out from the rest of the content on your home page. The well-known icon, bold and contrasting colors, and eye-catching design will make certain the search function is more visible.
Incapable site search engine
Many customers expect this holy time of the year to seek certain items. When shopping around, customers are looking online to help them make up their minds. Roughly one-third of people surveyed in online research by Google determine what type of gift to buy, the brand to choose, and where to get it.
If a customer knows exactly what they’re looking for, many will opt for a search engine instead of sifting through categories and filters. Therefore, you need to make sure that the search feature on your site works well, and preferably has filters for letting customers refine their results.
How often have you searched for a product on a large eCommerce site and been returned with hundreds of applicable results? While the variety of options can be nice, if half of those results are irrelevant, it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. Including a way for customers to filter their search results by category or feature eliminates this problem.
Tip #6: Find robust search assistance software
Make sure the eCommerce software you’re using has a good built-in search function, or look for plugins to extend its functionality. For Shopify merchants, check out Boost Product Product & Search for a 14-day FREE trial.
This is the perfect time to try out a robust search engine that can do your business justice. In particular, the app lets customers search smart and quick, then refine results based on the categories your site includes. It also lets users sort their search results based on standard criteria (most popular, highest or lowest price, newest item, etc.) as well as eliminating items that don’t fit within a certain category.
Since we’ve already written about site search extensively, I’ll simply suggest you read this article.
Before you go
In this holiday rush, the early bird catches the worm. You still have time to give your site a thorough check-up before entering the rush. Even an inch of improvement in your navigation and site search could do wonders for your discoverability and sales.