- Entaice Braintrust
E-commerce merchandising 2024: 6 best practices to increase revenue through effective sorting
You want to buy a jacket online. You go to a popular retailer, put “jacket” into the search box, and get 10,000 results. You see women’s, men’s, and kid’s jackets side-by-side. Every color of denim jackets, rain jackets, and winter coats appear on the page.
Like 80% of e-commerce visitors, you view a category page during your visit. In this case, you navigate to the “coats and jackets” section of the men’s category. That narrows down the results to 3,500. The top few rows feature several out-of-stock products. And that top-selling puffer jacket you were searching for in the first place? It’s nowhere to be found. Frustrated, you shop someplace else.
Such an experience is far too common. That’s because e-commerce retailers don’t properly optimize collection pages. Even if a retailer sees the value, optimizing collection pages is no easy task. Without automatic sorting solutions, it’s a labor-intensive, manual process with constantly changing variables — like products selling out or seasons changing. It leads to top selling products buried deep in a category page where consumers won’t see them, and consumers frustrated that they can't find products they want. In fact, 80% of users won’t scroll beyond the third page of your collection results, meaning most consumers will only view your first 200 products.
It leads to less sales and frustrated consumers.
This eBook can help. We offer six best practices for e-commerce merchandising for 2024 and beyond. Use these tools as a step-by-step guide for optimizing your e-commerce site and collection pages to entice consumers to discover products and buy more — while maintaining a cohesive experience that matches your visual brand aesthetic.
80% of e-commerce site visitors navigate to a collection page at some point during their visit.1
80% of users won’t scroll beyond the third page of your collection results.2
On most stores, the top five to 10 collections receive 50% or more of all the collection views3
Users spent 57% of their page-viewing time above the fold, with 74% of viewing time spent in the first two screenfuls.4
More than 42% of page-viewing time happens when users view the top 20% of a webpage. More than 65% of viewing time is spent on the top 40% of the page.5 Best practice 1: Determine how to group your products
What are the most intuitive ways to group your products? The answer depends on your specific offering. You may want to feature new items at the top of your collection pages. You might want to feature top sellers or items that you over-inventoried. Whatever you decide, make sure to have enough assortment in a category to make it worthwhile for the end user. A good rule of thumb: Have a minimum of 10 but ideally 20-40 products in each category.
Time-based categorization. One way to group merchandise is showcasing items that have a time-based categorization — like items on sale or new product offerings. While such a categorization can put a wide variety of products together (for example a clothing retailer may have sale items like jeans, tops, and shoes) it can serve as a discovery-oriented category that entices people coming back frequently looking for updates.
Functional categorization. Group the most obvious categories to make finding collection pages as simple as possible. If you sell women’s jeans, have a page for women’s jeans. If you sell work boots, have a page for work boots. Perhaps you refine those categories by “black jeans” or “brown boots” depending on inventory, but having those obvious categorizations will lead to a user-friendly experience and greater product discovery.
Categories reflective of brand tone. Have some fun with category classifications while keeping the end user top-of-mind. Don’t just categorize your dress line as “dresses” — instead use more fun and descriptive category titles like “party dresses” or “formal dresses.” Rather than only using a category for men’s button down shirts, define them as “work shirts” or “going out shirts” or “Valentine’s Day gifts for guys.” Thinking about how the consumer will use your products adds a human, editorial layer on top of more utilitarian classifications — and makes your site more fun.
Let on-site search results guide collection groupings. What are consumers looking for when they come to your site? Check the onsite search results to find out. Then make categories based on those findings. For example: a shoe retailer receives site searches for “men’s formal shoes.” That should prompt the retailer to possibly create a category page specifically for “men’s formal shoes” and even consider putting it in the top menu navigation.
Pro tip: We recommend 20-40 products in each category.
Best practice 2: Create the right navigation hierarchy
The navigation hierarchy of your web store is critical, determining how people click through your site and what products they are most likely to see. If you want to expose consumers to new products, top sellers, or sale items, the nav is your no. 1 tool.
Picture the nav as a stem with branches. Perhaps the stem is boots, but underneath can be subcategories like “work boots” — and then even further subcategories like “steel toed work boots.” It’s important to have enough in your stem and branches to help people understand what you sell.
Here are some ways to get your nav right.
Determine where you have product depth. How detailed do you want to go and where do you want to guid people? Collection pages ideally have 20-40 products in them. Having too many means products get lost. If you are a clothing retailer selling only two types of slippers, there’s no reason to have a collection page for slippers. If you are a boots retailer but 20% of sales are for T-shirts, it probably makes sense to have a “T-shirts” breakout in the top navigation. If it encompasses 1% to 2% of your clicks, it makes sense to be in the top nav.
Match what people typically click on to your nav. The navigation can only hold so many items, so it’s critical real estate to promote your hottest items. Match top sellers and top-clicked products to your navigation categories.
Pro tip: The top left corner of your navigation should be reserved for the top-selling category, and everything to the right should be placed in descending order of importance to the business.
Collection pages should see 200 visitors per week. Less traffic is a good indicator that you can remove the collection from your navigation and try something else.6
Best Practice 3: Determine logical filtering options
Once consumers navigate to a collection page, they need easy sorting options to hone in on exactly what they want. Consumers expect filtering options like brand, type, color, size, and price. But there are some important nuances to keep in mind.
Customize sorts based on specific categories. Don’t have universal filters for every category page. Instead, customize those options based on the specific items in your category. For example, a motorcycle parts retailer might have one category page for helmets with filtering options like “sport helmets” “full face helmets” or “helmet shape.” But the sunglasses page should feature filters like “size,” “color,” and “designer.”
Avoid big differences. It’s important not to have filters that fluctuate too much in a specific category page. Avoid big differences in style and price point. Ideally you want items on each category page to be fairly similar.
Use editorial filters. Get creative with your filter options. Use filters like “top-rated” or “going out shirts.” Speak the customers’ language and you’ll be rewarded.
Pro tip: Wondering what filters to add? Check your site search results for inspiration.
Best Practice 4: Use the right imagery in the right places
Obviously, imagery is critical to getting people interested in buying your products. It’s important that imagery answers some key questions. For a clothing retailer, a consumer might ask: How might I wear this aspirationally? What does this look like on a regular person? Can I see the product from all angles to understand what it looks like? Answering those questions takes the right mix of imagery on all different parts of your site.
Use aspirational imagery to lure them in. Give consumers aspirational, editorial images to imagine themselves using your products. Seeing someone wear sunglasses on the beach or through a bustling city shows consumers how those products might be used in their own lives. Aspirational imagery is best for homepages and collection pages to get people to click and learn more.
Use studio imagery to narrow focus. “Am I buying the skirt, the top, or the boots?” Aspirational imagery might leave consumers asking those types of questions. As consumers narrow their focus, the imagery should do the same. On collection pages, be sure to include studio imagery as well to drive more focus on your specific products and avoid confusion.
Use flat product shots on product detail pages. The point of the product detail page is to entice consumers to move products to their carts. Give them a better understanding of the color, fabric, size, and potential fit with views from the front, back, and sides. Let them zoom in and really examine each item. That helps them make purchasing decisions.
Pro tip: Use aspirational imagery on the home page, social media, and in parts of the collection pages — but be sure to show more derailed imagery in places where people consider making purchases.
Best Practice 5: Use assortments to enhance product discovery
Enticing people to discover products they might want to buy takes assortment planning. Provide the right combination of options that will appeal to all of your different customer types while staying within your brand’s portfolio, aesthetic, and value proposition. Here’s how.
Ensure collection pages have assortments for every type of buyer. If you’ve identified buyer personas, make sure your collection pages have something for each of them. That requires an assortment of products with different styles, price points, and designs. For example, a “pillow” collection page might have plaid fabrics for the more free-spirited buyer and striped fabrics for a more traditional consumer.
Have the right product assortment on each page. Imagine a collection page with rugs, pillows, and throw blankets. Use sales figures and website data to determine the right number of pillows compared to rugs and throws so you have the proper ratio.
Group products visually. While the products may have different price points or materials, the assortments can still entice people to buy by grouping products together by color, aspirational imagery, or other factors.
Pro tip: Collection pages with a view through rate greater than 40% indicate strong interest in the product assortment. Pages with a view through rate less than 25% indicate that the product assortment isn't lining up with users expectations.7
Best Practice 6: Use display sequencing to drive discovery and sales
You’ve defined your collections, chosen the proper imagery, created discoverability, chosen the right balance of product assortments — and now it’s time to put your products in the proper order to drive discovery and get people clicking.
Optimize for best-sellers and sales efficiency. The most valuable real estate on a collection page is the top product positions. Ensure you’re using it to its fullest potential by putting your best-selling products there for consumers to discover and buy. Also, use those positions to promote products with a high sales efficiency — those that sell well when clicked on. They might not be the highest sellers overall, but when they generate clicks, they convert. Remember, products in the first 10 positions of a collection page get 10x the number of clicks as the products in positions 100+.
Show in-stock items only. It may sound simplistic but it’s useless to show people products they can’t buy. Enticing someone with an out-of-stock product frustrates consumers. Still, it happens because of the manual nature of display sequencing for companies not using automatic sorting solutions. Make sure out-of-stock products are buried at the end of your collection pages until they’re back in stock.
Put complementary styles next to one another to create a cohesive look. Your entire collection page should be visually appealing to consumers. Consider grouping items by product type, color, or other aspects. For example, have rows all the same color can catch the eye. Or have each row feature the same products. Don’t just haphazardly pop products into positions.
Programmatically do display sequencing with an automated merchandising tool. The laborious process of display sequencing is too much for many companies to handle. Either they let it go and deliver a sub-par user experience or they dedicate a valued team member to the task. In both cases, it doesn’t deliver results and isn’t sustainable. A better option is using a merchandising tool to automatically sort collection pages based on your criteria. Choose whether you want to prioritize top-sellers, efficient-selling products, group by colors or other aspects — then let the technology automatically reorganize your page. You’ll free up countless hours while ensuring that consumers are never seeing out-of-stock items at the top of your collection pages. It can randomize some parts of a collection to keep things fresh while other parts stay static to keep a cohesive look and feel.
Optimize pages for marketing campaigns and big promotions. If you’re about to run a flash sale or email your audience, make sure your collection pages are ready for prime time. Put sale items or promotional products in key positions, even if it’s just for a short time. If your product is in position 307, nobody will see it and they’ll be left frustrated.
Stay fresh. Collection pages are a great place to show off new items. Promote new items at the top of a collection page for a week or two to see if it leads to sales. Also, it’s important to give products that have been pushed to lower positions the ability to show up higher once in a while. You never know, you may have a big seller that’s just been buried. Making these moves keeps your site fresh.
Pro tip: Products in the first 10 positions of a collection page get 10x the number of clicks as the products in positions 100+.
Ready to take collections to the next level?
Following the best practices in our guide will lead to consumers discovering more products, having positive experiences on your site, and ultimately buying more products. The process of grouping products, determining collection filters, optimizing your navigation, choosing the right imagery, and optimizing assortments and sequencing is no easy task. It takes planning, analysis, and follow through — but the rewards are well worth it.
Rather than relying on a labor-intensive sequencing process that could lead to neglect or data entry errors, choose automatic sorting solutions like Entaice. It creates visually-engaging, on-brand product arrangements in one click using proven strategies from top e-commerce merchandisers around the world. Collections are updated and optimized multiple times per day, your site gets the perfect balance of visual consistency and sales-based optimization — and there is none of the manual headache involved.
Ready to take your collections pages to the next level? Learn more about how Entaice can help.