Are You Missing Out on E-Commerce Sales Because of Bad Website Filtering and Sorting?

E-commerce websites are constantly being tweaked and optimized to allow for better user experiences, yet one of the most important features is often overlooked—we’re talking about filter and sorting capabilities. And if your website isn’t accounting for better filtering and sorting, it’s likely that you’re missing out on sales.

e-commerce: don't overlook filter and sort capabilities

On any given e-commerce website, there are generally two different ways a user can find a product: browse or search. Browsing is the equivalent of going into a store and meandering around until you find something that interests you. This is what you do when you’re out shopping with friends. In terms of e-commerce, browsing looks like scrolling through inventory and clicking on listings that capture your attention.
Then there’s searching. Using our in-store example, this involves entering a store, identifying the right aisle, and strategically narrowing your focus until you find the exact product you came to purchase. In e-commerce, searching is supposed to be even easier–that is, if you use filters and sorting tools.
“When done right, filters enable users to narrow down a website’s selection of thousands of products to only those few items that match their particular needs and interests,” writes Christian Holst, co-founder of Baymard Institute. Filters are those neat dropdown menus that let you sort based on price, style, size, etc.
“Yet, despite it being a central aspect of the user’s e-commerce product browsing, most websites offer a lackluster filtering experience,” Holst continues. In fact, he points to the fact that only 16 percent of major e-commerce websites offer a “reasonably good” filtering experience.
Considering that filtering is so important, this is an alarming statistic. And as a small e-commerce business owner, your website’s filtering experience more than likely doesn’t fall under the label “reasonably good.” This is a problem that should not be overlooked.

3 tips for better filter and sort functionality

The good news is that there are ways to improve the filter and sort functionality of your site. Here are some helpful tips:

1. give users viewing/sorting options

Today’s customers like options. But if you’re going to offer a wide selection of products, you must be willing to present them in an organized manner. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that shoppers can only buy what they can find. As such, you need to offer as many different filtering options as you can.
For starters, make sure you’re offering multiple display options. This means both a grid and a list view. If you’re unfamiliar with the difference between the two, check out this page from Home City for an example of how each one looks. As you can see, the grid view presents four thumbnails across, whereas the list view presents the thumbnails in a vertical fashion.
Secondly, you need to include basic filters. These may change depending on the industry you’re in and the products you sell. For an example, let’s look at this product’s page from Kohl’s. It gives customers the ability to sort based on size, category, accessories, trends, and featured brands. Then there are subcategories under each of these. That’s what you call offering plenty of options!

2. enhance the search bar

The search bar is very important, yet often neglected. While filters are important, sometimes a customer just wants to use a search bar because it’s the quickest option. There are a lot of good examples of effective search bars, but FootSmart has one of the best. The search bar lets you input any brand name, keyword, or item number and instantly see results. Then, once the results are populated, the user can further filter based on other options.
If you offer filtering options without a search bar, you only have half of the equation. Make sure your filtering options and search bar are working in tandem with one another for a lasting user experience.

3. provide category-specific options

As previously mentioned in the Kohl’s example, it’s important to include category-specific options. These are filters that apply to a specific product. For example, TV categories would include things like refresh rate, screen size, and picture, whereas a shoe category would include things like material, sole color, and season.
Unfortunately, 42 percent of websites don’t account for category-specific filters. This is unfortunate, since all it takes is a little more work to include these subcategories.

putting it all together

Filtering is very important to your e-commerce website’s overall user experience. If you want customers to enjoy their shopping experience, make more purchases, and return in the future, then you need to invest in improving the filter and sort capabilities on your site. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be better off than even some of the biggest e-commerce players on the Internet.

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