When it comes to boosting your e-commerce sales, it helps to think like a customer. With the holiday season so recently behind us, this is easy to do. Just look back on this year's online holiday shopping. Did you do all your shopping on one store or with multiple online brands? What was the one thing that determines if you can shop on a new website or not? For many of us, it's the sort feature.
Either the product sort feature helps us find the right product to buy or it doesn't. But it's more than a binary function. The quality of your search feature can literally sell products for you, as long as the results reflect customer desires. The most important thing to remember is that customers don't always sort mentally the way you sort products on the back-end. They may care more about color, material, cost range, and review rating instead of the usual sort-qualifiers like category and size.
By creating a finely tuned and intuitive product sorting feature for your e-commerce website, your customers will start cross-selling themselves. Here's how to do it:
The first step is to make your products easy to sort by every attribute. The data needs to be defined and made available as attributes or tags. This way, your sort engine can identify how each product fits the parameters of a customer search.
For each product, identify features like color (including selectable color variation), material, performance stats, cost, sizes available, and so on. Then make these attributes available to the search engine so that items can be sorted based on every possible detail.
Another great way to prepare your products to sell is to diversify your thumbnails. When products are presented in a search result-set, make sure that the products are presented in the customer's requested or favorite color. You may also present an option to quickly preview products with each of their selectable colors in the thumbnail before customers open the page.
The next step is to help customers sort. Some e-commerce sites define all their attributes but the sort feature is so messy that customers can't use it to find what they want. A streamlined sort UI is essential to make your sort feature work as a selling asset. There is room in the industry for innovation.
Even Amazon hasn't mastered the streamlined sort UI but it's worth studying what they've achieved. Amazon's widgets are good, but the features are not always available when they are needed. Consider building a visually distinctive widget for each sort feature, helping customers quickly define what they really want to sort for. Keep it in UI, don't create a separate advanced search page. And make sure the search parameters stack rather than canceling each other out or reloading the page.
Once your products and search features are ready, open the gates for customer preference. One thing many of us wish is that e-commerce will remember our favorite search parameters. Some sites even have saved searches for vast inventories. But most customers would prefer if they could quickly select their favorite features for a product search, or that suggested based-on-favorite items were always at the top of the list.
For example, a clothing brand can sell more garments by displaying all searched garments in a customer's favorite color by-default instead of using the first listed color as the default. Customers will see a page of garments that flatter them rather than having to open the page and select their favorite color. In the opposite direction, a hardware example might allow customers to select the sizes and gauges of equipment they need most often and their search results tailored to these favorites.
To this end, work favorite product attributes into your customer account experience. Customers that are part of your loyalty program can set up their favorite color, brands, styles, and more on their profiles then really benefit from it.
Customer preferences don't go in just one direction. Customers have favorites, but they also have things they dislike or can't use. Customers with allergies may need to exclude everything in your inventory with nuts or made with synthetic fibers. Customers might want to exclude anything in green, or never see results from a particular brand. By allowing customers to set an exclude list in addition to favorites, you can significantly decrease instances where customers see a product they don't like. Customers can avoid ever clicking on a product only to discover they can't buy it based on an attribute. Even better, customers will far more rarely purchase something they can't use based on deal-breaking attribute.
One of the best innovations of modern e-commerce is "just for you" suggestions. Refined sort features help customers find exactly what they're looking for. But what about customers who are browsing or looking for inspiration? Often, customers use a sort feature to see a selection for inspiration. A sort feature that is concrete-only (very specific categories and results) can often fall short in the inspiration department.
If you want to inspire purchases or help a customers refine their own idea of what they need, suggested products can really help. But don't use generic algorithms. Use a combination of the customer's search/purchase history and their own defined favorites. If there's a wishlist, rope that in too so you can create the most personalized search result suggestions possible.
Finally, remember to make depersonalized searches possible. Let's say someone is shopping for another person or introducing a friend to the platform. There are times when customers want to do a raw search without their favorites and history as a factor. A simple toggle, much like those used for night-mode, can make it easy for your customers to search with tools-only as if they were a new customer. This switch will win over some customers all over again when they realize they can escape their own shopping personality for select tasks and circumstances.
When it comes to e-commerce, self-serve is the name of the game. Nothing is more important than helping customers find what they're looking for. And if the search results are intuitive, then customers will cross-sell and even up-sell themselves. By refining your product sorting feature and integrating customer favorites into the results, you can turn your product search into a selling asset.
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