Create a Great Shopping Experience with Faceted Navigation Despite Complex, Difficult or Missing Data

For most retailers, the main aim of your ecommerce site is to sell product, and that sale needs to take place in as few clicks as possible to avoid the risk of customers abandoning your online store. Site search and filtered navigation has now become an essential part of consumer onsite search behaviour. In fact, around 43% of visitors will go straight to your internal search box to start their product discovery.[1] Your site search needs to help customers quickly refine a list of search results to find the exact items they are looking for.

But how can you quickly and easily create effective navigation filters – ones that will direct your customers towards the items they want in the shortest time possible – if your product data is in a complicated format, or a format that can’t be used to create practical filtering options that customers will understand?

That was the problem faced by two large UK and European retailers. But thanks to the advanced Derived Attributes feature in EasyAsk, they were able to solve their issues quickly and with minimal disruption to existing processes.

This unique tool was able to solve the following ecommerce challenges to improve conversions from onsite search and navigation.

Andertons Music Co. – No data for the attributes needed

Andertons Music Co. – the leading musicians’ superstore – was struggling to create an optimised search experience on their ecommerce site. The retailer was restricted in the navigation attributes that could be applied to each product as certain product information (i.e. colour, number of strings) was not provided in the separate data fields that came from the manufacturer.

To solve this issue in-house Andertons would have needed to manually sort through product data for every single item. For a product catalogue that contains over 12,000 products, Andertons’ ecommerce manager estimated this task would have required a full-time member of staff whose sole job would be to categorise the data that would then be used to devise the required attributes. And this process would also need to be repeated for every new item that the retailer stocked. It was simply not feasible.

So how did Andertons overcome this dilemma? Well, using the unique Derived Attributes feature of the EasyAsk e-commerce search, navigation and merchandising solution, Andertons were able to work with EasyAsk to create a set of queries which could be applied to all of their product data. These “derived attribute rules” allowed Andertons to create new attributes for colour and number of strings without making any changes to their original data.

But how easy was this to achieve? Not as difficult as you might think. To create a colour attribute without having a specific colour field in their data, EasyAsk devised a search rule that would pull any variation of a colour i.e. red that was mentioned in a product name and then automatically group these products together in a new attribute.  The wine, mahogany, burgundy, candy apple and cherry guitars could simply be grouped together as ‘red’ without having to touch the existing data.

Again, this feature was used to create an attribute that allows site visitors to sort by the number of strings a guitar has just by creating another search rule to source string numbers from product descriptions. These derived attribute queries are run as part of the normal search index building process, resulting in super-fast indexes that provide a superb navigation experience for Andertons’ customers.














The North Face – Unable to create practical filtering options for customers to use from the data fields available

Another major brand that has utilised the EasyAsk Derived Attributes feature to improve their categorisation and navigation options is outdoor sports clothing specialist The North Face. Their challenge was different to Andertons’ as they weren’t missing data fields – instead, their product data was provided by their Magento platform in a format that was impractical for the effective categorisation of products.

The North Face required a tool that could create navigation facets for all the various European shoe and clothing sizes, as well as the different variations of fabric technology used in each of their products. The team worked to create a set of attributes for each size (UK, EU and US) and other attributes that would allow the retailer to group each item by material, activity, etc.

The problem in this case came in the form of the data. For example, shoe size data wasn’t just a number, but a short code and only gave the US size for each shoe, whilst the original data for materials such as Gore-Tex were referred to using several different codes depending on the type of Gore-Tex included in the product. Any navigation facet that used these fields as values would be meaningless to the customer in their current form.

Manual addition of these navigation facets would have been a very time consuming task, and one that would need to be repeated each time a new product or range was added to the site, so was clearly not a viable option. Instead, using the EasyAsk e-commerce search, navigation and merchandising solution, The North Face were able to create a set of rules that would collate and translate sizes and other coded information into the correct size measurement for that country. For example, a query was created to collect all men’s shoes listed with the shoe size code for US 10 and group them together under the attribute UK 9.5. Likewise, for EU sizing, an attribute rule was created to list all US men’s size 10 shoes as EU 44.

To create the fabric technology filters, rules were set up to query product material codes and group these together under an overall material range, so that, even though Gore-Tex may be referred to via 14 separate code types, an attribute could collect all these together in one facet value that would be easily understood by the customer.

As a result, The North Face can now easily interpret their data and set up accurate and user-orientated attributes that far improve their search experience. This improvement in search experience has resulted in impressive performance metrics across their site.















Improving product findability

Thanks to this unique feature of the EasyAsk e-commerce search, navigation and merchandising solution, both retailers have been able to serve customers with a bespoke set of filtering options that will address real search queries. Each solution was implemented easily and required no alterations to the original product data, and the business user was able to create the new navigation facets in as little time as a few minutes. And because the filtering is controlled through individual queries, any new products that are added to the product catalogue are automatically grouped into these new categories, saving the retailer time and money.

To find out more about our advanced e-commerce site search solution and how the unique derived attributes feature can improve your onsite search experience visit our products section here on the EasyAsk site.



[1] Marketing Sherpa, ‘Ecommerce Benchmark Guide’, 2007.


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