Optimizing your eCommerce site for the Holiday Season 6: Navigation Best Practices

The summer is now a distant memory and the impending Holiday season will soon be upon us. Now is the time to act to ensure your eCommerce site is ready. Creating an optimized shopping experience for your customers will be a gift to your business accounts as well as your customers. This blog post is the penultimate in the series that lays out best practices and tips as you prepare your eCommerce site for the biggest commercial period of the year.

Is Navigation important if you have great search?

An overgeneralization is that shoppers navigate if they don’t know exactly what they want (or if they feel they can’t trust the search engine, like an obsolete keyword search).  Conversely, shoppers use the search box when they DO know exactly what they want.  It’s critical to avoid the ‘clicking to oblivion’ syndrome via poor navigation.

How much patience do your customers have? How long will they hang around on irrelevant pages before they bounce? Does your whole Search System work in sync, providing a consistent experience whether your customers search or navigate?

Navigation is distinct from search and is typically a way of reaching a set of products without searching. Customers can navigate an eCommerce site by clicking on menus, categories, and sub-categories. Once an initial product set is displayed, customers can click on filters too.

Intuitive, Natural Language search is imperative, but great customer experience should also permeate your site’s navigation.

Here are some important considerations for the navigation of your site:

Keep it consistent

A lot of category pages don’t give users many options for what to do next. Unless your site’s landing page is to be set out in a particular way, it should reflect a search results page. It may have extra components, such as banners, but the products and filters should be the same. By presenting the same filters as on a search page (being able to choose price range or color, for example), options are provided for users who perhaps don’t know the right words for a search.

There should always be consistency between the experience of a user who searches and a user who navigates. If a customer navigates the categories mens > jackets they should expect to see the exact same products as if they had typed the search, ‘men’s jackets’. This gives the user confidence in your site. If, however, a customer performs a search that doesn’t return any results and subsequently navigates to find lots of products, their confidence in your search or navigation is undermined, having a detrimental effect on your bounce and conversion rates. Customers are likely to leave a site that they feel they can’t trust. If customers don’t see the right products, they can’t buy them.

Build navigation into the search box

When a user starts to type a query in the search box, does your search system display category or attribute links dynamically? SAYT (Search as you Type) is another form of navigation, allowing the user to stop short of typing their whole query and start to navigate using the links. Once the user has clicked a category, it is important for them to be able to zoom in as easily as possible, using a combination of filters, such as textual/numerical filters, price sliders or color swatches. These options should be visually attractive and easily recognizable.

The North Face Filters



Give your customers what they want

When offering sub-category filtering, always try to present attributes in the order that they are most likely to be used. For example, if the price filters are the most-clicked, show them first. Make use of analytics to keep an eye on where people are clicking on your site. EasyAsk can even provide analytics showing which values are the most popular within attributes. If blue turns out to be your customers’ top color click, show blue as an option before red. Don’t bury the popular clicks, especially on mobile sites and apps.


Use Mega Menus

A Mega Menu can be displayed when a user hovers over or clicks a category heading and contains everything related to that category. Think of it as Search as You Type for navigation.

The North Face Women’s Mega Menu

Users can see everything in detail and decide which sub-category to click next. With EasyAsk driving this functionality, special headings or sub-categories can be generated dynamically from derived attributes and used to pull up appropriate products, such as collections with a given name.

Easy does it…

Navigation and search should be in sync and complement each other. This is a real opportunity for your search system to resonate with your customers. It is crucial that your business does not rely on a development team to generate and tweak changes to navigation. Many systems are coded by developers, so if a business wanted to make changes, there would be time and cost implications.

With EasyAsk, merchandizers have direct access to analytics and dynamic tools in order to optimize their customers’ search and navigation experience.


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