E-Commerce Product Categories: How to Best Merchandise Your Products

One of the most common situations my clients deal with is determining the best product categories for their e-commerce website. This is especially true for startups or new companies who aren’t as well-versed in e-commerce strategy or design. The following is a modified excerpt from my ebook E-Commerce for Everyone: How to Launch a Successful Online Store Using Bigcommerce (or Other Hosted Platforms), which outlines possible categorization strategies you can use to help shoppers find products and increase your conversion rate.


The importance of effective product categories and navigation cannot be overstated. After all, if shoppers can’t find the products they want to buy, they’re not going to buy them – at least not on your website. To further complicate things, not all shoppers navigate the same way or have the same needs. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to provide a variety of category options so that all types of shoppers will be able to quickly locate and purchase the products they want.

Hierarchical Type Categories

The most essential way to merchandise your products is by their product type in a hierarchical manner. This means you’ll have a set of broad main product categories with one or two levels of subcategories below – the lower the category in the hierarchy, the more specific it will be.

For example, a furniture store might set up categories by room. But within each room, a shopper will need to narrow the results by a more specific product type. So in a Bedroom Furniture category, a store owner might create subcategories for Night Stands, Dressers, Armoires and Beds. Within Beds might be Bed Frames, Headboards and Mattresses.

These are the most common type of product categories and are therefore likely to be expected by your website’s visitors.

Attribute-Based Categories

If many of your products have features in common, it’s worth setting up attribute-based product categories. This method of organization cuts across Type categories and may appeal to a more style-focused or feature-focused shopper. For example, an online store selling video games that are already categorized by genre (type) may also want to offer categories based on operating system or platform. A television retailer should consider offering categories based on features like resolution, size or number of HDMI inputs.

Think about the attributes that are important to your customers and expose them as navigational elements through categories.

Function-Based Categories

It’s safe to assume that people are shopping your website because they need an item in order to do something. This could be anything from cooking a meal to celebrating an anniversary. If there are functional or occasion-based ways to categorize your products and you think they might be helpful to shoppers, there’s no reason not to offer them. For example a kitchenware store might offer product categories by cooking type, such as Mixing, Chopping, Baking or Grilling. Alternately, a gift shop should offer categories based on occasion.

Organizing Product Categories

When organizing your product categories, make sure they aren’t too broad or too specific. It’s frustrating for shoppers to navigate categories with hundreds of products while others have only a handful of products. Look at the initial list of items you’ll be offering and organize your categories so that each one has a manageable number of products that can be easily browsed.

Category names are also important. By using descriptive and recognizable category names, your visitors will quickly be able to determine where to find the product they want. To decide on the best category names, use tools like Google Trends or the Google Keyword Tool to see what people are searching for online. Using highly-searches phrases as category names will help your SEO and make the shopping experience more efficient for visitors.

Whenever possible, list your product categories either alphabetically or by order of broadest to most specific. Don’t put them in a seemingly random sequence and make your shoppers hunt for them.

Found this post helpful? You can download my entire ebook for Kindle here.

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5 More Ways to Increase Conversion Rates

Last week I gave you some sure-fire tips for improving sales with my post 5 Ways to Increase Conversion on Your E-Commerce Website. If you’re looking for more ways to ring the register, here are five more things that will help increase conversion rates for e-commerce websites.

Streamline Checkout

BigCommerce released a new optimized version of checkout a few months ago. Initial results have shown the new checkout to increase conversion rates thanks to its simplified, one-page design. I recommend giving this new checkout a try if your payment gateway is supported.

Upgrade Your Product Reviews

Shoppers love reviews, and store owners know positive reviews can increase conversion rates, but most built-in review systems are fairly basic. I’ve been using Yotpo for a few clients and highly recommend their advanced review platform. Yotpo allows photo uploads, rating of reviews (helpful or not), social media sharing and you can add on Product Q&A to let customers help each other (reducing email and phone questions to you). Yotpo also has a cool social media integration which will publish reviews as ads on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. If you’re interested in learning more or seeing examples, schedule a free demo. You can also read my recent blog post about Yotpo, which goes into more detail about all their features.

Get a Professional Email Address

Are you still using an old AOL, Yahoo or personal Gmail account to communicate with customers? Don’t give shoppers pause by making them think you’re a mom-and-pop shop running out of your garage (even if you are). G Suite, formerly Google Apps, is an affordable way to get a domain-based email address for yourself and your employees. Plus, it comes with online storage, collaboration tools and more.

Do a Site Audit

If you’re like me, you are so busy day-to-day that you hardly spend any time looking at your website. Take an afternoon and go through your website as if you were a first time shopper. Has your design become cluttered or messy after lots of small changes? Do some pages have different size or color text? Could your product descriptions or policy pages use a rewrite? Forget what you know about your store and really think about the impression it makes to strangers. Then make a plan to tackle any issues you find. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, contact us about our website review service.

Go Responsive

If you’re still on a template that uses a separate mobile theme, you are missing out on sales. Responsive themes (designs that adapt to all possible screen sizes) increase conversion rates because they provide a better, more consistent experience for shoppers using any type of device (including those who shop your store on multiple devices). BigCommerce, SparkPay and 3dCart all offer responsive themes that will take your e-commerce website to the next level in terms of mobile-friendliness. If you want help customizing one of their base themes, contact us for a quote.

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Recognizing International Women’s Day and Day Without A Woman

On International Women’s Day, we  stand in solidarity with women around the world struggling for basic human rights, reproductive rights and equal pay. As a woman-owned business, we support all women who seek a better life free of discrimination, violence and job insecurity.

As part of the Day Without a Woman movement, we will be closed for business today, March 8, 2017.

Additionally, we will be offering one hour of free website or e-commerce consulting to women-owned companies now through the end of March. Please contact us by March 31 to book your free session.

Thank you for supporting women-owned businesses and gender equality.

#DayWithoutAWoman
#InternationalWomensDay

 

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5 Ways to Increase Conversion on Your E-Commerce Website

First quarter is a great time to think about how to maximize sales in the new year. Here are 10 things you can do now to increase conversion and revenue in 2017.

Create a Marketing/Promotions Calendar

Now is the time to map out your store banners, marketing messages and promotions for the year. With a simple marketing calendar, you can plan weekly or monthly homepage banner updates, seasonal sales and topics for your social media and email marketing. I’ve found marketing calendars keep me focused and reduce stress because things are less likely to sneak up on me! Having consistency in your brand’s messaging means shoppers will see important promotions more often and repetition is known to help increase conversion.

Switch to Sitewide HTTPS

BigCommerce recently made sitewide HTTPS available to stores on all plans. By having your entire website on HTTPS (secure), shoppers will be more confident to purchase from your store, ultimately leading to an increase in conversion. In addition, Google is now starting to rank websites with sitewide HTTPS higher than those without.

Add Live Chat to Your Store

When shoppers have questions, most won’t bother to call or email you. By installing a live chat feature on your website, you can be instantly available to answer questions and help close the sale. Live chat is affordable and can be used as a general contact form when you’re not available to be online. My personal favorite is OLark, which allows you to see visitor behavior, create rules for when to initiate chats, customize the chat box and more. They are pre-integrated with Bigcommerce so it’s quick and easy to install the app, plus you can try it free for 14 days.

Activate Apple Pay and Amazon Payments

A great way to boost customer confidence and reduce their concern about shopping with a new store is be offering payment methods they already use. Shoppers who have Apple Pay or Amazon accounts can also checkout faster (since they don’t need to enter their payment information) and reducing barriers to checkout helps increase conversion. Depending on your current payment gateway, you may be able to activate one or both of these options in your online store.

Offer Toll-Free Customer Service

Even with long distance included on most phone plans these days, shoppers still prefer to call companies toll-free. Having easy, toll-free support reduces shopper anxiety and is likely to increase conversion. Getting a toll-free number is quite affordable and you can even choose a vanity number that spells out a word related to your brand or products. I personally use FreedomVoice and highly recommend it. Beyond the toll-free number, they allow you to route calls to your mobile phone during set hours so you can always be available for customers without having to list your personal phone number on your website. Plans start at just $9.95 a month and you can try it free for 30 days.

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Yotpo: Product Reviews and So Much More

If you’re like most e-commerce store owners, you try really hard to sell customers on the great products you offer. But let’s be honest – most shoppers are savvy. They know you’re selling them. They want honest opinions from other people just like them. That’s where product reviews come in.

You may already have a solution implemented to collect and display customer reviews on your website. But most review systems that come with e-commerce platforms are pretty basic. They do the bare minimum, providing a form for someone to write a review and then displaying it on the product page. But there’s so much more than reviews can do. And there are a few problems with default review systems that I often get questions about.

Enter Yotpo reviews. It’s an advanced product and website reviews solution that seriously upgrades what you can do with reviews on your website.

Yotpo Reviews Logo

Not Just Text and Stars

Obviously the basics of a product review are the customer’s text and their star rating. But there’s so much more that reviews can offer to other shoppers reading that review. What about photos of the product in action? Yotpo allows the reviewer to add photos to supplement their text. Was the review helpful? Yotpo allows readers to rate the helpfulness of the review so other shoppers know which reviews to read first. Maybe a shopper wants to share a review with a friend or family member who is interested in that product. Yotpo reviews can be shared via email or social media. Because wouldn’t it be great if people who didn’t even know your website existed learned about it from a review shared on their Facebook news feed?

Yotpo Reviews Features

Respond to Reviews

Don’t you hate it when a customer writes a negative review of a product and you can’t follow up? After all, if someone had a bad experience, the best thing to do as a store owner is reach out and make things right. But most review systems don’t display the review writer’s email address, making it impossible for you to do the right thing by them.

With Yotpo reviews, you can not only directly respond to every review (bad or good), but your response will be displayed on the website for other shoppers to read. Let’s say a customer wrote a review saying the product didn’t have an expected feature, but in reality the product does have the feature. Perhaps the customer missed it or didn’t read the instructions. By responding to the review, you can not only explain how the customer can utilize that necessary feature, but you can also correct the record for other shoppers who might be reading that customer’s review. It also doesn’t hurt to thank customers who have left positive product reviews and let them know how happy you are that they like the product.

Yotpo Review Responses

Social Media Integration

That brings us to one of the coolest aspects of Yotpo reviews – the ability to turn your best product ones into Facebook and Instagram ads. You probably already know the value of advertising on Facebook and Instagram, but by utilizing real, verified customer reviews, your ads become much more compelling. Yotpo makes it easy to build ads based on product reviews with their built-in Facebook and Instagram integrations, allowing you to give your reviews a viral quality that would be nearly impossible otherwise.

Yotpo Reviews Social Ads

Product Q & A

You’ve seen it on Amazon – shoppers asking questions about a product and other customers responding with answers that reviews might not mention. So many people shop on Amazon that your potential customers may expect to see a similar feature on your website. Why? Because product questions and answers are incredibly useful. Sure, you write detailed product descriptions and do your best to anticipate questions that shoppers might have. But let’s be honest – there’s no way you can know what questions people will have about every single item you sell. That’s why the Q & A feature is so great. You can leverage your customers’ real-world knowledge to help other shoppers with valuable insights and information, creating a little community right on your product page.

Yotpo Product Q&A

So there you go. Four solutions from Yotpo reviews to problems most people have with their current reviews provider. And we’ve just scratched the surface of all Yotpo can do – SEO benefits, in-email review submission (so people don’t even have to visit your website) and did we mention Pinterest? They even provide analytics to show how much income they’re generating from their on-site and syndicated reviews.

My only complaint about Yotpo is their support team is based out of Israel, which can cause some delays in getting assistance for those of us located in the United States. Hopefully the company’s growth will lead to the opening of a U.S. office, which would also allow them to offer phone support in addition to their current email support option.

Yotpo is undoubtedly one of the market leaders in product reviews systems, and for good reason. But if you’re not convinced, schedule a free demo and see all of their features for yourself.

Do you use Yotpo reviews on your website? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

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