Have you ever wondered why certain products are placed in certain aisles as you walk through your grocery store or supermarket? How did they decide where the products go, and does it really matter?

It turns out that there is such a thing as ‘aisle psychology’! Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that aisle placements influence sales as much as other factors like marketing or pricing.

In some cases, placing products like chips and soft drinks in the same aisle increased sales of those items by 9%, while placing them one aisle away from each other decreased sales by 1.5%. That’s pretty significant when you think about the revenue stores make from these products.

Even within aisles, there’s logic to product placement on shelves. To maximize sales, supermarkets place premium products at eye level and cheaper products on the higher and lower shelves.

So what does this have to do with eCommerce? Well, aisles are the real world equivalent of category pages. They help you group products so that consumers can find them faster. That means the way you group them and how your category pages are designed actually influence your sales. So, if your category pages follow a ‘standard’ design, you’re probably losing out on sales.

We’ve already spoken about optimizing product pages, but it’s time to start taking category pages seriously. In this post we’ll look at important metrics to track on category pages and how you can optimize them.

 

What to Track

There are four metrics to track in total, but only one that you need to maximize –

Click-through rate

You need to know whether customers are clicking through to product pages once they reach your category page. The click-through rate is the number of people click on a product after landing on the category page.

Engagement

The simplest way to measure engagement is to track how much time is spent on the category page. More time means more engagement.

Conversion rate

The conversion rate for the category page is the number of people who purchase something after landing on the category page. Don’t confuse this with click-through rate.

Average Revenue Per Visitor

This is the metric you should maximize. The other three metrics might go up or down, but as long as revenue goes up it’s a win.

For example, a low conversion rate is not bad if revenues are higher. It means that the category page leads visitors to higher priced items.

On the flip side, higher engagement is not a good thing if it reduces revenues. Look at the other two metrics to find out why. A low click-through rate could mean that the category page confuses people, while a low conversion rate could mean that the category page leads people to the wrong products.

In short, while optimizing your category page, your ARPV will tell you if your test was a success or fail, while the other three will tell you why.

What to Test

Now that you know what metrics to keep an eye on, you can start testing changes to your category pages. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Layout

The typical category page is designed as a grid. Products are placed in rows as cards, and each card is the same size. It’s worth trying out different sizes for each card.

For example, you might use a bigger card to make a certain product stand out. United Pixel Workers has a large featured product on their category page. The other products are smaller in size, so the featured product catches the eye immediately.

UP category page

Don’t be too quick to implement this though. You first need to test it out to see if it works for you. SmartWool had a similar category page at first, but they decided to test the regular version against it.

Smartwool category page

As you can see, the original page does look more exciting, and the larger products stand out. However, test results showed that the standard page resulted in a 17.1% increase in average revenue per visitor.

[Tweet “Category page optimization helped @Smartwool increase revenue by 17.1%!”]

You needn’t even stick to the grid view. Spinlife started out with the standard grid on their category page.

Spinlife A category page

There are only 7 products in that category making the grid look incomplete. They decided to test out a list view, with products stacked on top of each other in one column.

Spinlife B category page

The extra width for each product meant they could add longer descriptions. The new view brought them a 16.1% increase in sales.

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Filters

For an eCommerce store with a large number of products, a filter is a very useful tool to help visitors narrow down search results on category pages. No one has time to sift through multiple pages looking for the right product, so you need to help them find it faster.

There are a number of ways to design filters on your category page, and the right design could mean the difference between the filter helping customers or distracting them. If you look at the Smartwool image, you’ll notice filters in the left-hand sidebar. You can click to add them, and click again to subtract them.

Spinlife has a mix of checkboxes and radio buttons. Buyakilt decided to try out a very basic filter on their category pages. Their initial page, sans filter, looked like this –

Category page without filter

They created a variation with a filter in the left side-bar and a sorting mechanism above the rows of products.

Category page with filter

The test worked like a charm, boosting conversions by 26%. What was more impressive was that average revenues increased 76.1%.

Now here’s the flip side. UkToolCenter already had a pretty good filter on their category pages.

Uktool category page

However, they weren’t happy with their conversions and thought that the big filter was a distraction. They tested removing it so that the products would come up higher in the page. Surprise, surprise, the filter-less category page increased engagements and click-through rates.

Product Cards

The cards give visitors a quick idea about each product. The purpose is to help them decide which product they want. Poorly performing product cards either confuse visitors and cause them to exit the page, or they force visitors to click-through to the wrong products and then backtrack repeatedly.

You need to find the right balance between the different elements on the product card. The most important is the image, then there’s the title, the blurb and the price. Some stores have product ratings, badges and calls to action like ‘Save to Wishlist’, ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Read More’.

The larger your image, the less space you have for other elements. Some stores just have images with the product title and price. To learn more about the product, you’ll need to click-through.

An interesting alternative is the ‘Quick View’. It allows visitors to learn a bit more about the product with a pop-up while staying on the category page. If they are interested in the product, they can click to a more detailed product page.

Asos category page

The above screenshot is from Asos. You’ll notice that they have three products in a row, allowing for larger image size.

River Island has smaller images to fit in more products, but they also use badges to highlight certain products. It would be interesting to test how these badges affect click-throughs and sales for each product.

River island category page

Be careful not to add too many things to your product cards. Mall.cz originally had a lot going on with their product cards. They had the price, badges, ratings and a pretty detailed description, which meant they had to compromise on high-value elements like image.

Mall category page

It looks pretty messy and it impacted click-through rates, so they decided to test a couple of other layouts. They hypothesized that placing more emphasis on the images would entice visitors to click.

The question was, what other elements should they drop to accomodate the larger image. Their first variation had a larger image but kept the other elements as well.

Mall category page v1

 

Their second variation displayed the text only on mouse-over, similar to the ‘Quick View’ feature on Asos.

Mall category page v2

They tested the two variations simultaneously, which meant that traffic was divided between these two and the control layout.

The winner turned out to be the second variation with an increase in sales of 9.41%. The large images without text made for a cleaner layout with fewer distractions.

Start Experimenting

The category page is often overlooked when it comes to conversion rate optimization. Yes, checkout pages and product pages usually take priority, but every little improvement counts and an optimized category page will contribute to that.

Start by tracking the four metrics we mentioned using your analytics software. The data will help you figure what changes to test and you can use a software like Optimizely to conduct the test. Optimizely also allows you to create goals for each of the four metrics.

To learn more about the entire process, download our ebook on A/B testing for eCommerce. After you finish the test, come back here and let us know what the results were.

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