This post is contributed by Jake from LemonStand. Jake is the Marketing Specialist at LemonStand, a completely customizable cloud-based eCommerce platform. He is soccer-obsessed and a connoisseur of golden era hip-hop.
Navigation is key to any eCommerce business – after all, in order to buy your product, your customers must be able to find your product first.
So before investing more money into Facebook Ads and SEO, think about what happens when a customer first visits your site. Are you creating an intuitive customer journey? Is product discovery clear, easy, and fun?
Invest some time in optimizing site navigation to ensure the traffic you’re driving to your site this holiday season actually converts. Here are five simple tweaks that can boost conversions and keep customers coming back for more.
Use Search Autosuggest
Sometimes customers come to your store already knowing what they want to buy. They know the product or the brand, and they might even know the model number.
In this case, you don’t want them guessing which section or sub-section of your store to search in. If you carry many different brands or different product categories, your customers face a daunting task.
Instead, install a search bar with autosuggest. What this does is give customers a list of potential product matches as they start typing a product name into the search bar.
For example, look at the auto-complete feature on this well known online marketplace. I’m looking for a Sony Vaio, and the site figures this out and predicts what I’m looking for by showing me a list of matching keywords. Clicking on anyone would take me to a page with all products matching that keyword.
They also show me a matching brand, which takes me to the brand page. Finally, they even come up with a list of specific products under ‘Recommendations’, which takes me straight to the product page.
Use Sticky Navigation for Sites with Long or Infinite Scrolling
Stemming from the rise of mobile browsing and social media sites, long-scrolling and even single-page sites have become more popular. Unfortunately, the natural drawback of this style is disorientation and poor navigation.
A quick and simple solution is sticky navigation — a menu or bar that remains in the same place throughout the scroll, typically the top or bottom of the screen. This affords users the control they want when browsing, which gives them more confidence to explore.
If a sticky navigation menu takes up too much room, try a simple “Jump-to” section icon, or at the very least a “Return to Top” option, also on permanently on the screen.
Because these are always present, try to make them as small as possible, but still noticeable.
Make Categories Searchable
When customers click on a category or sub-category, they are essentially searching for or filtering products that belong to that category.
Many stores don’t allow customers to search by category, forcing them to pick a sub-category instead. But what if customers have no idea what the sub-categories are, or just want a general overview of each sub-category before going deeper?
Let’s say I want to do some home renovation and I need a bunch of tools. I’m new to this so I’d like to see the whole range of tools out there and then select the ones I need based on the work that needs to be done on my house.
If I go to the Home, Garden and Tools section in Amazon, this is what I get.
Now, Amazon forces me to select a sub-category within the Tools and Home Improvement category but I’m not sure what I should be searching in. It could be any one of ‘Home Improvement’, ‘Power & Hand Tools’ or ‘Hardware’. It would be much easier for me to decide if I could look at the entire category first.
You can argue that because Amazon has so many products, it makes more sense for customers to go straight to a sub-category for a more refined list of products. Yet, allowing customers to click on categories in the navigation doesn’t stop them from going straight to sub-categories if they want to.
In Zappos, each category is also a link. You can search the entire Shoes section, or search the main categories within like Women’s Shoes, Men’s Shoes and so on, or just go straight to Athletic Shoes if you wish.
Cater Recommendations Based on Personalization Data
Personalization is becoming more and more relevant to users, so don’t neglect it. Page recommendations are an excellent balance between what the user wants to see and what the business wants them to see — but only if they’re done with care.
Draw on personalization data like past purchases or previously viewed pages to hone your users’ recommendations. You can even elicit specific preferences by asking them directly when they sign up or create a profile.
If you don’t have enough personalization data for recommendations, use a Related Content feature. Common tags among different pieces of content let designers organize users interests, and you can double-check this with past users’ behaviors.
Suggest Next Steps When Users Complete a Task
After completing a task, there’s a moment when users aren’t quite sure what to do next. Give them a helping hand by suggesting one or several next steps. Did they just finish creating a profile? Provide a link that enables them to find friends.
Especially useful at the early onboarding stage when the user is unfamiliar with the interface, next steps eliminate those moments of uncertainty or searching for what to do. It’s the designer’s responsibility to make sure the user knows how to use the interface to do what they want.
The Next Post/Product feature works the same way. For sites that display numerous posts or products, each window should have an option that leads them to the next (and previous) item. This lets the user create a rhythm with their browsing, and increases the likelihood that they’ll find what they’re looking for.
You may get a lot of traffic, and you may have a wide range of products, but if your customers can’t find the right products, they can’t buy them. By making these changes to your product search and navigation you’ll see an improvement in conversions and a decrease in bounce rate.