Rethinking Category Page eCommerce Presentations

By Craig Smith

As eCommerce platforms have evolved over the last 10 years, one thing has stayed fairly constant – the presentation grid used within category and sub-category pages. As a definition for “grid based”, I am referring to the type of product presentation that shows numerous products for a given category, provided in a table format.

These tables vary by retailer in terms of default numbers. Some retailers may have 4 products across and 6 rows vertically before a user has the opportunity to scroll to the next page. Other retailers might have a much more deeper product showing on the page – for example the retailer may present 10 rows of products.

Interestingly enough, in all of my years of working in this sector, I have never seen available research relating to tests within this site aspect. Many of the leading platform providers offer standard default numbers with their category grids, and their clients are likely not pressing hard enough to alter the status quo within their systems.

Limiting cognitive processing within eCommerce

Site usability often relates to human cognitive processing and how this guides user behavior. This question of “what type of merchandising grid size works best” is in direct correlation to this theory.

What we want to know is are users scrolling down the page to fully absorb the offerings for which the retailer is presenting and at what number do they most likely take “browsing” actions.

At Trinity we have recently conducted site tests that changed the number of products presented within a key site aspect in the transactional funnel. Within this test we found that a substantial increase (20%+) in conversion happened when we reduced the number of offerings that were being presented to the user.

What we did within the test is reduce the cognitive overload within the page and assist the user in digesting information. Ultimately this increased the ratio of users who took the desired action and created sales growth.

So where do you begin if you are looking to drive optimization within this site element? First, conduct some user tests that are highly focused on tasks that are realted to finding products on category and sub-category pages.

Observe how users progress through your products. Are they scrolling below the fold? Are they progressing forward to the next page of products? Understand what percentage of your test executed these two site actions.

Ask verbal questions to the respondents after and during the test.   Ask questions that focus on the location of products and how easy it was to identify items during the test scenarios. Often the verbal responses that you receive can uncover unthought “nuggets” that are correlated to cognitive overload.

You see your website daily and these respondents may be seeing it for the first time. This new set of eyes is invaluable in understanding how new visitors interact with site elements.

Now you have some primary research relating to your site which is going to help your decision making. The next step is to evaluate your current abilities within your eCommerce system and if you have the ability to change the default grid attributes (the number of rows and columns of products).

Executing this type of experiment within a split test could be difficult depending on the flexibility of your code base.  A more realistic approach would be to try an alternative layout on a week per week basis to assess the difference. When considering the KPI’s that are going to be used to identify success, consider the following:

Number of carts started
Number of product page views
Progression ratio of category to sub-category pages
Average dollar value per visit

These four metrics can provide the intelligence and data to see if an alternative default layout for your category page works better for your customers and makes their site experience easier.

Try testing your default merchandising grids and see how the numbers impact performance within your eCommerce store. To learn more about Trinity Insight and our eCommerce optimization services, please contact us online.

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