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How to design product sorting in an online store?

I'm not a fan of searching. Sorting and filtering are something else. I like to sort things...

When I'm sorting, I feel like my choice is so narrowed that one action stands between me and products that meet my expectations.

It's not good when sorting criteria don't meet my expectations. I feel very bad when that happens — no, no, and no.

Alright, let's leave the concerns of our hypothetical E-Commerce customer behind. Today, as you might have guessed, we will tell you about the design of product sorting. It's an essential function that often is not refined with due diligence.

It's a mistake! It should be polished!

We audit and create paths to purchase.

Searching, filtering, and product sorting in E-Commerce

A quick reminder. Searching is used to find the desired product with a keyword that might be:

  • General (e.g., men's pants)
  • Detailed (e.g., Levi's 501)
  • Identical to the name on the product label (e.g., 501® Levi's® Original Jeans).

(For now, we won't talk about voice or image search – they're "too big subjects").

The search results will look a bit different depending on the accuracy, the form of a keyword, and the way the online store's search engine operates.

For example, I went shopping at AboutYou.pl.

In the AboutYou store, after I chose the "For Men" category and pasted the exact phrase "501® Levi's® Original Jeans", I didn't see the following:

  • List of jeans
  • List of men's jeans

and I was redirected to the product card offered for women. Really? Yes, really. OK, these things happen. "Can't do anything about it." I thought. I didn't give up, though. My Customer Path to Purchase didn't end here.

Product sorting in E-Commerce
Search results for the phrase "501® Levi's® Original Jeans" at AboutYou.pl

I kept searching, even though it meant wasting time, energy, slight frustration, and the need to find a way to get the desired result from the search engine.

In the case of this store, although I was looking for a specific brand and model, the more effective way to reach the product was to use a general phrase. Thanks to this, I've reached the category page and could define and enter further criteria. I've started filtering.

And here as well, I've encountered a problem. The exact name of Levi's brand and the less accurate name "Levis" resulted in the inability to select any brand in the filter box. Only after I used a shortened variant, "Levi," I managed to choose a brand.

Okay, I need to take it back. After I typed in the incomplete keyword Lev, the store offered a hint and the option to select the brand, so I'm nitpicking here a little.

But just a little. Why?

Because you can type in the phrases — and in this case, the store works flawlessly — but you can also paste them. In this regard, the store could work a little better.

Product sorting in an online store - AboutYou
The result after pasting the phrase "Levi's® "at AboutYou.pl

OK. After I'd selected a few additional filters, I started sorting. I was pretty surprised to see the "Your Style" criterion. I wasn't sure what it meant because I had never shopped in this store. This couldn't be a criterion resulting from personalization. However...

Product sorting in an online store - AboutYou
Sorting by the "Your Style" criterion at AboutYou.pl

I checked. Definitely, it's not my style! The price of the product displayed at the top of the list also didn't suit me. The "Recently added" — another criterion — also didn't change much.

The last two options, "Lowest" and "Highest" price, didn't bring me closer to 501® Levi's® Original Jeans either. In this store, on 07.04.2021 they weren't available. Or I think so...

No offense AboutYou! :) It happens to the best of us!

A little disclaimer!

In the end, the store passed this mini-test quite well. I managed to reach products I didn't want to buy, and that's true. But, thanks to this, I've found a product that I really liked ;-)

And that's how... A rational purchase turned into an impulse purchase.

Thank you, it was all About You from the beginning.  ;)

Nonetheless, these kinds of situations happen extremely frequently. A lot of customers' effort goes to waste. And here, we have to do a little revision from psychology.

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Journal / Redaktor
Author: Radek
UX Writer and researcher by education + experience. Collects The Story's knowledge and shares it on the Journal.
Reviewer: Dymitr Romanowski

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