Category management, for the uninitiated is the organisation of your products into groups and more importantly is method of presentation of those groups to potential customers. When making those groupings you have to consider several issues. For example:
1 – Physical limitations. How many menu items can fit on the page without it looking like Wikipedia?
2 – Simplicity. How obvious are my groupings and will my customers understand them?
3 – Volume. Do I have enough products to make the grouping look good?
These are not simple concerns. Over the last 15 years I can safely say that category choice is the one aspect of developing an ecommerce website that causes the most angst for our clients. Forget mind SCA2 payment problems, ignore delivery & logistics nightmares and customer returns. These problems pale in comparison to the consternation caused by having to organise their products by category. There are no definitive answers it is all down to your products and how you want to present them. This makes it much more subjective than most ecommerce aficionados would care to admit.
There are just so many ways to breakdown, sort and organise your products that many are left sitting like the proverbial deer in the headlights.
If this describes your current approach to category management, then read on. In an effort to get you moving we have taken the most common tactics, tips and tricks used by our successful ecommerce customers to break down their product offering.
Merchandising never stops
The ecommerce websites that are operating at the next level do not see category management as a once off “Setup” task. They see it as an ongoing process. They change their category name position and product volumes throughout the year to respond to the seasons in their business. This is a good approach. Rather than being consumed with getting “The right category mix” just aim for what the needs are for this quarter. What’s hot right now? Make sure your web platform allows you to move products en-masse from one category to another. If you have a bricks and mortar shop, make sure your ecommerce categories keep up with the merchandising decisions made for your real-world customers.
Get real feedback
If you want to grow, then use available data to make decisions. Once you have begun to generate sales you can start examining how people interact with your product range. This can be handled through behavioural tracking platforms like Hot Jar or Crazy Egg. Alternatively, if you want to really go for it , you can set up specific end user tests. Collect 10 people that match your ideal customer profile (ideally people that do not know you or the brand too well), give them specific products to shop for and record how they interact. Finish with a detailed survey getting feedback on the user experience. This is more time consuming and expensive than the Hot jar method, but the data is a lot more actionable.
Once you accept the fact that you may not think like your average customer and you need to start looking at the site through their eyes, it will lead to you giving them a simple way to find what they need.
Profit by Category
As the old saying goes “Follow the money!”. Use financial reports on sales by category to see how much attention a category is getting. If a category is underperforming we must ask whether it deserves pride of place in the main menu? You need to take a competitive approach to category choices. If the sales are not there, you cannot give it priority.
You do not have to show it all!
This is probably the discussion we have most with our clients when they are setting up their ecommerce platform. They are terrified that if the customer does not see a category for products, they will lose that customer. If you give into that fear, you end up with too many categories which makes your menus too complex and hard to follow for the end user. Here are two simple rules which make it easier to avoid the “kitchen sink approach” :
1 – If you do not have a minimum of 5 products for a category, then it is not a category. Granted this is a generalisation, but customers clicking on a category do so in the expectation of a range of results. The disappointment they feel at seeing only one or two options can lead to a lost customer.
2 – Customers will use the search form if they are looking for something specific. If you do not have a category for a product that does not mean it will not be found. Customers who are at an advanced buying stage (link to buying cycle blog here?) tend to be much more specific about their product searching and will tend to use Google or your onsite search more than the category crawl.
Categories have a significant role to play in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). With the right header and footer texts, a category becomes a landing page for customers using search engines to find product ranges they like. With that in mind you need to keep a weather eye on Google Search volumes and trends that relate to your product ranges. If you see consistently high volumes for a phrase that is close to a category label, then you should look at adopting that phrase as your label.
The above breakdown gives some basic pointers and you may need to dig in more detail to get the right mix for you but when you have some basic tools and data you will find that category management is not as difficult as it first appears.
If you are struggling to find the right ecommerce tools, we atDmac Media are always here to assist (yup obligatory sales pitch time).