Why e-businesses need effective category pages

by Ben Myers

Imagine that you walked into a store and told a salesperson that you want to buy a blender. The salesperson walks into the store room, grabs one off the shelf, comes back and puts it in your hands. “You want it or not?” he says. “Not this one exactly,” you say. He walks away and returns with another blender. “What about this one?”

Any customer would grow tired of this exercise pretty quickly. Online, it’s no exception. Guiding your online customer to the right product and allowing them to browse for a moment before the sale creates a more pleasurable buying experience and will increase conversion rates.

Occasionally, because of various responsibilities, both clients and digital analysts can forget about this very basic premise. Buying online is a process, and walking with your customer through your online store using digital analysis can be a revealing exercise. With Analytics, we can walk with our customers and map the most common paths to a purchase.

We’re talking about visitors with ‘mid-range intent’ – people who know what type of thing they want, but not a specific product yet. Depending on your business and products, these ‘browsing’ customers may make up a large portion of your traffic. (For more information, see Kaushik’s article on customer intent.)

Unless you’re Woot.com, or have a one-time special offer, there should be no hurry to get these types of visitors to the product page. If you shove a product in front of their faces and ask “This one?” too quickly, the customer may choose to leave. This is especially true if your online store is difficult to navigate.

This is where well-designed product category pages can be a boon to your online business.

Not only do product category pages allow customers to browse among the products they’re interested in buying, and compare features and prices, they can also be used to answer FAQs and build confidence in your company. Product category pages can serve as the intermediary where many important buying concerns are allayed.

You can consider this the opposite of sentinel pages. Sentinel pages are meant to act as filters, redirecting visitors who have no business on a particular website. Category pages should funnel pre-qualified visitors (people who have arrived through a search engine, or clicked on a category link) toward their intended product – even if they don’t know exactly what it is yet.

You can also use category pages so that potential buyers are educated as they click through to their ideal product. With every click, they learn a bit more about your business. For example: free shipping, return policy, email campaigns. These bits of information can build customer confidence while they browse.

While highly targeted landing pages are an effective way of attracting and converting customers who know exactly what they want, digital analysts know there’s a ton of traffic that goes through index pages in any case, and still has to be qualified.

Presenting a variety of products with a range of prices and features means your customer doesn’t have to go searching elsewhere to find what they want. Don’t narrow these customers’ view right from the start, or they may go look elsewhere.

Ben Myers


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