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3 Ways to Improve Your Category Navigation

4 min Read

For most retailers, category navigation via menus is the way that most customers choose to navigate a site. Unless the shopper is looking for a specific product, this is the best way to shop. It’s the digital equivalent of walking to the aisle that contains the type of product they want to buy.

Keep It Simple

Unfortunately, category navigation is hard to do correctly, and this challenge becomes increasingly insurmountable as the size of your product catalog increases. Some ecommerce sites have an advantage by carrying a very limited selection of specialized products, and this often results in simple and intuitive navigation.

Take TwelveSouth as an example.

simple category navigation

TwelveSouth designs, manufactures, and sells products exclusively for Apple products. This means that they can categorize their products based on their device compatibility. It would be nice if we could all have navigation this simple, but of course that’s not always possible. However, if you look at your top-level navigation, are there redundant items that could be removed?

In reality, TwelveSouth’s navigation could have been handled in a way that is much more complex. They could have had categories like chargers, cases, stands, straps, docks, bases, office, travel and many more that I’m missing. Is there a different way you could organize products in your navigation that would be simpler and more intuitive. If you’re in apparel, for example, do you have a navigation element for jeans, chinos, shorts, and dress pants? Why not list them all under pants in your top-level navigation? Remember that your main navigation is not a site map, it’s just a way for shoppers to tell you what they’re looking for.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but study after study have shown that increasing the number of choices decreases conversion. In essence, it paralyzes the shopper, and in many cases, they don’t end up clicking anything.

Keep It Light

When visitors do click on a category, what do they see? Often times, they’ll be greeted by a list of hundreds of products spread out across dozens of pages. Sometimes, this is the only way to do things. If you do have categories this large, remember that most people will not navigate beyond the second page.

With that in mind, it’s important to merchandise the items on those first two pages to ensure that they’re the most relevant they can be.

ecommerce category navigation

Continuing with the example of the “pants” category, if you do carry several types, you could choose to create a visual product selection page instead of, or in addition to using traditional filters. These guided product pickers are currently performing very well.

Make It Enticing

Category pages are great places to inform your shoppers of specific, relevant, information. Use relevant banners at the top of these pages to inform your shoppers of special promotions, free shipping information, or anything else that might help them make a purchase.

ecommerce-category-navigation

For example, if they land on your “pants” category, why not use a banner that advertises a BOGO opportunity?

This is a huge opportunity that can really make your store feel more relevant and personalized. Of course, if you’re not already running category-specific promotions, perhaps this is something you should pursue.