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How to optimize your ecommerce category filters

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

Decision fatigue is an all-too-real concern for online shoppers. Fortunately, category filters can help shoppers narrow down their options and find what they’re looking for  – even if they don’t know exactly what they want yet.

We’re giving you the scoop on what category filters are, why they’re important for your ecommerce business, and how to leverage them to boost sales.

What are category filters?

Category filters, also known as facets and product filters, are an ecommerce navigation tool that enable shoppers to narrow down the products they see on category pages based on specific criteria. These filters usually include attributes like size, color, and brand, but can also be customized for the types of products you sell. 

Why are category filters important?

Category filters are the unsung heroes of the merchandiser’s playbook because they help customers find what they want, faster. By equipping shoppers to narrow down their options by criteria like size, color, and brand, filters eliminate the need to scroll through dozens of irrelevant products and reduce distractions on the path to purchase. 

Filters also help reduce decision fatigue, thereby boosting sales. A study by Columbia University found that when customers experience decision fatigue, they buy less. Researchers set up two displays of jams at a grocery store: one that showed 24 jars of jam, and another that exhibited only six. While more people stopped to look at the larger display, it only led to a 3% purchase conversion rate, while the smaller display led to a 30% conversion rate.

Best practices for ecommerce product filters

Here’s how to take advantage of filters to help shoppers find what they want faster, and encourage them to complete the checkout process.

1. Use the Goldilocks principle when setting up filter options

Just like presenting too many products can overwhelm customers, excessive category filter options can also slow shoppers down. Take inspiration from children’s story heroine Goldilocks and A/B test category filter options until you find a sweet spot – not too many and not too few. 

See how fashion brand Show Me Your Mumu strategically chose to not include every color possible under their “color” filter, but features the most popular shades and lets customers expand their options.

ecommerce category filters

2. Make your product filter options intuitive

There are many ways to present category filter options to your customers: as checkboxes, through a range selector, as dropdowns, as images, and more. Do your customers a favor and make the shopping experience as intuitive as possible by using ecommerce filter navigation options that are most suitable for the attributes in question. For example, use checkboxes for sizes and brands, a range selector for prices, and swatches for colors. 

Borsheims makes faceted filtering intuitive in their ring builder by including images in the category filter options to help shoppers distinguish between different ring settings.

faceted filtering

3. Hide irrelevant filters

Irrelevant filters distract shoppers from what they really want, or add confusion to their search. Configure your category filters to hide options that don’t have anything to do with the products on the page. 

For example, let’s say you run a fashion store that sells both clothing and shoes. The sizing filters that appear on your shoe category should be very different from the sizes that apply to pants, for example. Suggesting that shoppers select their waist measurement when shopping for sneakers is not going to inspire confidence in your website or brand. 

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4. Add results quantities to category filters

Give customers a sneak peek at how many options they’ll have after they filter down the products on a category page.

You can see below how Hartville Hardware places the quantity of results for each filter in parentheses. These labels can help shoppers avoid reaching a no results found page.

ecommerce filter navigation

5. Let shoppers filter search results

Some shoppers will head straight to your search bar instead of your category pages, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support the ability to filter product results there, too. By providing an autocomplete drop down that also includes filtering capabilities, you can assist highly motivated searchers to find what they’re looking for with ease. 

Take fastgrowingtrees.com for example. Their search bar prompts customers who search for “rose bush” to complete a more specific query by selecting a growing zone and level of sun exposure. 

category filters

Product filters drive sales

While limiting customers’ options can seem counterproductive for increasing conversions, it actually helps them identify what they want faster, and checkout before they’re overwhelmed or distracted by other possibilities. Leverage category filters on your ecommerce website to streamline the path to purchase and make product discovery as effortless as possible for your customers. Not sure how to get started? We can help. Request a demo of Searchspring today.