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Only a small proportion of shoppers will arrive at an ecommerce site knowing the exact product they’re looking for, while most will prefer to browse and consider different options.

As such sites need to give shoppers tools to search their product range and strip out the items they’re not interested in.

An effective site search function is obviously a key element, but product filters are also necessary if you want to deliver a decent user experience.

In fact kilt retailer buyakilt.com saw a 26% increase in conversions and a whopping 76.1% boost in revenue after implementing a product filter which gave visitors an option to shop by kilt type and kilt pattern.

So with this in mind, here are nine ways to improve your product filtering...

Show the features selected in a breadcrumb trail

Breadcrumbs are commonly used to remind users of the route they’ve taken as they navigate through a website, but they can also be used to show product filter options.

John Lewis highlights each filter that shoppers have selected so they can easily click back in the process at any point.

Allow users to select more than one filter

Unless a shopper knows exactly what they’re looking for then they may want to filter on more than one option in the same category.

For example I may be a fan of both Armani and Diesel jeans so I want to compare both side by side.

Most sites allows this kind of filtering, but I was surprised to find that Selfridges only lets you search by one brand at a time.

Use filters to help solve problems

Most sites have filters for size and colour, but it can be useful to think of unique filters that are specific to your audience or product type. 

This helps customers to find exactly what they’re looking for and also shows that you know what you’re talking about.

Clothing retailer Lands’ End has a filter for ‘Fit Solution’ on its swimsuit range, which includes things like ‘Flatten tummy,’ ‘Slim hips,’ and Enhance bust,’ which talks directly to its target audience and helps to build brand affinity.

Make it easy to add and remove filters

If a customer doesn’t get the product options they were hoping for then they’ll want to quickly modify the filter. Therefore it’s important to allow people to remove filters with one click.

Once you’ve applied a filter on House of Fraser’s site it can be removed simply by clicking the small cross.

Refresh the page quickly

Speed is a key factor in all aspects of ecommerce and product filters are no exception. In fact, research shows that a one second delay in page-load can cause 7% loss in customer conversions.

When a shopper applies or removes a filter they don’t want to be waiting around for results to load, so make sure your site search can cope.

Avoid returning no results

It’s logical that if a customer is too narrow with their product demands then their search risks returning zero products, but unfortunately shoppers don’t necessarily think logically.

A search that yields no results is likely to frustrate the user and may cause them to shop elsewhere, so it‘s a better idea to only allow shoppers to filter on options that you know are available.

In this example from Net-A-Porter, you can only filter on the three colours of handbag that are definitely available.

Similarly, House of Fraser lets the user know exactly how many product options it has in each category.

Give them loads of options

It’s impossible to predict exactly what your customers will be looking for so it’s a good idea to give them as many options as possible to help them narrow down their search.

Brand, colour and size are all fairly standard, but when searching for dresses on ASOS you are given 11 different options to help separate the wheat from the chaff.

Information such as ‘dress length’ and ‘sleeve length’ are incredibly useful for online shoppers as they obviously can’t try the dresses on, so it should go some way to helping limit the number of product returns.

Clarity of options

Having just praised ASOS for the number of search filter it gives to shoppers, it’s now time to slap the site back down for using weird options.

All copy should be written with the customer in mind so there no confusion over what is being communicated – the previous screenshot from Lands’ End is a great example of this.

But what exactly is ASOS getting at with its ‘Hat type’ options? I’ve asked around the Econsultancy office and we’re all baffled...

Put filters in collapsible menus

It’s unlikely that users will want to apply more than two or three filters at most, so you need to make sure they can hide the ones that aren’t relevant.

Collapsible menus allow shoppers to pick the filters that they need while ensuring the screen remains free of clutter.

David Moth

Published 5 June, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Great list of ideas! I'd also add:
- make it bookmarkable (i.e. filtration parameters should be reflected in the URL)
- make it shareable. This filtered list of products is comparable to product curation and would resonate well on social networks

Speed of filtration, as you say, is important. One good example of this that I have seen is on the All Saints website, which does it client-side.

over 3 years ago

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Georg Spielmann, E-commerce consultant and project manager at Fredhopper

Very nice compilation!
However the examples are very fashion heavy, for other types of catalog such as electronics for example an important aspect to look at with filters is the "why vs. what". Why should I buy this product vs. what is this product. Instead of simply having product specifications as filters one should consider using filters for the not so tech savvy people. I.e. additional to the amount of GB an mp3 player holds, a tool-tip can explain that 16GB means 5.000 songs or additional filter could be "nr. of songs" or a helping tool-tip on why it is important to have optical zoom in a digital camera.
A classic example can also be found in baby and children toys, were parents are more likely to chose from options like "this toy increases motor skills of child", "this toy increases language learning of child" etc. than "this toy consists of 8 pieces", "this toy is green".

over 3 years ago

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Nikita

Thank you for sharing these tips. :) I'll be sure to take note of a few of these in next projects.

Regards,
N.

over 3 years ago

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Jill

Awesome advice that all ecommerce sites should look into! Michael Loban, CMO of InfoTrust LLC, just wrote a blog post regarding this same issue and has some complementary tips and ideas to improve ecommerce product pages as well.

Here's the link if you're interested in some supplementary info: http://content.infotrustllc.com/infotrust-blog/bid/290964/10-Features-to-Test-on-Your-Product-Results-Page

Best,

Jill

over 3 years ago

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Michael Potts, International Marketing Manager at TescoEnterprise

An interesting blogpost as ever, Mr Moth. From a selfish POV, it would be great to see you include some grocery sites for comparison :-)

MP

over 3 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

A few more tips to add to the collection:

1. Taking the collapsible menu idea further, if the no of filter options is large, either group similar values in ranges or only show the top values by default & provide a link to 'show more values'.

2. Depending on the product type or sector, aspirational/emotive filters are worth trying in addition to the usual hard data filters. For example, for a music site, as well as filtering by the usual genre or artist how about trying something more qualitative such as filter by mood (e.g. funky, mellow etc)

3. If you have enough customer review data to tap into, let your customers filter products by reviews as well.

over 3 years ago

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Michaela Clement-Hayes, Communications Executive at FusePump Ltd

Great tips David,

Making it quick and easy to modify the filter choices is definitely a key example.

I'd also add that the filtering process should be more engaging, taking into consideration why the customer wants a certain product.

For example, customers could filter bottles of wine by occasion or meal choice, as well as grape and country.

@Michael I agree - it would be very interesting to see this applied to groceries to make online food shopping much simpler (although, being a creature of habit, the Tesco 'favourites' option is very useful).

over 3 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

More filter choices is definitely good for the buyer. But do take work, if you have to create new fields in yoru product database.

For example yesterday I bought a projector for the office, and wanted a bright one, to work OK in daylight here.

But I wasn't able to do a filter on the Brightmess (lumens) at ebuyer.com where I was shopping: and so had to click a lot of products manually one by one, to find matches.

over 3 years ago

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encophone

For example, a six-fold zoom capability with digital cameras is actually 3 times X2 times optical zoom digital zoom to achieve the so-called six times zoom

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks for all your comments.

@Pottsy, I actually made my first online grocery order from Sainsburys the other day and wasn't blown away by the usability. I'm planning a user test looking at how all the main supermarkets handle online ordering, so hopefully it'll come in useful!

over 3 years ago

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Christine Frey, Optimisation Manager at Trueshopping Ltd.

There is currently a discussion going on in my company whether filters should always be placed in the left Nav bar. I don't agree with this so would like to hear your views. Thanks!

8 months ago

Ivan Burmistrov

Ivan Burmistrov, Usability Expert at interUX Usability Engineering Studio OÜ

> "Give them loads of options

> It’s impossible to predict exactly what your customers will be looking for so it’s a good idea to give them as many options as possible"

Any research in support of this recommendation? I am absolutely not sure this is a good idea...

5 months ago

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