6 Steps to Optimizing Retail Category Pages [+ Winning Examples]
Your product category pages play a vital part in an overall conversion strategy, but only if retailers are optimizing retail category pages for peak performance.
A well-optimized category page does more than just send more potential shoppers to an eCommerce retail store – AKA boost traffic. It should also successfully funnel these potential shoppers into your core conversion funnel, AKA boosting sales and profits.
When optimized, a retailer’s category page
- Offers prime online merchandising space
- Boosts SEO and traffic
- Improves user experience
- Helps guide marketing strategies
- Drives sales with optimized category-specific sorting
So what are the key steps merchandising and eCommerce managers should take to tweak and optimize their category pages to boost profits?
By following these key steps.
Let’s jump in.
Step #1: Tweak and Optimize Your Category Page UX
The first thing eCommerce merchandising managers should be reviewing and tweaking is category page user experience. The most important aspects of this are navigation and visual merchandising.
Why? Because the easier it is to find the products a shopper needs, and the more enjoyable that experience is, the higher your conversion chances are. And the stats back it up. In one study, 38% of shoppers left a website if it looked unattractive.
Ultimately, you want to ensure your category and collection pages are seamless to navigate to and through. To ensure this, you should be reviewing, tweaking, and testing your shopper’s:
- Journey to your category pages
- Navigation through your category pages to product and checkout pages
In short, it’s about ensuring a potential shopper can easily navigate to your category pages or product collection pages, and quickly and easily find products or subcategories that interest them, all while visually building branding and trust.
When it comes to retail category page UX, what should you be looking out for?
Most optimized collection and category pages use the following UX design fundamentals which are worth testing for your online store:
The secret to making these work for your brand is tweaking and testing these elements for your specific store, market, and niche. Ultimately, finding the right design combination and navigation will yield the best results in terms of conversions.
Additionally, you want to ensure the content (online merchandising) above the fold is well thought out, as this area is known to perform better.
A brand that does this perfectly is online retailers Staples. Let’s take a look at one of their top collection pages.
Category Page Example #1: Staples
For their back-to-school collection page, Staples combine striking visual merchandising with optimized subcategory lists, CTAs, and product discovery filtering.
This retail category page UX works because they make it:
- Extremely clean and organized, despite the number of product categories they highlight
- Super user-friendly and easy for potential shoppers to find the products or information they need
- Easy for browsers to seamlessly move from the parent collection page to the right product categories
Here are some other trending category page UX features worth testing for your store:
- Mouseover hovers
- “Shop the look” upsells
- “Quick view” and “Save for later” functionality
Step #2: Add Advanced Product Sorting and Automation
Once your category and collection pages are easy to find and easy to navigate, it’s time to look at your product sorting. What products you are displaying on your category pages, and where?
After all, the ultimate goal for category pages is to not only bring more potential customers to your online retail store but feed them to product pages and convert them. This means online retailers need:
- An advanced optimization product sorting strategy that puts the most important products first
- Real-time automation to keep product lists up-to-date based on the most recent data
Let’s talk advanced product sorting first.
To help boost conversions, retailers should test and adopt advanced product sorting on their category pages. This means using various parameters, beyond simple product sorting personalization, to populate your category page product lists.
When you combine multi-segment collections with intelligent automation, AI, and inventory optimization, you can not only increase sales but also profits.
So, what are the most important things to consider when populating your category page product lists?
Advanced product sorting should consider a variety of parameters to help push the right products, at the right time, to the right potential customers, while also ensuring a brand’s retail KPIs are considered. Parameters such as:
A brand that has had a lot of success switching to more advanced product sorting parameters is online jewelry retailer Swarovski (IL).
Category Page Example #2: Swarovski IL
Swarovski (IL) uses a multi-parameter sorting strategy for all of their category pages and collections. This has enabled them to establish the influence of each parameter based on the business goal of each collection, which, with the help of advanced AI, they continuously optimize using real-time data.
This strategy resulted in an overall increase in profits of 8% in a four-week period, while additionally:
- Increasing their overall conversion rates by 18%
- Reducing their non-moving inventory by 29%
- Increasing their daily sales rate (of top 10% products by inventory volume) by 72%
For more details, visit their product sorting strategy case study.
Step #3: Optimize Your Category Pages for SEO
The next step in improving category page optimization is SEO.
Why? To increase eyes on your category pages. And the more eyes, the higher your chances of converting.
In one study, it was found that well-optimized category pages drive 413% more estimated traffic than product pages. Furthermore, when it comes to eCommerce category pages specifically, they rank for almost 20% more keywords than product pages. And when those pages are optimized, they can drive 32% more traffic.
In a nutshell: Category page SEO optimization is a vital part of your ranking and traffic-driving strategies.
So, where to start?
The most obvious place to start is with keyword optimization. However, you absolutely don’t want to keyword stuff. It’s a balancing act of ensuring your category pages have enough text to effectively target keywords while still maintaining a minimalistic, visual-focused design.
Some of the best category pages find the right balance in content, category and product taxonomy, keyword, and technical optimization, and visual merchandising. Let’s look at eCommerce retailers ASOS to see SEO optimization in action.
Category Page Example #3: ASOS
ASOS’ category optimization starts before the potential shopper even gets to the category or collection pages. They do this by starting the shopping journey with a top-level selection, “women,” and then expanding to category and subcategory pages.
This taxonomy organization also helps with Google rankings.
With regards to category page SEO optimization, they have CTAs, keyword-optimized category descriptions, inbound links to subcategories, and more.
Step #4: Invest in Optimized Filters and Sorting Options
Another critical factor for creating optimized category pages is their searchability.
Yes, your product sorting strategies play a vital role in getting the right products to the right shopper, boosting sales and profits. But you also need the right product sorting and filtering options to improve the shopping experience.
Despite this, according to one study, only 60% of websites offer a good filtering experience, with 42% of eCommerce sites lacking category-specific filters.
As we highlighted in the Shopify Store Sorting Strategies post, the most common filter and sorting options include:
- In Stock/Availability
- Newest Products
- Product Type
- Product Options
However, doing the basics isn’t enough. You want to find the best filtering options that work for your specific brand and market, and the most user-friendly design to streamline your shoppers’ journey to the checkout page.
Let’s look at another online fashion retailer that’s winning in terms of optimization category pages: Mavi.
Category Page Example #4: Mavi
Mavi is an excellent example of using an optimized filtering/sorting strategy that has been implemented on the parent category pages and subcategories.
Each of their category pages offers filter and sort options designed to help their online shoppers more quickly find the products they are looking for.
While their ‘sort by’ function allows shoppers to order products by key tags, filtering weeds out these results by style and variants.
Here are some tips on how to optimize retail category page filters and sorting options.
Product Filter Best Practices for Category Pages
- Avoid Zeros: Never show zero results, regardless of what a customer searches. If you aren’t using real-time data to sort products dynamically (automation), you will want to design a landing page for when products that fit into that search are out of stock.
- Number of Filters: You want to ensure that you are not showing too many filter options, which causes overwhelm or increases the chances of having zero results. You, of course, also don’t want to show too few. The best way to optimize this is to test and tweak. Alternatively, with the right AI automation tools, you can ensure filters are adapted for specific categories based on sorting needs.
- Consider Promoted Filters: Use prime, top merchandising space and navigation to highlight specific filters. This will help direct potential shoppers to specific characteristics they care about while pushing products that align with marketing and retail goals.
- Test Filter Placement: As we saw with Mavi, many brands are opting for top filter navigation over the traditional sidebar. However, this is store design and market specific. Whichever you have now, it is worth running an A/B test for alternative placements. Take a look at Urban Outfitters, who have opted for left sidebar menus.
Step #5: Harness the Power of Segmentation
The next step to ensuring your retail category pages are optimized for conversions is harnessing the power of segmentation. Not just any segmentation, but segmentation based on real-time data.
Matching category page merchandising to a user’s shopping stage can be highly effective. This can be as simple as adding offers to category pages aimed at new users by improving relevance by taking 1:1 personalization, with other factors, into account when sorting products.
And the benefits? An optimized, more personalized customer journey, more effective marketing strategy, and improved customer retention. Category segmentation is based on specific interactions, including:
- Affinity segments
- Loyal customers
- First-time visitors
- UTM tags
Brands should be aiming to combine these market segments with dynamic retail parameters.
Why? To find the sweet spot between buyer intent and a brand’s best chance for profitability. And the best way to do that is with advanced automation, something one of our top merchants, Meaghers, is an excellent example of.
Category Page Example #5: Meaghers
Meaghers online pharmacy uses advanced custom product sorting that combines segmentation and critical retail KPIs to boost conversion and profits.
Using Kimonix for advanced product sorting, multi-segment collection, and real-time optimization, they are able to boost product sales.
Step #6: Optimize Category Pages with Advanced Online Merchandising and Recommendations
Lastly, let’s tackle conversion optimizations.
Ultimately, the aim for category pages is for eCommerce retailers to feed product pages and boost conversions. To do this, optimized category pages should:
- Enhance product discovery for first-time shoppers
- Leverage social proof in the form of reviews and ratings
- Use advanced data for product recommendations
- Sort products using a multitude of parameters to match the right products to the right shopper
Or, more simply put, use advanced online merchandising strategies to increase conversion rates while bumping profits.
An advanced online merchandising strategy for category pages takes into account inventory optimization and marketing goals. This includes:
- A brand’s stock margins and levels, service-level goals, and other important retail KPIs
- Shoppers’ intent and needs
- Key sales and conversion marketing KPIs
Without factoring inventory optimization into your category page product sorting and merchandising, and using advanced tools to optimize in real-time, you run the risk of continuous profit loss and diminished business growth.
A multi-parameter category merchandising strategy takes into consideration a multitude of metrics based on crucial specific goals mentioned above. These include:
- Product reviews
- Margins or real margins (with discounts)
- Personalization based on real-time shopping behavior
- Conversion rates
- Days to finish inventory (based on product daily sales rate)
- Inventory value
- Sales by quantity and/or revenue
- Variants stock ratio
- Number of days in stock
- Product page views
Let’s look at an example of a brand doing just that.
Category Page Example #6: Paninisport
Online leggings and athleisure store Paninisport uses advanced innovative collections that take a host of parameters into consideration.
They do this by using advanced product sorting automation. Here’s what they have to say:
“I have tested several different apps that claim to sort collections in an advanced way - but there is just no comparison to Kimonix at all. It is super-advanced, but in a very user-friendly way.” - the owner of Paninisport
Final Thoughts: The Right Way to Optimize Category Pages for Conversions
There you have it, six steps to optimizing retail category pages, and winning examples from top online stores.
Your category pages are among the most important online merchandising spaces retailers have, and even the most minor tweak can increase conversions. To ensure long-term growth and niche domination, online retailers should constantly test and tweak their pages.
This includes testing, tweaking, and optimizing category page:
- UX design and SEO
- Filters and sorting options
- Advanced online merchandising
- Product collection and recommendations
For stores with more extensive product inventories or high niche competition, this will be impossible without category page automation and/or dedicated merchandising management teams.
No matter how big the time and money investment is, however, when done right, it can boost profits by as much as 30%.
Still have questions? Reach out to our merchandising gurus with your questions and comments.
Bonus: Get 20% Off Your First Year for Shopify’s Popular Category Page Product Sorting Tool
Optimize your category pages with advanced product sorting and real-time automation.