How to Upgrade Online Store Product Discovery with Smart Collections

Streamlined and well-strategized product discovery is the most important aspect of a consistently profitable online retail brand. It’s about helping web store shoppers find just the right product that meets their in-the-moment needs — and smart collections go a long way to doing just that.

If optimized the right way, of course.

Smart collections, or smart categories (known on Adobe or WordPress), offer stores the ability to create dynamic product lists controlled by specific data metrics a store has set.

In most cases, stores opt for only one parameter. Usually, using best-selling products or personalization criteria to automatically arrange product lists. But personalized dynamic sorting is not nearly enough. In fact, any single-parameter smart collection isn’t enough.

Suppose you want to upgrade your online store product discovery to pro level. In that case, it takes smart collections that consider far more data than just personalization, and it should be doing so simultaneously.

In this post, we take you through the whats, whys, and hows, answering these key questions:

Let’s jump in!

What Are Smart Collections, and Why Are They Vital for Online Retail Brand Success?

Simply put, smart collections enable stores to automatically organize product lists and ensure they are always up to date. This means every time you add a new product or variant to your store, it will be automatically added to the relevant smart collections. And when you delete or sell out of a product, it will be automatically removed.

But it’s a little bit more involved than this — at least it should be!

Smart collections, or categories, allow online retailers to dynamically show online shoppers' product lists arranged by certain real-time data conditions. Sellers set these conditions ahead of time to help automate product discovery and ultimately move shoppers to product pages.

And why are such smart collections so crucial to the overall success of your brand?

Smart collections help potential shoppers find the products they are looking for. Remember, your store’s category pages or product collections are vital digital touchpoints on a successful buying journey.

You want them to find the right product they need as smoothly as possible. Here’s a basic example.

Smart Collection Product Sorting Example

An online shopper is looking at shirts and clicks your home banner that takes them to your shirts collection. Here, the shopper is presented with a list of products organized by default settings. Now, in the case of Shopify collections, these default settings could be any one of these parameters set by the seller in their collection sorting rules:

  • Best-selling products
  • Product titles
  • Highest or lowest price first
  • Newest or oldest products first
  • A manual arrangement set by the seller

For this collection example, let’s say you have sorted your products by newest product first to ensure the shopper is seeing your latest shirt products first — helping them to quickly find the most fashionable, “fresh” option. But what about sorting by margins? Price? Or demand?

As you can see in the example above, merchants are limited to sorting products by one main parameter in the case of Shopify collections. Even if you’re opting for a personalized product sorting Shopify app, they are also just using one rule set: personalization — which is not nearly enough.

If you really want to upgrade your online store’s product discovery, you need smart collections that consider more than one criterion at once. Here’s why.

Shopify Tip: You can read more about Shopify sorting specifically in our Best Product Sorting Strategy for Shopify Stores guide.

Why Are One-Parameter Smart Collections Not Enough?

Product sorting is the most critical factor in your category pages and product collections. Without optimized category pages, you’re missing out on:

  • Organic traffic
  • Optimized user experience
  • Product views
  • Conversions
  • Long-term profit

…Just to name a few. 

And if you’re only optimizing these product lists by a single parameter that basic smart collection allows for, they aren’t actually optimized to their full potential.

To truly optimize your collection or category sorting, you should consider both marketing and retail KPIs. You don’t just want to help a shopper find a product that they would be highly interested in; you want that product to also give you the best profit margins.

Doing this over time ensures long-term profitability and eCommerce growth.

Bottom line: One-parameter smart collections aren’t enough to ensure optimized product discoverability.

The Dangers of Limited Smart Collections

Let’s say you create a smart collection rule whereby you only show products in stock. Great, shoppers are only seeing available products. Then the potential shoppers may use manual filters, such as bestsellers, price, and type, to further sort products. In this hypothetical, they opt for bestsellers. 

Great, now they see available best-selling products (a key marketing KPI).

But what you want at this stage would be a list of best-selling products displayed in an order that also coincides with your retail goals. Or, in other words: you want to be able to enhance product discovery with advanced product sorting.


If you’re not using advanced sorting, you could find yourself in a loop where you’re only showing shoppers 20% of your available products (known as the eCommerce Pareto principle), with the remainder in danger of becoming dead stock — which costs your business in a big way.

However, with multi-parameter smart collections, you don’t just help reduce non-moving inventory, but you can boost conversions and profits. Here’s a breakdown of the results of just one case study showing how a brand increased its profits by 8% in just four weeks.

You can read more about these results here.

Now that we know the what and the why, let’s look at the how.

How to Upgrade Product Discovery with Multi-Parameter Smart Collections?

As we established above, to optimize product discovery, you want to combine automation (smart collections) with multi-parameter product sorting. Therefore, advanced product sorting means using a combination of parameters best suited for your business and shoppers to answer their product needs while matching your profit goals.

First, you want to tap into the minds of your customers to determine their wants and needs. Additionally, you’ll want to consider how they navigate your store, the products they are interested in, and what brought them to your store.

Next, you will need to tap into your specific retail and inventory needs and goals. You want to ensure you are pushing products that offer the most profit potential while also ensuring you are moving inventory well enough to prevent profit loss due to poor inventory management.

Mixing these two key goals can be incredibly powerful. Here are just a few of the parameters you can use to sort your product collections or categories:

  • Personalization (to each specific shopper’s behavior)
  • Product reviews and ratings
  • Total revenue or sales
  • Product margins before and after discounts
  • Days in store or days since back in stock
  • Product pageviews
  • Inventory value
  • Variant stock ratio

In essence, we’re talking about building a complex, yet profitable, online merchandising strategy that factors in all business goals for collections and sorting.

That is great, but you’ll need the right tools to do this. Implementing these strategies manually (especially for those with large categories) can be virtually impossible.

Instead, you will need an advanced merchandising tool with multi-channel parameter sorting. There is only one such holistic eCommerce merchandising tool.

You can book a free demo here.

Final Thoughts: Invest in Smart Merchandising

There is no denying that smart collections play a vital role in streamlining online product discovery. The trick is combining the automated power of smart collections (or third-party AI-powered tools) with advanced merchandising strategies.

This gets you smart merchandising. Merchandising that dynamically answers a potential shopper's needs while considering important eCommerce business goals beyond mere marketing.

Got product sorting merchandising questions? Our eCommerce merchandising experts are here to help. You can reach out to them here.

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