Shopping by Preference: Do Filters Help or Hinder Sales?

Like many aspects of digital interface, product filters – aka faceted navigation – are a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you sell a wide variety of groceries, then shoppers expect to use filters as they browse your site. But that doesn't mean just any filters will suffice. In fact, poorly implemented filters can significantly hinder your sales.

What kind of filters lead to the highest conversion rate? How can you make sure your filters enhance, not sabotage, your customer experience? What's the relationship between faceted navigation and SEO?

Let's take a closer look at the many facets of filtering, and how your grocery business can create a sophisticated UX that will increase conversions, drive sales, and of course, keep your customers coming back for more.

What exactly do filters do?

In short, filters help shoppers narrow down their search. In retail, filters such as size, color, print, and fabric type are now standard. In grocery, filters typically range from type of food (dairy, produce) to dietary labels (organic, gluten-free). In the future, it may become common to see filters such as sourcing (local, fair trade) and "healthiness."

Aside from that, filters can also help shoppers discover more products they might like. For instance, if a customer adds gluten-free cereal to her digital cart, your "suggested for you" items could entice her with gluten-free oatmeal. The trick is to help shoppers find what they need while still displaying new items that are likely to match their criteria. 

The problem with poor filters

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, the majority of online shoppers don't browse for products; they go straight to the search tool – which means your filters better be top notch.

Poorly created filters can lead to:

  • Lower sales. If a customer can't find what they're looking for – and quickly – don't expect them to stick around. According to Search Engine Watch, 80% of shoppers say that a bad search experience will make them leave the site.

  • Poor SEO ranking. Since each combination of filters creates a specific results page, a poor filtering system will often result in multiple duplicate pages, making your website appear to be full of useless content – which will lead Google to demote you, in terms of visibility. Filters can also sabotage your crawl budget (the number of pages that Google will index on your site). On top of that, if a user's search yields no results, they'll come to a blank page, which is also a blow to your SEO.

What are the facets of faceted navigation, anyway?

A strong faceted search system entails more than simple filters. In fact, there are dozens of aspects to consider, such as:

  • "Wish list" or save-for-later option

  • Product suggestions and autocorrect, including natural language processing

  • Personalized search 

  • Easy add-to-cart buttons

  • Clean and attractive design, including view (list, table, grid) options and images, and 

  • Infinite scrolling rather than page-by-page search results

How to create strong faceted navigation

  • Prioritize the filters that shoppers click on most. This might take some experimenting. Monitor your site's analytics to learn what your customers are searching for. Don't be afraid to change your filters according to what's popular. 

  • Be creative when suggesting products. Suggest items that go well together, too. If a customer searches for lettuce, don't just show her vegetables—suggest salad dressings and toppings, too. Also, remember that customers' needs change with the seasons, so add holiday-themed or seasonal filters like "Halloween" when appropriate. And, as always, listen to your customers. If you have a lot of requests for local produce or non-GMO ingredients, add those as filters option.

  • Work with an expert to create the best user experience (and mitigate potential SEO damage). Creating strong faceted navigation requires advanced back-end support. Given the complexity of such a task, it's often best to outsource your digital store to an expert. Scout out a third-party eCommerce partner who knows the industry's best practices, offers leading end-to-end software, and will keep your unique brand front and center across all digital interfaces. (For more on how to find the best eCommerce partner for your business, click here.)

As more and more grocers go digital, it's crucial that your business invests in sophisticated, scalable technology that serves your brand and delivers the most cutting-edge software possible, whether you're talking about faceted navigation, a mobile-first strategy, or simple fulfilment options like click-and-collect. To learn more about how locai can help your grocery business do all that and more, visit us here.