With the holidays right around the corner now is the perfect time to do some optimization on your category pages. While this is something you should be doing year-round, it’s more important than ever to have these pages ready for holiday shoppers so you have the best Q4 ever.
Category page optimization is a combination of housekeeping and merchandising. Many store owners don’t take the time to clean up category pages or arrange products in a way that benefits the shoppers and the company’s bottom line.
I like to use a supermarket aisle as an example when talking about category pages. As you wander down each aisle in the grocery store, the product is strategically placed based on seasonality, special offers, manufacturer promos, etc. Popular products are placed at eye level, while less popular ones are relegated to less conspicuous spots on the shelves.
Grocery store end caps are always designed to be eye-catching, feature some type of special offer, or showcase something new, seasonal, and one of those things you’re not going to be able to pass up.
A lot of time is put behind where and how products are displayed on grocery store shelves in order to have a positive impact on the store’s bottom line and the same should be done with your online store’s shelves – aka categories.
Let’s take that trip to the grocery store and apply some of the tactics used there to optimize category pages in different online stores.
The first example I’ll give is a clothing store that sells men’s jeans. There are a lot of different brands of jeans to choose from and one of the most popular is Levi’s. While new jean styles don’t come out every day, when they do they’re always a big seller, so it’s important to make sure this new style gets visibility.
One way to do that is to make the new style of Levi’s appear at the very top of the category page, followed by the second best-selling style, third, etc. The slowest moving styles should be placed on the bottom of the page – or the bottom shelf in the grocery store.
Another example involves clothing, this time sweaters. A clothing store that wants to take advantage of the popularity of office ugly sweater contests just brought in a line of men’s and women’s “ugly” sweaters. Along with having a category dedicated just to them, they want to also put them on their men’s sweaters and women’s sweaters category pages.
While they don’t want to give these items top billing, they want to make sure they appear on the first of four pages of sweaters they have available for sale, so placing them in just the right spot so they load on page one is important.
Going back to the grocery store for a moment, the famous “Cola Wars” from the 80s is still going on. Both Coke and Pepsi pay for placement on store shelves and endcaps as do many other manufacturers. In the next example, let’s use those two brands in a fictional online grocery store.
In our soda category, we have Pepsi, Coke, Shasta, RC, Canada Dry, and Mountain Dew products that are displayed in that order followed by off-beat specialty brands. Coke just offered us a deal on Classic Coke, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero and part of that deal requires us to place all Coke products as the first ones on the page but Pepsi products must be the last products displayed.
Of course, we want to take advantage of the deal, so we change our category page around to have the products display in this order: Coke, Shasta, RC, Canada Dry, Mountain Dew, the specialty brands, and lastly Pepsi.
These are just a few examples of how you can optimize your category pages, but now you may be wondering how to do it!
How to Sort Products in Shopify
If you’re on the Shopify platform, you can manually sort the way products display on category (collection) pages by setting your product sort to “Manual” and then drag and drop the product to the exact spot you want it to appear when the category page is loaded.
How to Sort Products in BigCommerce
If you’re on the BigCommerce platform, the process is much more complicated. Actually, it’s pretty complex and involves setting up a sort order value for a product. By default, all products have a 0 value assigned to them and products are displayed on a category page based on a lowest to highest value. So a product with a sort order of 25 will appear closer to the top than a product with a sort order of 50.
But what if you wanted to place a product at the very top? You would enter a negative value, such as -1 to a product.
The more merchandising you do on your category pages in BigCommerce the more frustrated you’ll get trying to master the art of sort order values and then having to go into each product and change values after a season or promotion.
Is there an Easy Way to Sort Products in BigCommerce?
Knowing that this is a pain point for many merchants, we built an easy-to-use app called Magic Sorter to make sorting products on category pages much easier and similar to how it’s done in Shopify.
Using the Magic Sorter app for BigCommerce is simple! Just load the category page you want to sort items on and drag and drop items to exactly where you want them to appear! It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Need to move that new style of Levi’s to the top of the page? Just drag and drop and you’re done!
Did Pepsi just give you a better deal than Coke and it’s time to push Coke to the bottom of the list? Get it done in just a matter of seconds with Magic Sorter.
Keeping your category pages aligned with promotions and seasons is an important part of running a successful eCommerce store and using the power of merchandising to place products where they will get the most (or least) visibility is key.
Shopify store owners already have the ability to drag-and-drop products exactly where they want them, but if you’re on BigCommerce, you’ll need Magic Sorter to make it easy.
Install the Magic Sorter app from the BigCommerce app store and take advantage of our free trial to see just how easy it is to get your category pages ready for the busy holiday shopping season ahead!
Scott Sanfilippo began his eCommerce journey in 1994 by co-founding one of the Internet’s first online retailers, TheFerretStore.com, which was acquired by PetCo in 2006. In 2001, he co-founded the eCommerce design and marketing firm Solid Cactus, which was acquired by web.com in 2009. Today, Scott is the General Manager of Your Store Wizards and lives in Delray Beach, FL. Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.