The Ultimate “A/B Test” Guide for your Ecommerce Category Pages

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It's pretty simple, every visitor of your ecommerce website is a potential customer and the more visitors you convert, the more successful you will be. But, in order to be converted into buyers, users have to go through a conversion funnel.

In other words, you have to make them follow all the steps of your funnel to ensure their conversion into buyers.

However, this is easier said than done because you don’t have to just optimize a single page, rather the whole buying process.

This is because not all buyers’ journey starts from the same point.

Some potential buyers start their journey from the homepage of your website, whereas others may directly land on a category or product page from a search engine.

While this slightly changes the journey that prospective buyers follow, there is one step that remains common: visiting the category page(s).

Although not all website visitors will check out all of your category pages, they typically do visit at least one of them.

To make the most out of it i.e. to make sure as many of your visitors move forward with the buying process from the category page as possible, your category pages have to have the best of everything.

From content to images to the design, each and every element of the category pages of your ecommerce store needs to strike the right chord with your audience.

Along with this, you need to make sure that the category pages are designed in a way that it is easy for the users to find their desired product.

When it comes to coming up with the best version of a webpage and figuring out what attracts, impress, excites, and convinces your audience, there is no better way of doing it than A/B testing.

Why Should You A/B Test the Category Pages of Your Ecommerce Website?

There is no denying the fact that A/B testing takes the guesswork out of it and helps ecommerce business owners take measures that have been found to work scientifically.

The basic idea behind testing the category pages of your ecommerce store is the same as with other elements or pages – to come up with the best possible design that works with your audience.

Since every business caters to a unique audience, it has to come up with a unique approach to attract, engage, and convert them.

You cannot just follow what other businesses are doing, even if they are from the same industry you operate in because what works for them won’t necessarily work for you.

In order to ensure that you offer just what your audience is looking for, you have to devise a customized plan.

A/B testing helps you do just that!

While it may initially appear that it makes you invest a lot more time, effort, and money, A/B testing, in fact, helps you save all these things.

It ensures that you only implement changes on your website that are known to work with your audience and help you make them move a step closer to buying.

Lastly, A/B testing also allows you to evolve with the changing needs and behaviors of your potential buyers.

A/B testing the category pages of your ecommerce store is essential because, as mentioned above, they are the pages that many of your prospective buyers visit, regardless of how and where they started their journey from.

And you would want them to move forward from here and not leave the website because they couldn’t find the desired product or there isn’t much information available regarding it.

In case you are having trouble comprehending why it is important to A/B test the category pages of your website, put yourself in the buyer’s shoe for a minute.

Imagine you visit a clothing website to buy a basic white t-shirt. But, when you check out the categories list, you can't find a section for white tees or t-shirts.

How would you feel and what you are most likely to do?

Will you be willing to check out all categories section to find your desired piece of clothing i.e. a white tee?

If you are like most people, you would feel frustrated and leave the website.

There will hardly be any user who would go through the whole list of products to find the one they are looking for.

To sum up, the category pages of your ecommerce store are one of the most important areas that need to be regularly improved to match the audience’s taste and behavior and this really can only be done through A/B testing.

A/B Testing Ideas for Optimizing the Category Pages of Your Website

Optimizing the category pages is typically simpler than improving other pages of the website.

This is because you generally do not have to make huge changes and can improve your conversion rate by making small and simple tweaks.

These pages are not where users expect to find detailed information about products and so you don't have to strike the perfect cord with your copy and product images just yet. That's what the product pages are for.

But you do have to make sure they find the right product and move deeper in the funnel.

To help you begin with category pages A/B testing and improve their performance, here are some simple testing ideas and optimization tips:

Grid View vs. List View

The layout is one of the most important elements to test when it comes to A/B testing the category pages.

How your audience is going to see the products when they visit a category page? In grids or in the form of a list?

There is no universal answer to this question; both the views work for different types of businesses.

The key to choosing the right display option for a category page is to consider the type of products you offer and the buying criteria of customers.

Grid view is generally considered the better option for products that do not require much explaining and the buyers can get most of the information just by looking at the pictures.

Clothes are the best example of such products. But, it can also be used for some gift items, home furnishings, and toys.

For these types of products, it's easy for users to self-segment themselves and discard products they are not interested in.

Do I want a shirt? No.

Do I want pants? Yes.

If you sell these kind of products, then a grid view can be the best layout.

List view, on the other hand, is considered the better option for products that require explaining to make buyers understand their real value and/or what they have to offer.

It is also the better layout for products that look similar, but have a difference in their functioning.

Supplements, electronics and software are the best examples of products that cannot be purchased just on the basis of pictures and customers need additional information to make the buying decision.  

However, as mentioned above, there is no universal answer to what type of category page display is best for a website.

Also, what works for one category page may not work for the other.

So, don’t make a guess and test both types of views for all your category pages (or at least the most popular or visited ones) to figure out which one gets the better response.

While having different views for different categories require a lot more time, effort, and resources than having one view for all your category pages, it is definitely worth it.

Highlighting Best Product(s) On The Top Of a Category Page

Many websites display one or more of their best-rated or best-selling products on the top of the category pages. This is a way to increase customer engagement and improve the chances of conversion.

Product Filters

A good converting funnel simplifies the buying process as much as possible. Since searching for the right product plays an integral part, you should aim to make it easy for your users to find the right product. Filters can help you do that!

You can either opt for just one filter, such as price range, gender, usage or a prominent feature, or go for a set of filters.

In both cases, however, you should run a few A/B tests to figure out which one or the set of filters is providing the best result.

Contrary to the common perception, having more filters does not always work better. In some cases, it can even annoy users. So, always test before implementing filters.

One way to start with a bit of data is to look at heatmaps and the way users are interacting with them. Move the popular filters higher on the page if you have many of them. Also consider removing the ones that don't get much attention.

The position of filters on the category pages also needs to be tested. The standard is to the left, but sometimes that prevents users from seeing more products which lowers conversions.

Sorting

For those who do not know, the criteria used to figure out or determine the order in which the products are shown on a category page is called sorting.

There are several criteria you can use for sorting, such as alphabetical order, from most popular to less popular, date of manufacturing or production (from latest to old), and price.

In addition to these default sorting orders, you can also test some new niche-specific ones that you think can generate a better response. For example, you can try sorting the products based on the availability of the stock, with the products ending soon on top, or on the basis of customer ratings.  

Try Making the Parent Categories Selectable

In an eight-month-long research study on product finding focusing on the category list, the Baymard Institute found that many users try clicking on the parent categories, but they were not clickable on most websites.

The research didn’t identify the reasons behind this user behavior, but it could be because of unspecified needs. For example, users visiting an apparel store have an identified need for clothes, but may not know what exactly they want to buy. So, they may want an overview of a category, with all the subcategories, to reach a decision.

To see if it makes any difference in your conversion rate, create a version of your category list in which the parent categories can be clicked and take the users to an overview page and A/B test it against the original version.

Displaying Customer Reviews And Ratings

The importance of customer reviews and ratings and their impact on the conversion rate have long been established. They are a lot more valued and trusted by potential buyers than the product descriptions given by the manufacturers, especially when it comes to making costly purchases. Customer reviews are also a sign of a business’s credibility.

In a survey, 63% of the respondents said that they were more likely to make a purchase from a website that has customer reviews.

The importance of customer reviews and ratings make them worth testing.

Category Pages A/B Testing Examples

Just in case you still have doubts about the importance of A/B testing the category pages of your website,  here are a couple of examples where businesses experienced an improvement in page performance and ultimately in conversion rate by testing various elements of the category pages:

SpinLife

Spinlife is an ecommerce store that sells different types of medical and mobility equipment, such as wheelchairs, mobility scooters, lift chairs, and wheelchair ramps. The company tested the two variations of category page displays i.e. the grid view and the list view. The test result showed that the list view received a better response and had a greater conversion rate – it generated 16.1% more sales than the category page with a grid view.

Buyakilt.com

An online retailer of kilts and dresses, Buyakilt experienced a whopping 76.1% increase in their revenue by adding a product filter on one of their category pages.

Conclusion

Since category pages show the range and breadth of your products to your potential buyers and often introduce them to the whole range of your offerings, they are prime applicants for A/B testing.

Most of the users perform a quick scan of your category list to determine if you have what they want and will only visit a category page if something grabs their attention.

Your goal should then be to make as many people visit your category pages as possible and then to make them move ahead and visit product pages and ultimately make the purchase. Optimization of category pages through A/B testing is therefore a huge part of a successful ecommerce funnel.

So follow the category pages A/B testing ideas given above to make sure you don’t lose potential customers just because your category list was messed up or they couldn’t find what they were looking for.

It's certainly worth it!

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