Driving Product Findability: Part - 1 - Taxonomy

Imagine this, a typical online shopping scenario that customers find themselves in more often than one would like. You're looking for a phone case for a particular brand of phones. You visit the website hoping to find what you're looking for, and do the most instinctive thing. Navigate. Phones -> Your phone brand -> Accessories. But you don't find any covers here. Your first assumption would be that the website doesn't have phone covers of your particular phone brand.

However, patience prevails and you decide to try your luck with a search query. You scroll through the first couple of pages and finally find the cover for your phone brand. While the eventual outcome may seem favorable, this is not what particularly qualifies as a satisfactory buying journey. In fact, present- day shoppers have far less patience, so if they don't find what they're looking for at the first attempt, they move on.

And this is what brings us to our two-part series cracking product findability. There are two primary approaches to finding a product:

1. Browse

2. Search

And more often than not, shoppers use a hybrid of these approaches. Part 1 of our journey to ensuring that customers find your products easily will deal primarily with the 'browse' approach (which, in phases, can also drive the 'search' approach). And this is what brings us to the subject of this part - product taxonomy.

What is Product Taxonomy?

A taxonomy is a structured and indexed framework that is used to categorize products in a manner that is intuitive and easy to use. As customers move down categories, they find more specific products; and as they go up, they find broader, more generic areas. In other words, taxonomy is the process of categorizing, organizing, grouping, and most critically, understanding why the process is being carried out.

It's not just about throwing products together under different categories and calling it a day. Sound taxonomy requires a hybrid approach that demands a strong understanding of both, your products and your customers. Here's an example: Your product range might include shirts for boys and girls. The logical way to categorize products would be this:

  • Apparel -> Boys -> Clothing -> Shirts
  • Apparel -> Girls -> Clothing-> Shirts

While this may seem simple, the other way to go about this could also be:

  • Apparel -> Clothing -> Shirts -> Boys
  • Apparel -> Clothing-> Shirts -> Girls

In a vacuum, both these options may seem reasonable and logical, however, the key here is to understand not just your product types, but also industry norms and customer preferences. This is where it becomes critical to take the right call. Then again, taxonomy doesn't just affect the 'browsers'; it impacts 'searchers' as well. As searchers land on your website, they might directly go to the search bar and look for 'boy's shirts'. This is where your categorizing and naming convention, both crucial elements of taxonomy, can be just as important.

Product Taxonomy Best Practices

  • Leverage customer data

    The way customers shop online is always evolving based on trends, technology and other factors. The best way to understand these online shopping behavioral trends is to test every aspect of your product hierarchies and categories. Look for metrics such as time spent on pages, conversion rates, links clicked, bounce rates etc. to get a better understanding of how your taxonomy is affecting the shopping experience. You can do this, by A/B testing or even surveys if you have a wide enough group of responders.

  • Know your products

    Easier said than done! While customer-centricity is vital to success in digital commerce, an in- depth understanding of your products is equally critical. You must know what attributes of your product drive behavior and how to make the most of them. Towards this, you need to have a few of these questions answered:

    • What differentiates my product in the market?
    • What do customers like about my product?
    • What are the industry norms/expectations for similar products in terms of taxonomy?

    Answer these key questions and you will enable a product-centric approach, and also develop the ability to optimize product datasets for the desired business outcomes.

  • Optimize for SEO

    Product taxonomies can also play a vital role in search. And this applies not only to internal site search but search engine performance as well. Leveraging this potential, however, requires you to optimize your taxonomy with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. This would include the inclusion of elements such as meta content (titles and descriptions), images, and keyword use.

    Extensive research and effort on keyword use is appreciated by search engines, but also make sure you don't overdo it. The key here is to optimize taxonomy and URLs in a way that makes product discovery easier for your customers; nothing more, nothing less.

  • Frugal and Smart Categorization

    If you think your current taxonomy requires your customer to spend more time on navigation than on the actual product, chances are you’ve overcategorized. Adding too many subcategories and levels happens when one tries to get too specific with categorizing the product. And this is ideally not what taxonomy should be about. The ideal depth of your hierarchy should not exceed two to three categories, and the reason for this is the simple formula:

  • Lesser clicks to find a product = lower bounce rate

    A good way to ensure this is to differentiate attributes vs. sub-categories. For example, if your parent category is 'Men's Apparel', and the sub category is 'Men's Shirts', you're fine. However, if you have another subcategory for 'Long Sleeve Shirts', you've made the mistake of taking an attribute and converting it into a subcategory.

  • Categorize to Reduce Confusion

    As customers navigate through your site, the process should be intuitive and linear. This means that there should be a clear and unified path for customers to get to the desired product. The key to doing this is to reduce duplicate categories, homogenize nomenclature and avoid categorizing the same product under more than one sub-category. There will, of course, be exceptions to these rules. However, more often than not, these factors are common amongst most successful taxonomies.

    Again, naming your categories correctly is just as important as zeroing down on the right hierarchy and relationships. The most basic rule to follow is to use nomenclature that you know your customer is most likely to use. An easy way to identify this is to know your customer, but you would also want to keep an eye on industry norms and best practices to get your nomenclature right. For example, if you're products are for a B2B audience, you would want specific, even technical nomenclature that industry customers would understand. On the other hand, with B2C customers, you would want to do away with all jargon and use the most commonly used terms. 'Horses for courses' is the key here.

  • Following the ‘don’ts’ of Taxonomy and Categorization

    Equally important is to avoid a few critical missteps that can render product taxonomies a mess. Here are the common ones to avoid:

    • Avoid using the ‘other’ category, because that’s usually not what customers are looking for. While we did mention avoiding overcategorization, in this case, it just makes more sense to create a relevant subcategory for products. Then again, if you think you have too many one-off products that don’t necessarily require dedicated subcategories, you probably want to rethink the place of the product in your catalog in the first place.
    • As far as possible, try avoiding categorizing products to more than one node. Placing products in multiple categories doesn’t just hamper the customer experience, it also messes up stock management, product reporting and purchase orders.
    • Similarly, you must also avoid duplication and overlapping of categories. Too many choices lead to further confusion, so you would want to make sure you keep things down to a minimum. And this is possible if you categorize correctly. So, instead of having a taxonomy that looks like this:

    It makes more sense to have one that looks like this:

How PIM Drives Product Taxonomy

While getting the logic right to design product taxonomy is critical, you must also find the right tools to execute this logic. And when it comes to categorizing millions of products, the challenge becomes even more daunting. This is where an advanced tool for product information management (PIM) can do the magic. These are some key benefits to finding the right PIM to master taxonomy:

  • Data Governance:

    With the right PIM tool, you get the benefit of setting data governance rules to make sure your data quality and integrity is always intact. With no need to manually check various data touchpoints, you can easily set a clear and objective chain of command.

  • Quality Metrics:

    Automated audits of your product data make sure that your taxonomy is always in keeping with data standards. With a good PIM, you get the advantage of data quality tracking without going through the trouble of manual intervention.

  • Automation and AI:

    Automated taxonomy design and categorization sounds like a thing of the future, but it’s already here. You can get predesigned taxonomy templates to build catalogs on, and make changes to suit the template to your specific requirements. Similarly, you can bulk categorize millions of products automatically and get your products out to your customers faster than ever before.

Amaze PXM: Designed to Drive Future-Ready Taxonomy Building & Categorization

As a next-gen PIM solution, Amaze PXM gives you complete control over the process of taxonomy building and categorization. Amaze has all the features you need to ensure robust governance and high data integrity. In addition to this, it offers futuristic AI-driven recommendations for taxonomy building that make the job a whole lot easier. Not only does it eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel, it also directly accelerates time-to-market with automated categorization for countless products.

Looking to build the taxonomy for your business’ ascent? Try Amaze:

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