Category Pages: Why Yours Don’t Work and 3 Ways Personalization Can Help

Your category pages are Google’s front door to your site. They not only receive the lion’s share of your site’s traffic, but for many searchers, they’re also the first impression of your brand.  

Personalization is Now Expected

61% of US online adults are unlikely to return to a website that does not provide a satisfactory customer experience,” according to research from Forrester (emphasis mine).

Frustrated shopper

We have known for years now that many consumers are annoyed when on-site content doesn’t cater to their interests. One study suggests it’s as many as 74%! 

When it comes to providing a satisfactory customer experience, personalization is essential.

Yet most category and sub-category pages aren’t personalized in any way.

You’re missing a huge opportunity to offer the most relevant experience to each visitor if you’re not personalizing your category pages to tailor content to their preferences and intent. 

Here are three ways personalizing your category pages for the various searchers landing on them will improve their experience.

(Note these three apply to your landing pages, as well.)

1. Category Pages and Shopper Intent

Men's Sport-coats

Shoppers express their intent and interest the minute they land on one of your site’s category pages. Whether dresses, sports coats, or televisions, the page’s offerings brought them in.

By listening to their behavior (for example, their product views or search queries), you gain deeper insight into their intentions and preferences and can use this to personalize your category pages for them.  

If a shopper has looked at particular brands, colors, or styles on your site prior to landing on a category page, you have a wealth of information you can use to re-rank the results of that page when they arrive. Instead of showing the most popular products, you can leverage the shopper’s behavior to re-prioritize the items that appear on the page.

For many retailers, this is a foreign thought.

Not because they think it’s a bad idea to help each customer find what they’re looking for with ease. Rather, it’s because category pages have always been seen as static or near-static ecommerce pages.

But with today’s technology, category pages can offer an engaging and unique experience by responding to each shopper’s intent in real time. Personalized category pages create the micro-moments of the responsive merchandising that differentiates today’s leading brands.

And with the raised expectations of today’s consumer, there is no time to waste.

2. Category Pages with Memory

A hallmark of great retail customer service is recognizing your customer.

You wouldn’t want to treat a returning customer to your brick-and-mortar store as someone new, so why do it online? When a shopper returns to your site, they’ll appreciate it if you recognize them as known and valued.

A known shopper

This applies to your entire site when possible, and it certainly applies to your category pages.

If a customer comes to your site and shops for a dress by looking at several black evening gowns, when they return it shouldn’t to a generic category page filled with your most popular dresses. Instead, they should return to a category page that re-ranks dresses based on the style of those they most recently shopped for. In this case, black evening gowns should be at the top of the page.

By recognizing a shopper’s preferences you save them time. No sorting through a generic list of dresses. No applying filters to pare down the number. Instead, they see the most relevant dresses at the top of the page right as they land.

And time well spent is appreciated. When shoppers discover what they want without friction, the odds they will convert and purchase increase dramatically. Consider, for example, O’Neill, who saw a 26% increase in conversions with personalization.

3. Responding to the Unknown Shopper

But how do you personalize a page if you don’t know the shopper?

Anonymous shopper

You might be surprised by what you do know the minute searchers land on your page. This knowledge includes contextual shopper signals such as:

    • Their IP address, which provides their most likely geographical location
    • Their operating system
    • The inbound link they used
    • The season, time of day, and a number of other subtle signals  

These signals can be immediately put to work to create the most relevant experience possible for anonymous shoppers. But doing so requires a dynamic category page that responds to each individual shopper by making inferences.

These inferences can be automated common sense.

If, for example, someone in Florida lands on your men’s boots category page in December, odds are the assortment of boots they’re looking for are different from those someone in New York is. Using this geographical and seasonal data, personalized category pages curate each shopper’s experience — offering the right products at the ideal time.  

But these inferences can also be more complex and based on sophisticated statistical models.

Here’s a great example. Over time our machine learning-powered personalization solution learned that if someone used an IOS device to visit our client’s multigender apparel site between 1:00 and 5:00 PM, then there was an over 70% chance the visitor was interested in women’s apparel.

And just like that, a perfect merchandising opportunity was born and automatically put to use at the appropriate times.

These are just two ways that personalized category pages use numerous data points to create an individualized experience even for anonymous shoppers.

And like the empathetic brick-and-mortar associate who learns more about her customers over time, AI-powered personalization solutions learn more about shoppers with each interaction and use this knowledge to update the experience in real time, leading to impressive results.

O'Neill Results

Like O’Neill, Fashion to Figure and Godiva have both seen double-digit increases in conversions with personalization. While this is huge, the most important thing is they have improved the way customers experience their brand. And in the long run, that’s priceless.

If you’re interested in learning more about personalizing your category pages, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.

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