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Consumer behaviour shift: Are you prepared for filtered search?

12 April 2019

By Drew Smith

Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Volo and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.

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What’s the biggest challenge facing your fashion ecommerce presence?

Every ecommerce team has concerns and challenges unique to their brand and organisation, but most would agree that everything hinges on visibility.  If your target audience can’t find your product, you’ve lost sales before you had a chance to work some conversion rate optimisation (CRO) magic.

There are literally millions of clothing and accessories products for consumers to choose from. To secure a share of the very lucrative fashion ecommerce market, you need to ensure your product offering is visible to customers searching the right terms. In 2019, that means mastering the filtered search.

Consumers' use of filtered searches requires urgent action 

The world of online fashion retail has evolved at a rapid pace over the past few years, not least because of the sheer volume of products being listed online. Consumers have consequently changed their approach to finding items, and increasingly rely on filtered searches to narrow down their options from millions to tens or hundreds of items.

Searches that include generic terms like “Dress”, “Shoes” or “Casual Shirt” will return thousands of apparel items, especially when those searches are conducted on search engines or major retail marketplaces like Amazon. Shoppers are unlikely to sift through the mass of results – most searchers never get past page 1 of the search results.

Searches using these generic keywords are frequently filtered post-search, using the drop-down menus available on Google, Amazon and elsewhere. Alternatively, they will reframe their search to include richer details like colours, materials or sizes. With either method, they are filtering their searches.

These are the two main ways to conduct filtered searches:

  • Using more specific search terms. For example, searching “men’s brown brogues” rather than “men’s shoes”.
  • Using filters to hide products that do not meet their specific requirements, opting to show the relevant items only.

We’ve all done this when searching for items, whether it means ticking a box that shows the right Size, Brand, or Style. Those filters are the key for consumers to find the clothes that they’re looking for in the fastest possible time, which explains their increasing use.

Why does this matter for fashion brands?

Failure to adapt your business to these changing consumer behaviours will significantly impact the search exposure of your products, make marketing harder and reduce conversion. Here’s a quick list of problem points caused by lack of intelligently adapted product data to appear in filtered searches:

  • Failure to appear in filtered searches completed using the filter tabs on Google Shopping, Amazon, and other platforms;
  • Failure to appear in organic searches because Google won’t be able to verify that your items are as relevant as the products of your competitors;
  • Failure to spark an interest from clients even when they do see your products due to the ambiguity of the inadequate listings;
  • Failure to gain consumer trust because your brand and products will have failed to stand out or claim the high-ranking positions commonly associated with quality;
  • Failure to make the most of your marketing budget as poor organic results will force you to spend more on PPC and other paid advertising;
  • Increased CPA on paid search and Shopping campaigns as search algorithms do not have the data to see that listings are relevant to the right search terms.

As an example, Google’s algorithm will always prefer to display the most relevant Shopping listings it has available, so a relevant listing would cost less to display compared to a listing which is less relevant. If the algorithm cannot confirm that your product is relevant to the right search, it’s likely to prefer a competitor listing which has the data ensuring that it is clearly relevant. The outcome is that you have to spend more to compensate for the disadvantage in relevancy.

With this in mind, you’ll want to ensure that your product data feed is up to scratch before you send it to Google and be confident that each Amazon listing has all of the appropriate product attributes filled out.

Data is key - visible and invisible

Product listings need high quality photography which shows off your products and insightful product descriptions that help to convert browsers into buyers.. However,  to appear in product search results outside of your own ecommerce website, you need to provide third-party platforms with rich backend data. These are data fields which aren’t necessarily surfaced directly to the customer in a search result, but which affect how the search engine understands and ranks your product.

So what should you be including in your data feed to Google or Amazon?

The importance of different data points will vary between brands, between channels, and also changes over time. That said, it's easy enough to get a rough idea of what the most important data to include will be. Ask yourself: how can you best answer the key questions that consumers will be asking during their searches?

  • Is the item in my size?
  • Is it the right stylistic fit? (Jeans can be skinny, superskinny, bootcut, etc.)
  • Is the product in my price range?
  • Is the product the right colour?
  • Is the product from a brand I like?
  • Is it menswear, womenswear, or gender neutral?

By including these attributes as data fields in your feed to channels, you allow the search engines to associate the right products from your brand with relevant search queries, boosting your visibility.

How to include the data for channels

One of the reasons why brands can struggle to adapt to filtered search is that the manual process becomes deeply complex. That is because different platforms require you to input this enriched data differently.

For example, Google Shopping doesn’t have a ‘fit’ attribute, that information needs to be conveyed in the ‘size’ function. Different platforms have different levels of detail when it comes to their colour filters. You need to think about all of this if you want to appear to customers using detailed words in a search function, or using filter box options.  

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Search engines and global marketplaces rely heavily on data. Therefore, you need to ensure that your marketing strategy embraces this factor to gain the necessary traffic and visibility through those platforms.

Efficiently deliver consistently high-quality branded listings

Given that you will be publishing information on several platforms, it’s important that you maintain a level of consistency at all times. However, copy and pasting descriptions into multiple places can negatively impact your SEO due to Google ‘duplicate content’ penalties. You will also fail to optimise for each channel when taking this approach.

Trying to approach this issue manually can start to eat up every waking moment for your already maxed-out ecommerce team. You need to be able to work smarter and more effectively, using technology to take away the manual pain and point your team towards the most effective optimisations.

In response to changes like filtered searches in the ecommerce landscape, a number of purpose-built ecommerce software solutions have arisen to replace traditional PIM or listing solutions. New technologies allow you to automate the process of enriching your data feeds by simply inputting those details once, then automatically adjusting them to fit each channel’s requirements before sending the appropriate data to Google Shopping, Amazon, et al.

You’ll still want to write individual product descriptions, but the tech streamlines the process of adding the necessary filter details relating to colours and sizes. Your teams will have more time to actually write high-quality product descriptions and work proactively to optimise your existing listings, using the customer insights which smart listing and data solutions also contain.

Adaptation and visibility of your customer

Adapting your business to changing consumer behaviours is an essential ingredient in the recipe for success and is something every fashion retailer must look to master ASAP.

Management becomes easier as details are collated on one platform, saving you the hassle of constantly switching between programs and listings. You retain visibility over customer data and maximise the SEO of products, leading to major improvements for consumer relations and overall UX.

eCommerce software allows you to achieve this with minimal fuss, saving time and money and generating increased traffic and conversion.

Fashion retail guide to online success

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