So today at Bronco we came up with an idea for an ecommerce site. I’m not sure if it’s a new concept (probably not) but I thought that it could be the future of ecommerce. It got us thinking when we had a request from a client today who wanted us to remove the Newsletter sign up feature from their site that has been there for 3 years.
On a side note…. Does anyone ever sign up to Newsletters on sites? Personally I never do as I really don’t have the time to be reading what is pretty much a sales letter from a company that I have bought from or used for a service. If I do sign up for a Newsletter it tends to be when you just have to tick a box in the checkout process. So why is it that people want to cram “functionality” into their site because everyone else has it? If you are not seriously going to have the time to write a regular newsletter and gain a good readership of your newsletter don’t bother wasting the space having a Sign up box, save it for the checkout page and have a tick box. This valuable space could be used for an entry point into a top level category, or to another conversion point.
Anyway, onto the ecommerce site of the future. My theory is that you could do away with the category navigation and just rely on a really good search. Everyone is so used to searching these days that it just makes sense. Often if you are looking for something in particular you are never sure what category, sub category or sub-sub category it might be in so often people revert to the search anyway. Again category navigation takes up valuable space that could be put to use for many other things.
When we build the ecommerce systems at Bronco we always include a really good search function. Typically it will look at the title of the product, the description, the category names and category content to display the best results. We tend to build in a predictive search so it works a bit like Google Suggest, but will list the most relevant items rather than the most searched for. We have also started building search functionality so that it will look at the product title and description, but also at a set of alternative keywords assigned to the individual product. This works really well as often a product will have a fancy name, but everyone might know it as something else, and you can also include any common misspellings. We then track the search queries and highlight any that resulted in a Not Found, so that the search can be improved and products tagged with that query.
So imagine an ecommerce site without the navigation into the categories. You would search for what you are looking for and you can be as specific or as broad as you like. The products in the backend will still be categorised, so you will still be able to browse products too if you’re not sure what you are looking for by searching for a typical category name. Then you would still have things like Recently Viewed Items so you can easily go back to items you have looked at quickly. This will also solve many designers nightmares of “can you make the logo bigger!” as you could design the logo around the search box!
Anyway just a thought …