4 A/B testing ideas to optimize site search and category page merchandising

4 A/B testing ideas to optimize site search and category page merchandising

Have you ever tested the effect of different product rankings on your search and category pages? As key product discovery pillars, great search results and category pages should display the products that the shopper is looking for as high as possible on the page all while aligning with unique business goals. However, there’s no magic recipe for the perfect merchandising strategy. The best way to optimize it? Testing.

Here are 4 A/B testing ideas from our clients that you can draw inspiration from to uncover the best-performing merchandising strategies for your own search and category pages.

Why should you optimize your merchandising strategy on search and category pages?

Category and search pages are fundamental elements of the shopper’s product discovery process and can make or break the experience. In fact, Nosto’s research shows that 69% of all online shoppers go straight to the search bar when they land on a website, and 80% of shoppers have exited an online store due to a poorly performing search. Category pages are equally important, as 70% of all online sales in ecommerce are generated from category pages. 

With shoppers today accustomed to fast and relevant product discovery experiences on platforms like Google and Amazon, high expectations are set for ecommerce businesses to provide a similar experience. For online retailers, this means working on offering the most relevant and efficient product sorting on search results and category pages.

Using A/B testing to improve your product ranking on search and category pages

Retailers using Nosto can easily create advanced merchandising rules by mixing and adjusting different ranking factors based on:

  • product attributes such as category, discount level, price, and more 
  • performance metrics such as conversion rate, margin, inventory  turnover, and more 
  • unique shopper preferences such as size, brand, category affinity, and more

The possibilities are endless, which is why A/B testing is so powerful. It removes the guesswork from the different merchandising strategies you might apply by allowing you to observe how the different ranking factors and their weighting, as well as manual pinning, impact your KPIs.

Nosto’s A/B testing feature allows you to test multiple merchandising rules for specific queries and categories, as well as for selected audience segments, enabling you to be granular in your tests and optimizations. Running multiple tests is great, but you might be thinking that this would take a lot of time to set up and monitor. No worries, one of the advantages of Nosto’s A/B testing is that you can easily set up, preview, and deploy all your tests without the need for any technical assistance. You can also confidently launch merchandising tests with automatic winner traffic distribution, minimizing the risk of showing a poor variation to too much traffic.
Read this help article to get started with A/B testing merchandising rules.

4 A/B testing examples for merchandising rules

Each business is unique and has its own goals. That being said, there are common challenges and questions about merchandising that online merchants share. 

Here are some examples of tests that other retailers have run, which you might want to try on your store.

See how a rule with many criteria performs against one with fewer elements

Having many ranking factors in your merchandising rules can be tempting to achieve a precise outcome, but you risk being too narrow and failing to resonate with a broader range of shoppers. On the contrary, using just one ranking criterion can lead to overly general sorting that lacks the opportunity to be highly relevant to shoppers. We advise testing your basic rule against a more sophisticated one and continuously adjusting by adding or removing criteria to find the perfect fit.

One of our clients did just that. They compared a basic rule that prioritized best sellers only 

(based on items sold) with a more sophisticated rule that promoted five different attributes: high review count, items sold, high conversion rate, and a touch of personalization.

Promote your new items versus your essentials in search results

Should you boost your new items or your essentials to drive higher conversions when an item is equally relevant to a certain query? It’s hard to say unless you test it! This is exactly what one of our clients wanted to find out. They set up two variations: in variation A, they boosted products with a “new” tag, and in variation B, they boosted products with an “essentials” tag. Both rules also boosted items with a high conversion rate.

What’s great about Nosto, is that you can gain deep insights into how each variation performs based on different audience segments. This can further inform your merchandising strategy. For example, you might identify a segment of users, such as loyal customers, who are more responsive to new products. You can then personalize the product sorting in search results specifically for them and improve your revenue from search in a granular manner.

Compare 1:1 personalized merchandising against product performance and attribute-led strategies

Nosto gives you the ability to promote products on category pages or search results based on shoppers’ unique affinities, such as size, brand, color, category, and more. Personalizing sorting on category pages and search results can drive hyper-relevancy and be extremely efficient in increasing conversions. It can, for example, remove common frictions from the discovery process, such as prominently displaying many products not available in the shopper’s preferred size.

For instance, one Nosto client and jewelry brand, wanted to test if boosting products personalized to shoppers’ preferences, such as preferred materials like gold and silver, would drive significantly higher conversions on category pages than simply promoting high-converting items.

Understand how a merchandising strategy that heavily supports marketing efforts affects sales

Adjusting the website merchandising for product launches or promotions is a common practice. It ensures visibility for these specific items across the site and helps deliver a cohesive user experience across channels. But what’s the impact of such a strategy on your sales?

One of our clients from the fashion industry wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing-focused strategy. They tested three different variations: one that primarily promoted the new season collection, with a high emphasis on full-price items and a selection of manually picked items. The second variation focused more on promoting best sellers with high sales per view and units sold, while the last variation emphasized personalization with a balanced approach to sales metrics and the new season collection.

Are you ready to optimize your merchandising and search to the next level?

If you’re already a client, then it’s great news! The A/B testing for search and merchandising is included and there are no extra costs for optimizing the search and category merchandising products. Don’t hesitate to contact your Customer Success Manager. They can help you to start optimize your search or merchandising. Or both! 

New to Nosto or interested in our Personalized Search, Category Merchandising and A/B testing capabilities? Request a demo with us today.

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