A seamless navigation is an important part of the user experience of a website. It is more than that, it’s mission critical. Without proper navigation on your eCommerce website, users will repeatedly abandon the page because they’re unable to find what they are looking for.

Think about it: if a user cannot find it, they cannot buy it.

That’s why we’ve put together some guidelines that’ll help you ensure that your customers can find what they’re looking for.

  1. Parent Categories and Subcategories

In the world of navigation, categorization is the name of the game.

By grouping relevant products together, you are able to simplify the process for a) finding a specific product, and b) viewing a group of products that share a set of similar qualities. In turn, this makes it easier for the end-user to make a purchase.

When it comes to navigation hierarchy, there are two types of categories: ‘parent categories’, and ‘subcategories’. Each category type is used for a different type of group.

A parent category is essentially a named group of subcategories that effectively describes the shared qualities of the group. It is used to, for example, differentiate ‘Men’s Clothing’ from ‘Women’s Clothing’, or ‘Summer Attire’ from ‘Winter Attire’.

Subcategories, on the other hand, are used to group specific products together, such as shoes, shirts, hats, etc. The key to a successful subcategory is to find the most descriptive commonly shared trait among its constituent products.

  1. “What’s New”

Once you’ve determined the appropriate navigational hierarchy, an equally important factor in improving the eCommerce experience is to reward your returning customers. While this is an admittedly old concept, it can be manifested in a number of new(er) ways.

One good technique, is to implement a ‘New Arrivals’ section in your product lineup, either by creating a ‘New’ filter in your site’s search function, or by creating a navigation subcategory that groups and displays new products.

Screenshot 2016-04-15 13.04.59

This is an especially critical practice for companies in seasonal industries, such as retail, grocery, and sporting good stores, so as to assist customers in identifying what items are ‘in-season.’

  1. Supplementary and Compatible Products

Another great way to upsell and cross-sell products on your ecommerce website is to show compatible and supplementary products.

If you’re in the technology industry, showing compatible items is crucial, due to the technical dependency between some types of products. If a user is searching for a new camera or computer, they probably would like to know what other type of tech accessories are suitable.

If you’re in the retail industry, recommending supplementary items is more important than having “compatible” products. After deciding to purchase an item, a user may want to “complete their look,” with another retail item, in which case the store can make the appropriate suggestions.

  1. “Recently Viewed”

Without a ‘recently viewed’ section,’ there is no other way for the user to go back to an item they were looking at, without hitting the ‘back’ button, searching for it, or scrolling through the endless product pages to find it.

These 3 actions are extremely inefficient and can result in wasted time, and a frustrated user. A customer will be more likely to browse throughout your website and explore new products if they know that returning to an item will not be an inconvenience.

Furthermore, enabling the user to return to an item that they may have like may greatly facilitate the purchase process, improving on the user experience, and increasing the likelihood that a purchase will be made.

Conclusion: Navigation is Experience

Without a fluid user experience you can lose out on customers and, in turn, lots of potential sales. According to InvisionApp, 88% of online customers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience.

As we have established in this article, the navigation experience can heavily impact both the UX of an eCommerce site, and the flow of sales. In other words, bringing your users a refined, helpful navigation experience, is likely to improve sales, and keep users coming back for more.