So Happy Together: Why Better Taxonomy Is a Delight to Merchants and Consumers Alike

by Autumn Demonet
Wednesday, November 4, 2020

When I started at Sitation, the world of taxonomy and attribution was just as foreign to me as was my first day in French class.

As someone with a literature and languages background, the inner workings of the world of eCommerce and digital merchandising were a mystery to me. But even if I did not know the language yet, as a consumer I knew which websites I liked to shop because they were structured better, had more relevant search results, and were easier to navigate.

Though my specialty remains content management, review, and editing, it has been incredibly rewarding to learn the ins and outs of taxonomy and attribution structures. Before working at Sitation, I never realized that building and reviewing taxonomies is not only a great exercise for organizing a store’s catalog but also an excellent tool for enriching the user experience. Correctly taxonomized products (with the most up-to-date details in the expected places) always precede product search results. In fact, the former improves the latter.

For example, why would you (the consumer) want to buy something after having sorted through endless product lists or bounced through a 404 page? Frustration, nay… bitterness builds quicker than delight in the mind of your customers.

After all, aren’t you much happier when you can find what you needed with next to no stress?

As a literature person, in order to grasp the concepts that underpin taxonomy and attribution best practices, I’ll build upon our earlier example with a metaphor. So here it is. A customer walks into a grocery store with no aisle signs. Nothing is grouped with like items–the bread is next to watermelons and dog food is next to pickles. How does the customer know which way to go if they are looking for a specific item? Should this customer walk every aisle looking for bread? Probably not–that would be an inefficient way to locate the product. Another option is to try asking an employee, but no one is available to help. At this point, it’s likely that our protagonist simply walks over to the supermarket down the road regretting that they chose the leading brand… time to go with someone smaller (and local)?

Our story goes to show how crucial proper taxonomy is to the customer experience (whether online or off). Having a clear and concise system for classifying merchandise means that relevant products are quickly and easily found, without having to click around endlessly. This translates to a higher visitor count, a higher conversion rate and, ultimately, higher sales numbers.

The natural driver of a great taxonomy structure is, of course, accurate attribution. As with taxonomy, proper attribution makes the buying process much smoother for the consumer. When items are correctly attributed, it is easy to locate specific items or features within relevant product search results. To return to the grocery store metaphor, if you are looking for a gluten-free bread, why would you waste your time looking in the regular bread section? You want to go directly to the gluten-free section and look at those products only.

Attributes in data management can be set up as words, numbers, Booleans, or a selection from a list of set values. Navigating these attributes make it simple to sort products by the features that are most essential to the buyer, eliminating irrelevant products in a grouping. Additionally, analyzing a list of attributes can help consumers when making a final choice between two or more products.

Ultimately, successful digital merchandising has a taxonomy structure with clear attribution that is easily searched, returning relevant products and filtering out irrelevant ones. As new products are introduced the taxonomy is reviewed and improved upon, ensuring that consumers continue to see relevant products to their search.

Everyone wins with better overall taxonomy structures: merchants sell more products, consumers make more informed choices, and businesses see improvements in their digital sales metrics.

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