Product Classification is a Pivotal Part of eCommerce
Every person has their own unique product classification, which may be influenced by their parents, their geographical location, age or even gender. If you ask someone what they call an “MP3 player,” some people may use the proper name. Others may call it an “iPod” (even if it is not that specific brand) or a music player. This extends to many different types of retail products – purse or handbag, slacks or pants, button-up or dress shirt, rollerblades or inline skates.
For retailers, the different descriptions for products can create some issues. If merchants describe items one way, but customers are looking for items using their own vocabulary, how easy is it for them to find the item they want to purchase? This comes into play both when browsing product categories, and also with on-site search. Retailers need to not only make sure the terms their customers use are incorporated into classification and categorization, but also in SEO.
Categorization and classification
Navigation is incredibly important for retail success. It sounds obvious and straight forward, but if customers cannot find what they want to buy on the retailer’s website, chances are, they will walk away empty handed. This is an issue that all retailers have in their control, yet many still wind up losing sales because of poor classification and categorization anyway.
Generally speaking, there are two main issues with categorization. The first is that retailers simply do not anticipate customers looking for products under a specific categorization. The other issue is that merchants may not want to clutter their navigation, so instead of having a scarf section, a hat section, a gloves section and a winter coat section, they simply lump everything under “winter wear.” This issue is particularly common among generalist retailers that are not niche or specialty sellers.
While this simplification can make browsing easier for customers, it may also result in lost sales if customers do not think to look at the appropriate category. They may not see a scarf section, assume the seller does not sell scarves and head to a competitor’s site.
Search engine optimization is another area where classification is vital. Search engines, both on-site and off-site, are where many customers turn to begin their shopping journeys. If a customer enters “grey handbag,” and nothing comes up because the merchant only has entries for “gray purse,” retailers are going to wind up missing out on sales.
Just as sellers need to have multiple product categories when it comes to on-site navigation, they need to offer similar options for SEO. Queries for purses, for example, can have numerous varieties. Some of these variables include the name of the product itself (pocketbook, purse, handbag), color, size, brand name, material and style.
The Structured Commerce Classification initiative
One way that retailers and product manufacturers are looking to address the issue of categorization and classification is through the GS1’s Structured Commerce Classification initiative. As Salsify noted, this effort is looking to develop a standard way of classifying products, which will not only create a universal standard for sellers but also their product manufacturers. Producers will send a common set of information to all retail partners, which will help ensure all goods are classified the same way. Classification plays an important part in product discovery, so it is pivotal that retailers take great steps to get this aspect right.”