Product Taxonomy for eCommerce

Learn how to create a product taxonomy for your eCommerce business and the benefits of doing so in this helpful guide.

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Have you given enough thought to your product taxonomy?

Most eCommerce brands understand that organization is necessary for people to find what they’re looking for on their websites. 

But few realize the impact that intelligent and intuitive product taxonomy actually has on their success.

A well-laid-out taxonomy helps improve your search engine rankings, drives customers to convert, and much more, as you’ll learn in this guide. 

So it definitely pays to spend the time and effort getting this right.

Fortunately, we’ll show you how to create a product taxonomy that allows your eCommerce business to reap all those benefits today.

But before we get to those step-by-step instructions, let’s first make sure we’re all on the same page with the basics:

What is Product Taxonomy in eCommerce?

Product taxonomy is how you organize and tag the products in your eCommerce store.

The term taxonomy comes from the Greek word “taxi,” which means class, order, or range. So you can think of your product taxonomy as how you organize your products. 

You’ll group similar items using categories, break these down into subcategories, and then eventually refine further with tags for specific attributes like color or size.

This type of inverted pyramid model is why some people refer to product taxonomy as product hierarchy. 

Why is Product Taxonomy So Important for eCommerce Brands?

Product taxonomy in a brick-and-mortar store is straightforward: you find granola in the cereal aisle, bananas in produce, and milk in the refrigerated section.

But in a digital eCommerce store, these “aisles” don’t exist and must be created.

Product taxonomy creates this structure so your customers can easily and quickly find what they’re looking for in as few clicks as possible.

If your shoppers get frustrated by your lack of organization and can’t find what they’re seeking, they’ll likely leave your site without making a purchase. And that’s the last thing you want.

So when you focus your time and attention on developing a solid product taxonomy, your brand will:

1. Perform Better in Search Results

By organizing and tagging your products correctly, you’ll have a better chance of those products being indexed in search results.

When this happens, search engines like Google will be more likely to display your products in keyword searches that match what you’re offering.

The more your items show up in product searches, the more traffic you’ll route to your online store. And if your product taxonomy is on-point, you’ll be one step closer to making the sale. 

2. Decrease Your Bounce Rate

Your website’s bounce rate is the number of visitors who land on your site but “bounce” or leave after visiting just one page.

Though there could be myriad reasons for high bounce rates, poor product taxonomy is one of the most common.

Shoppers are typically overwhelmed with unorganized product lineups. And when they can’t find what they’re looking for fast enough, they’re going to jump ship before you have the chance to make a sale or provide a good impression of your brand.

Here’s what’s even worse: Google looks unfavorably on sites with high bounce rates. This metric shows your website isn’t delivering what searchers are looking for. So Google may dock your website with low search rankings, making it much harder to capture traffic in the future.

This goes hand in hand with the next benefit of intuitive product taxonomy:

3. Improve User Experience (UX) and Your Site’s Search Functionality 

With the right product taxonomy strategy, you’ll be better equipped to organize your products into categories that make sense. Shoppers will have an easier time browsing and finding exactly what they’re looking for sans frustration.

This shopping ease improves your site’s user experience (UX) and helps build trust in your brand.

Excellent product organization is also crucial for your site’s search feature.

The right tags, categories, and attributes allow the correct products to show up for customers during keyword search queries. So, once again, you’ll be helping shoppers find exactly what they need with as little friction as possible.

Your site’s search functionality can also suggest related and complementary products that go well together, which can increase your upsells and average order value.

Bonus: You don’t have to constantly go after these upsells.

Once you organize your product taxonomy the right way, it will take care of the heavy lifting for you with each transaction.

4. Increase Sales and Conversions

The added traffic to your site, improved UX, and solid search feature built on an organized product taxonomy system drives more sales.

All these will help stop the endless browsing and fear of missing out (FOMO) by directing your shoppers to the very items they came for. Then they’ll make their way to the checkout screen in less time and more often.

Throw in those complementary product recommendations mentioned earlier, and now you have conversions and upsells.

But there’s still one more big benefit worth mentioning here:

5. Gather Crucial Intel On What’s Selling

Taking the time to organize your product taxonomy also helps you figure out which items are selling and which are going unnoticed.

A few simple tweaks to your taxonomy may boost the visibility of items that aren’t flying off your digital shelves. Getting them in front of the right shoppers may ultimately prove valuable for your brand.

However, if customers still seem uninterested in these products despite their visibility, you’ll have a clear way of knowing which items to discontinue. 

This is valuable intel all eCommerce brands should learn to help optimize their offerings and inventory. But without a solid product taxonomy, you won’t have this data to help you make key business decisions.

Additionally, this data will allow your team to get better at customer segmentation. You’ll know more about which products people gravitate to, who bought them, what else they shopped for, and more.

So now that you know just how crucial having a product taxonomy strategy is, let’s dive right into building yours today.

How to Create a Product Taxonomy for Your eCommerce Business (+ Best Practices)

Because product taxonomy is all about organization, you can’t simply “wing it.” 

Yes, it may seem logical to group t-shirts and pants in their own respective categories, for example. But your strategy should go deeper than that if you want to capture all the benefits we mentioned earlier.

So follow these four steps and best practices to create a winning product taxonomy for your eCommerce business:

Step 1: Determine Your Product Categories

Mapping out your overarching product categories is the first step to creating your taxonomy. 

You can choose Post-It notes, index cards, a whiteboard, a digital chart, or any other medium that makes it easier for you and your team to map out each product category.

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The goal here is to create general buckets or umbrellas before getting down to specifics later in the process. So rather than having a category for black shoes and white shoes, for example, the category would just be shoes.

Best practice: Aim for as few product categories as possible, without sacrificing organization.

Your store could have two or three categories, such as men’s, women’s, and kids. Or it could have as many as 13 categories.

Just remember that too many categories will become overwhelming for people and may likely lead to higher bounce rates. So try to cap your categories somewhere between 10 to 15 here.

You’ll also want to avoid using an “other” category, which could become a giant mess of unrelated and unorganized products shoppers won’t want to sift through.

Steer clear of duplicate categories too. These will only confuse people and make it harder for them to find what they’re looking for.

Go ahead and map out your overarching categories now before moving onto the next step.

Step 2: Decide Your Subcategories and Attributes

With your categories all laid out, you can get into the finer details of subcategories and attributes. 

Using the example from the previous step, your category might be shoes, and your subcategories would be black shoes versus white shoes. Specific attributes to further refine products might be lace-ups versus slip-ons.

Best practice: Think about using the exact words and keywords your shoppers will be using here.

Are your shoppers more likely to search for “black shoes” or the very specific “Midnight Moonlighter” black shoes you sell?

Chances are, people will be searching for basic keyword strings. And if you put that general keyword at the end, it may be more difficult for your products to come up in searches.

The goal is to optimize your subcategories and attributes for search engines and people browsing your site. 

So you may also want to use synonyms to ensure products closely matching the search show up too.

Add your subcategories below your main categories and continue to build out your taxonomy tree until all your products are listed out before moving on.

Step 3: Take a Step Back to View and Test Your Work

Now, before you decide to launch your new product taxonomy, make sure to perform a run-through as if you were a customer.

Try to shop for white shoes, for example.

Using your product categories and subcategories, how many clicks does it take to get to a page of white shoes?

Now perform a search for white shoes. Do all the products that fit this keyword search actually show up? How are they organized on this search results page?

And here’s the biggest question to answer: Can this process get easier?

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Remember, your website visitors don’t have a roadmap to your product taxonomy. They’re coming to your store without any background of how you laid things out and which products live where.

Best practice: Give your taxonomy a once-over with your customers in mind before publishing it. 

You could even ask a few team members or trusted friends to perform different searches to try this out.

If you have an overwhelming number of products that show up for one basic search, make sure you create smaller subcategories and use specific attributes to help shoppers whittle down these results.

Again, your shoppers need a frictionless process to keep their customer journey flowing smoothly.

So if you need to add more subcategories or attributes, do this now and retest.

Step 4: Publish, Test, and Iterate as Needed

If your categories and subcategories look good to go, you can then work on overhauling your website’s menu to include your new taxonomy breakdown.

Keep in mind, this isn’t something that should be on a set-and-forget plan. A solid product taxonomy should be tested and reworked based on how your customers are interacting with it.

Best practice: Never assume your taxonomy will be finalized as-is forever.

Using tools like heat maps, you can see how customers are actually moving through your taxonomy. If they seem to get stuck at a certain point, go back to your original drawing board to see how you can rework things and improve from there.

You can also send out surveys to your customers to get their opinions on how they like using your new menu. Do they have any suggestions to make this process better? Any firsthand experiences of frustration or delight?

Revisit your product taxonomy every so often, whether you add products or not. This ensures your product taxonomy is working as it should and driving -- not hindering -- your sales.

Final Thoughts on Building Your eCommerce Product Taxonomy

We hope this guide illuminated just how vital product taxonomy is for eCommerce brands.

An intelligent and intuitive taxonomy helps boost traffic to your site, keeps customers long enough to convert, and makes them more likely to buy from your brand in the future.

On the other hand, a poorly laid out product taxonomy will frustrate and turn off shoppers, making it unlikely they’ll return for a second try.

So it pays to get this right the first time!

Luckily, you have everything you need to create the best product taxonomy strategy for your eCommerce business today.

Just follow the four steps and best practices in this guide and keep testing to improve and optimize your taxonomy to better serve your customers and search engines.

Give your product taxonomy a fresh update today, and you’ll see a major improvement in no time!

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