What is Faceted Search and How Does It Improve Ecommerce UX?

If you can't find it, you won't buy it.

Who has the time to check 1,627 women's dresses? Today, consumers expect to find what they're looking for in a minute or two. Once users land on your store, they want your navigation to be predictable and deliver results instantly. How can you ensure that? This is where faceted search comes to the rescue.

What is faceted search?

Faceted search (aka faceted navigation/ faceted browsing) is a technical feature that allows users to narrow down search results by using a predetermined group of categories.

If you have many products in your store, facets can help you make your store's UX much smoother.

With faceted navigation, users can tweak search results according to their preferable parameters. Users can narrow down the search in just a few clicks and choose from 15 dresses that match their criteria instead of 1,627 random items.
Faceted search example
Basic terms of faceted search

Faceted search vs. filters

You might be thinking: "Sounds like faceted search is just a fancy name for filters." And you'd be right: "filters" is often used as another word for "facets", a synonym (although it's not entirely accurate). The purpose of both features is the same: to help users navigate through product catalogs. Faceted search and filters differ in their degree of segmentation, appearance, and use.

Generally speaking, filters are a little more technical. Businesses pre-define sets of categories to provide visitors with a shortcut from a large product catalog to more manageable sets of items before they even form a search query. Therefore, filters are much broader in scope, and they can be displayed as various navigational elements, like tabs or category links. For example, tops at H&M can be filtered into vests, short sleeve, t-shirts, and so on, as demonstarted below:
H&M Collection Page
Filters give a good starting point for getting around your store.

However, filters are not enough if your potential customers already know what they're looking for and want to find it quickly. If you click on T-shirts, you still get over 300 results to choose from.

Facets, on the other hand, are filters on steroids.

Facets enable your store's visitors to refine their searches to match their buyer's intent better. For example, instead of just looking at a random bunch of coats, users can group them by using such facets as style, pattern, color, and size, making purchase decisions quicker and more pleasant.
Faceted Filters on H&M eCommerce Shop

How do facets work?

Faceted search uses the metadata of the products in your store (product type, SKU, tags, title, etc.) that allows shoppers to refine their search queries.

Let's say you are into outdoor activities and would love to buy some men's shoes. You stumble upon the store below. At first, you see over 580 results for men's shoes - and that's a little overwhelming. Luckily, you spot that you can narrow down your search with various facets on the left-hand side of the page. That's an example of how a faceted search works.
Search results page on Rei.com
Faceted Search on Rei.com
You can choose which type of shoes you want (fitness, climbing, cycling, etc.), which features (vegan or waterproof) you're interested in, which color you prefer, do you want straps or slip-ons, and so on.

Faceted search makes it fast and easy for your customers to find what they're looking for. Instead of having to scroll through hundreds of hiking shoes, a user can simply narrow down his search and make quicker purchasing decisions.

Top benefits of faceted navigation for ecommerce

According to the research by nngroup, 27% of people can't find a product without faceted search, even if it is in stock. It's a sad way to lose one-third of your potential sales to your competitors. But you can easily avoid it!

Here's how faceted search can improve your store's UX and help you drive more sales:

  • Eliminates guesswork
Faceted search allows your store's visitors to find the products they want without having to keep on trying different search queries. It reduces the necessity to enter product attributes manually. Users can simply narrow down their search by applying the already pre-defined facets.

  • Shows everything available
Multiple facets introduce users early on with different types of products available in your store. Someone who was thinking that new hiking shoes would be great but wasn't sure yet may buy a pair instantly after seeing an omni-grip option. You can get your store's visitors interested in more product features they otherwise would have missed.

  • Makes navigation easy
If you sell less than 100 items in your store, then you probably don't need facets. But, if you have a large product catalog, navigating through seemingly endless products can quickly become an issue.

With facets, users don't need to scroll through the catalog pages, looking at the products they don't need in search of the right one. Navigation in the store becomes much more convenient.

Who wouldn't come back to a store where you can find what you need quickly?

Best practices and tips for faceted search

The goal of faceted search is to provide your customers with a better shopping experience. With each step, faceting delivers more relevant results, which increases the chances of conversion.

Below are the key things to make sure you're getting the most of the guided navigation.

1. Have the optimal number of facets.

It may be tempting to include as many facets as possible. Fight the urge to overeducate the user with options that are too narrow. Remember, faceted search is here to make things easy, not complicated. Having too many options can backfire and result in choice paralysis, which you don't want!

2. Enable multiple selections.

Imagine you want to buy an oversized sweater. How 'oversized' it should really be? What if you wear more than one size? Also, you want to check both white and beige color, and the sweater shouldn't cost you more than $20.

Now, imagine you would have to go back and forth to filter the products according to size, color, and price separately. You probably would leave the store without buying anything after 5 minutes.

Allowing multiple selection options as prettylittlething.com does below can instantly help your customers refine their search options.
Multiple selection options
3. Show the facet count.

Displaying the number of products available under a facet helps users avoid reaching a dead end at your catalog. With time, they also get a better idea about what types of products are the most common at your store, helping them to find what they need quicker.

4. Use thematic filters.

Thematic filters can significantly improve the search experience. For example, you can create seasonal filters with tags such as winter, summer, etc. You can also group your products according to style (sporty, bohemian, casual). Done well, thematic filters can encourage users to buy more matching items and increase your average order size.

How can you implement faceted navigation?

We have seen the importance of faceted search - it makes eCommerce websites more user-friendly and provides the dynamic, intuitive experience your users want to revisit. Facets can be an extra cost to design and maintain your UX, and it is true to say they are worth the cost. But if you are looking for an all-in-one solution that would bring your store's UX to the next level and won't break the bank, then you are in the right place.

Searchanise provides the faceted search feature out of the box in addition to the advanced site search engine - no extra costs involved.

With Searchanise smart tools, your customers will be empowered to easily filter through their search results and save a lot of time and effort. The features include:
  • Vertical & horizontal filter menu
  • Unlimited number of customizable faceted filters
  • Dynamic filtering by price, product type, collections, tags, vendor, color, size, product rating, availability
  • Multi-select filters
  • Filters by tags & metafields
  • Quick View, Add to Cart buttons
Everything's optimized for mobile, too. And the best part of it all - Searchanise monthly plans start at the cost of two Starbucks lattes!
Want to explore your opportunities with Searchanise? Select your platform from the list below, and you will have a 14-day trial period to appreciate the new power your store can have:
API integration
Can't find yours on the list?
Searchanise advanced API and API docs will help you handle any integration.
Contact us for more info.

Julija Televiciute - Copywriter
Julija Televiciute
Copywriter at Searchanise

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