With all the modern gadgetry of eCommerce, it’s easy to overlook basics such as site navigation. In this post, the first in the 3 Things series, covering 3 innovative ways e-tailers are differentiating themselves, I’ll review some creative navigation strategies.
Solution Oriented Navigation

Traditionally, both retailers and e-tailers have organized their stores based on product categories. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it’s very effective. However, what happens when your site or in-store visitor doesn’t have a product in mind, but rather a problem? For example:

  • “I don’t know what I’m looking for, I just need a gift for mom!”
  • “I’m sick, and I need something to sooth a sore throat”
  • “I’m disorganized, I need something to get me on track”

In addition to offering product based navigation, Seabear, a seller of fine seafood, offers a solution oriented navigation offering three choices: Give a Gift, Entertain Family & Friends, and Healthy Dining. For customers unfamiliar with fine seafood (like me), this is a great starting point that helps visitors select a product that meets their needs.

Filter Based Navigation

Many customers are accustomed to navigating to a product category page, then filtering down or sorting by various criteria. Some retailers are shortcutting this process by allowing customers to navigate directly to a product category with pre-filtered criteria.

For example, makeup retailer Lancome allows customers to browse by the color of the product.

Shoeline.com allows visitors to view pre-filtered product listings, narrowing down the selection by color or size. This greatly eliminates the frustration of having to sift through endless product listing pages of irrelevant merchandise.

Image Based Navigation

I hadn’t visited Overstock.com lately, and was surprised to see their untraditional homepage. In addition to placing a heavy emphasis on search, your eyes are effectively drawn to the image based categories. For department style stores with a wide variety of products such as Overstock, the pictures serve well to help visitors quickly scan and make a selection.

What do these 3 strategies have in common? Nothing, except these companies all sought to understand how their customers want to shop, and fulfilled these needs. Sometimes, going back to the basics of navigation can pay huge dividends.

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