What do you see when you look at your top search terms report? I typically see brand terms and product category terms in many of the top spots. I also see a great opportunity to create a more customized experience on the search results pages for those terms. Since these are high volume terms, the extra effort you put into these pages is likely to produce a nice ROI. And, when you consider that these terms typically produce hundreds or perhaps thousands of results, you know shoppers will be looking for some way to help them narrow down the results. This is when a hybrid search / category page makes the most sense. This is your opportunity to create a more engaging brand or category experience and present yourself as an expert in these types of products.
A hybrid search / category landing page can feel more like a store within your store. It can combine elements you would typically find on a category page like a large header graphic, copy that introduces the brand or category, related promotions, and featured sections. It can also include more prominent filters to help shoppers quickly begin to narrow their results.
In the example below from sporting goods retailer Sports Unlimited, they have created a hybrid search / category page for the brand Under Armour. Anyone who searches for “under armor” and sees this page will immediately know they have found the brand they were looking for. They will also be able to quickly begin shopping by men, women or youth or shop by the type of gear they are looking for. Seeing familiar Under Armour graphics for their heat gear along with a related image of those products is going to make getting there much easier than beginning to hunt through the refinement options in the navigation pane to the left.
For shoppers that don’t see what they are looking for in this top section or simply want to browse, the bottom half of the page will be filled with the most popular products from that brand or a selection of items that the merchandiser has decided to promote. And, shoppers will still have all of the typical search refinements to explore and narrow down their selection.
To customize the format of the results further, the merchandiser could create a hybrid of a list view and grid view results page. In the Under Armour example, that search result page would look like this.
With a hybrid search / category landing page, merchandisers can also quickly create a special selection of products to support a promotional idea or seasonal campaign without having to involve their web engineering or production team. Once the initial hybrid template is created, all sorts of experiences can be built with just a few new graphics and copy. For example, when Abe’s of Maine wanted to create a gift guide that featured a special selection of products at different price points, they decided to create the hybrid search / category page below.
This gift guide includes prominent buttons for gift price points at the top of the page. Once a shopper arrives at the gift guide, all they need to do is select the dollar amount they want to spend and they’ll be presented with ideas that were hand-selected by an Abe’s of Maine expert merchandiser. To include any product in a group, all the merchandiser had to do was tag those products with a keyword like “great_gifts_50″ and then pass that keyword in with the link to their site search engine.
As you can see, the design and layout of the pages that you can create with a hybrid search / category template is unlimited. This gives merchandisers a great deal of flexibility to improve how they present products in order to improve the sales of their categories.
These pages can even help merchandisers improve the conversion rate from their paid advertising campaigns or email promotions. For example, many paid search terms with good traffic are not ideally suited for a category page nor do they make sense for a specific product page. This is where a hybrid page could provide the ideal balance between a branded experience and a search result page. The result being reduced bounce rates and improved sales conversion rates.
If you have more ideas for how a merchandiser can utilize a hybrid search / category landing page, please post them in the comments below.