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Enhance your Shopify store experience with search filters and facets

Mar 6th 2020 ux

Enhance your Shopify store experience with search filters and facets
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A great site search tool not only helps website visitors use search terms to find what they want, it helps them discover products and cross-sell or upsell ideas they hadn’t even considered. But in order for this search and discovery experience to work, the product search process must be seamless and intuitive, whether shoppers are using their mobile devices or sitting at their desktop computers.

One critical way that online retailers using Shopify can improve customers’ search experiences and product discovery is leveraging filters and faceted search in their user interface.

Applying filters and facets lets shoppers refine their queries and discover more of your site’s offerings. By enabling people to quickly narrow their options and find the product descriptions they’re looking for, you can improve the user experience and potentially increase your conversion.

Filters and facets: two ways of narrowing search choices

Filters and facets are both useful tools for ecommerce sites that have large collections of content that would otherwise be difficult to navigate. Both filters and facets are selected by shoppers to pare down a search (and further refine their generated results) to a subset. 

It’s common to think of filters and facets as interchangeable concepts. But while both of them help users refine their queries and quickly get to their desired results, they’re not quite the same in their functionality. In fact, there are significant differences in how they appear in site search and how they’re used.

Let’s take a look at each of these search-refinement methods, and at how using them correctly can power your user engagement to boost sales.

The differences between filters and facets

Filters

In search, collection filters eliminate results that don’t match the user’s selected criteria. Thematic filters are broad, usually fixed categories like product types (and they don’t change between users’ searches), which people can select to immediately eliminate irrelevant content and drill down to a manageable number of items for exploration.

In ecommerce, filters are typically high-level product families chosen by the store.

Because they are so broad based, product filters are often the first thing shoppers see on a site’s home page. For instance, shoppers can use filters on Home Depot’s top-level filter menu that include Home Decor, Furniture & Kitchenware, and DIY Projects & Ideas:

An online store selling clothing might allow shoppers to start by narrowing their search by clothing type, with Shirts, Pants, Shoes, and Accessories as possible categories. When the clothing-type filter is applied for, say, just shirts, the visitor sees a results page showing them only shirts.

Here’s what Lacoste’s high-level storefront filtering menu looks like:

Clicking on Men shows the filters Clothing, Shoes, Accessories, Bags & Leather Goods, and Sport, with lower-level filters, such as a T-shirts filter, below.

Lower-level filtering options can also appear on the search results page itself, as once a search term is entered in a search bar, using different facets to further specify their parameters is often a necessity to quickly get them to the right product detail pages.

Facets

Facets are the main tool an online shopper can use to refine their search results and discover items that match their specific purchase needs. Faceted search is a way to zero in on products and search results in a targeted way that’s not feasible or possible when using broad-based filters.

Facets reflect product characteristics

Searchers can use facets, also known as facet filters, to refine searches by designating multiple specific characteristics — selecting a number of facets — at the same time. This creates granular refinement of their product options to ensure that they can quickly find exactly what they need — not just get in the general product ballpark and get frustrated by an overly time-consuming search process.

Unlike filters, facets often change within categories to reflect the type of product they’re being used for. So for instance, when searching for a pair of jeans, you might see facet types like size, cut, wash, and price range. But if you search for sunglasses, such as on the Lacoste site, you see different search-suggestion facets such as gender and color.

Or, for instance if you’re looking for a women’s sweater on the L.L.Bean website, you see facets checkboxes in a sidebar for both size range, such as Petite, and sizes within that range:

Here’s how facets can let shoppers specify shoe color (blue and black here), size (6), and occasion (casual).

In summary, when it comes to site search, filters and facets are key types of ways to guide your potential buyers down the quickest path to the best search result on your product list, ensuring an excellent shopping experience and the promise of maximizing your revenue.

Here are the key differences to remember about these two search-enhancing features:

 

Filters Facets
Search tool automatically starts in a broad category, excluding entire other categories Users select specific attributes for search
Cover a broad attribute (e.g., clothing type) Apply multiple specific attributes (e.g., fabric, color)
Sometimes visible to users during search Always visible to users during search
Don’t change with changing queries and search results Change appropriately along with changing queries and search results

Which is right for your site: filters, facets, or both?

Now that you know how filters and facets work, do you think this functionality would help improve your ecommerce search experience?

If your website offers only a few dozen pages of content, a limited number of broad-based filters for all your SKUs may be adequate.

If your catalog spans many filters and hundreds or thousands of product pages, facets could make a substantive difference. Facets are also perfect for use with product catalogs that list multiple product specifications, for instance, on B2B websites.

Shopify default search features are bare bones

What does Shopify search offer?

In a nutshell, Shopify has deferred advanced search options to its vast application ecosystem. Its out-of-the-box search experience is rudimentary, providing only basic support for filtering usability through collections and tags. And it defaults to returning exact results based on the search query. 

For example, here’s a default Shopify store search results page for the query “shoe”:

As you can see, the results are overly basic: no support for filtering or facets. You also don’t get some advanced features such as typo tolerance, intent-based queries, and inline suggestions, which many online shoppers now fully expect.

It comes down to this: To create a seamless user search experience and improve your Shopify conversion, you need a search solution that provides the right filtering and faceting for your business use case. And with Algolia, a newly minted Shopify Plus Certified Partner, you can improve your search and navigation considerably.

Here’s an Algolia-enhanced “shoe” search page:

As you can see, relevant filters and facets have been generated in the left margin based on the store’s product data. Vendor and type are the filters, while below them, color, price, and size appear as the facets.

The integration of Shopify and Algolia means you can skip having to create and maintain a structure to enable your faceted navigation.

One example of these integration capabilities is the generation of color swatches informed by your store’s product-color attribute data.

Initially, you may want to check and configure the available filters in your search bar. Do you need to add filters? If applicable, you can add a color filter and place it in the right sequence with the other attributes:Additionally, as a store owner or support team member, you can access a search interface builder that requires making little to no programming changes on the Shopify site. You can set up custom filters based on certain queries (for example, by accounting for synonyms people could enter as search terms).

With your changes made, you can see how the navigation interface looks on your store collection page, for example:

Next steps with filters and facets

Ready to create a robust search experience and improve your Shopify conversion?

To build a seamless shopper search experience from first contact with your search box to checkout, you need a search app that provides filtering and faceting tools that work well for your business case.

Algolia is here to help you do your Shopify search & discovery right. By using our powerful API-based offering, more than 1,500 Shopify merchants have already created compelling search and discovery experiences, seen increased search usage, and improved their conversion rates and revenue.

When you connect Algolia to your Shopify store, you, too, can quickly set up professional search filters and facets to optimize your ecommerce website search engine functionality, enhancing your customer experiences with smart search capabilities.

Start investigating the possibilities you have with filters and facets. Contact us for a personalized demo.

Or go ahead and start revamping your filters and facets with these steps:

  1. Go to the Shopify App Store.
  2. Search for and select the Algolia Search and Discovery app.
  3. Click Add app.
  4. Log in.
  5. In your Shopify admin, click Install app. During setup, Algolia indexes your products and metadata to create the relevant schema, facets, filters, and pipelines.
  6. Use the app to create item collections and customize your filters.

For more information

FAQs: Algolia with Shopify

About the author
Vincent Caruana

Sr. SEO Web Digital Marketing Manager

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