The power of product specific filters on PLPs

Written by Emma Forward
📢 I've scooped the Service Excellence Award at the FSB Small Business Awards 2024! 🎉 Thank you Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) for recognising the work I do to support luxury brands with their eCommerce presence. PLPs kitchen blog header image

Jump to a section

People browse eCommerce sites in weird and wonderful ways. Some shoppers spend hours meticulously scrolling through your entire product collection. Others use the main navigation menu to instantly drop down to the category they’re interested in. Meanwhile, many will use filters on category and onsite search results pages to find exactly what they’re looking for.

Online shoppers are deep in research mode when browsing product listing pages (PLPs). Even if they’re just browsing spontaneously, they may find themselves filtering the PLP to show the products they’re most interested in.

While I was searching for a new fridge-freezer, the importance of creating product specific filters really stood out to me. Now, I know fridge-freezers may not sound like a premium product. But it is a considered purchase at a high price point, meaning many of the lessons learned from this buying experience are equally as valuable to the premium and luxury eCommerce space.

What are product specific filters?

Product filters let people narrow down their search by selecting the product features they are most interested in. These product filters typically appear on brand, search, PLP or category pages and you may hear it referred to as faceted search.

Many product filters will be based on site-wide attributes that can be applied across your entire product catalogue, such as brand, user ratings, price range or colour. 

However, most shoppers want to filter a product list based on more granular attributes. This is where product specific filters shine. You may see product specific filters also be referred to as category-specific filters. This type of filtering method lets you add more detailed filters based on a particular product type or category such as split type, defrost type or freestanding vs integrated for fridge-freezers or style, shoe size or fit for trainers.

Why are they important?

Adding product specific filters to your online store elevates the customer experience and, in turn, could raise online revenue.

Shockingly, BigCommerce found that 42% of major eCommerce sites don’t have product specific filtering options. Similarly, Nosto’s Future of eCommerce Search report found that 56% of brands don’t have dynamic facets and filters on their site despite 30% of customers feeling frustrated if they can’t narrow down search results using advanced features.

If those statistics alone are anything to go by, it’s clear that customers want to be able to browse online using product specific filters.

Product specific filters help online shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for, reducing friction in their online buying journey. Adding more dynamic filters can also speed up the research phase by allowing browsing customers to easily narrow down search results. All of these benefits work together to bring your online shoppers closer to the point of conversion, making it easier than ever for them to find and buy goods.

How to improve product specific filters on PLPs

Faceted search done right is undoubtedly powerful for both your online store and your customers. With this in mind, let’s explore how you can make better use of product specific filters to improve the user experience and uplift sales.

Consider your audience’s awareness level and buying journey stage

Online store visitors will be in different stages of the buying journey when they land on your eCommerce site. Some site users will just be browsing or deep in the research phase while others may be ready to buy. The buying journey stage they are at could also influence their awareness level.

Let’s take a quick look at the different types of customer awareness in the marketing funnel and how this might influence how they interact with your store:

  • Unaware – These users at the top of the funnel aren’t necessarily in need of anything. They will likely be browsing with no expectations
  • Problem-aware – These potential customers know they have a problem or need so are looking for a suitable solution
  • Solution-aware – These would-be shoppers are aware of some of the solutions or product types that might satisfy their needs
  • Product-aware – These people are aware of the specific product type they are interested in
  • Most-aware – These prospective customers at the bottom of the funnel are aware of the exact product and brand they want to buy

By being aware of your target audience’s awareness levels and where they sit in the funnel, you can better understand what they might be looking for and how to tailor facets and filters to suit. Customers who are product-aware, for example, would benefit from seeing a brand and average star rating filter.

Meanwhile, those who are problem aware might want to be able to filter products based on certain usage or situational factors. A great example of this I noticed while looking for a new fridge-freezer is that Argos has a ‘suitable for outbuildings’ product specific filter on their fridge-freezer product listing page

This is certainly a niche filter but one that perfectly satisfies the needs of people who have a fridge-freezer in their garage. This is a great example of how understanding your customer’s stage of awareness and related needs can help you finetune your facets.

Understand what features your customers might be looking for

While online shoppers may browse the same category pages, their exact needs may differ. Sure, two people may both be looking to buy a new perfume but one might be looking for an everyday perfume and another might be searching for a specific fragrance type at a certain price point.

Understanding the search needs of your customers is especially important for considered purchases where site visitors put much more thought into their buying decision, weighing up all the risks and rewards.

Carry out customer research to understand shoppers’ needs and which product features might be valuable for them. This can be done through surveys, analysing past purchases or heatmaps, reviewing customer support chats, reading online reviews, watching screen recording playbacks, or exploring popular search terms.

Going back to my mission to find the perfect fridge-freezer, one way faceted search helped satisfy people’s search needs was by basing filters off common fridge-freezer attributes like the percentage split or defrost capabilities.

AO adds a more generic ‘features’ filter that can be used to account for commonly requested product features. Whereas Argos goes down the route of creating individual filters for each of these features. 

A handy tip for finding what features you might want to add as product-specific filters is to look at what product attributes are commonly used in the product titles. If a fridge-freezer product title tends to mention whether it’s American, freestanding or integrated, you know it would be useful to add a ‘type’ filter. Many premium brands however tend to have more stylistic product names rather than ‘keyword stuffing’ product attributes into the product title, as they can become overly long and repetitive when there are lots of similar products on the pages which makes rich filtering options even more crucial.

Give extra context to fill any knowledge gaps

The main purpose of faceted filtering is that it makes your customers’ lives easier, helping them find exactly what they’re looking for. Yet, people browsing your online store may not have a deep product knowledge, especially for specialist or technical product types such as laptops or smart watches.

Take your shoppers’ product knowledge into consideration when building faceted filters and use this to make it even easier to get the information they need.

Product specific filters present a great opportunity to give people more detailed information without distracting them from their purchase journey. You could add extra context to faceted search by including tool tips to educate potential buyers, like Marks Electrical does:

When browsing the AO site for fridge-freezers, I came across a ‘Facia Door Fixing’ filter. As someone who rarely does DIY or buys large appliances, I had no idea what this meant. I ended up leaving the site to frantically Google the difference between sliding and fixed door fixings. Ultimately, abandoning the AO site in the process. Had AO included a tool tip featuring illustrations or definitions of each door fixing type, I could have got the information I needed without ever leaving their category page. 

As a side note, the commonly accepted spelling is ‘Fascia’, with lots of people simply referring to it as the door hinge, so it was surprising to see AO had opted to use ‘Facia’. It’d be interesting to see what impact could be had by changing this filter name and adding a helpful tool tip.

When browsing the John Lewis website for a new fridge-freezer, I noticed a lot of products had a low energy rating. Knowing it was always best to buy electrical goods with an A rating, this left me feeling concerned about the quality of some products on offer. 

However, AO instantly put these worries at ease by providing more information in their ‘Energy Rating’ filter, explaining that the rating system has recently changed unbenknownst to the average buyer. This is a simple solution that would have kept me on the John Lewis fridge-freezer PLP for longer, had they thought to use the filter menu to explain why more products may be rated lower on the energy rating scale.

Bonus tip: More specific filters means more simple product tiles

While you want your category page to be helpful, you don’t want it to be overwhelming. There’s a fine line between the two so tread carefully when building out the ideal product listing pages for your online store.

Creating product specific filters lets you give customers control over their online search. Letting your customers narrow down the PLP results means you can simplify the amount of information included in each product tile.

The fridge-freezer PLP on the Currys website, for example, shows a lot of information for each product. As a result, you can only see one product at a time. As each product takes up a full screen, it’s much harder to browse the product collection. This can make the search experience feel overwhelming, deterring people from taking action.

However, if Currys makes sure the faceted search for this product type covers all of the necessary product features and attributes, they could simplify the product tile. 

John Lewis’ fridge-freezer category page is a great example of how their product tiles still share relevant information such as brand, fridge type, percentage split, energy rate, price, and user reviews while letting visitors see multiple products at once. If online shoppers want to get more granular with their search, they can use the faceted filters to do so. eCommerce managers can also test different views on PLP – grid vs list view – ideally giving customers the option to toggle between both. Whereas grid view allows for a richer more detailed product card and larger image thumbnails, list view fits in more products at a glance for maximum discoverablity. You can analyse heatmaps to see how often these view icons are clicked on to decide which view to default to. 

Final thoughts on using product specific filters to elevate product listing pages

When it comes to buying premium, luxury, or considered purchases, customers are keen to make the right choice first time, especially when there are installation charges. Carefully create product specific filters to personalise the browsing experience for your online shoppers, helping them carry out product research and find what they want with ease.

With that said, don’t rely solely on filters to keep your customers happy. Even with the most finetuned facets, mistakes can still happen. 

Take this John Lewis review, for example, where the customer misread the percentage split and dimensions. 

Combine detailed product specific filters on PLPs with in-depth product pages to ensure your customers get all the information they need. John Lewis could have helped overcome this mishap by adding aperture dimensions to the product page that show the total space needed overall to account for cabling, opening doors, or the percentage split.

Scale your store

Grow your online store to new heights with expert eCommerce consulting. Experience hands-on, holistic consultancy that drives growth and performance at every stage of your eCommerce journey.

Talk to our team

Struggling to grow your eCommerce store, making big changes, or facing bottlenecks? We’re here to help. Book a call to chat with our team. Tell us all about your current eCommerce challenges or goals and we’ll share how we can help.

Jump to a section