I'm spotting a recurring trend with online shops this year - and it's making it hard to buy stuff!
When I know I want something specific, the obvious thing to do, to save searching for ages, is to use the filters on a website. But these don't always bring back what you'd expect.
I recently bought my daughter a new bed. It had to be a single, and I wanted a metal frame. I also quite wanted it to be white, although I was open to cream. So I started searching... and searching... and searching... The first issue is that whilst it's a bed for a child, it doesn't need to be a "kids bed" (let's face it, I'm going to be spending half of my nights in it). So any categorisations of Kids bedroom furniture was too limiting.
After lots of searching I decided I wasn't sure if I could trust the categorisation on the websites I was searching... if I removed the "metal" filter, and the colour filter, loads more options were coming back.
This isn't the first time we've had this problem - my husband has repeatedly found the categorising on B&Q's website extremely hard work, with certain products just not coming back within their filter.
My most recent example however is when I was trying to buy some red nail varnish from Superdrug - I felt it was a safe bet to filter by colour on something so colour led, yet I just couldn't find the red with a hint of glitter I was looking for this Christmas time! So, by chance I think, I did a search without a colour filter and stumbled upon the most perfect Rimmel Rock N Sparkle shade (not an affiliate link!) which is undeniably red, but which I so almost missed. I ended up buying that, and several other things from Superdrug, rather than move my whole order to a competitor. It may not have been a huge value basket but all these £20 orders add up for retailers and all it takes is some accurate categorisation.
I feel sorry for the website
As someone who makes websites, I feel sorry for the "website" (sorry to personalise a collection of dots and dashes) as it's invariably the site that gets the blame by consumers in cases like this. Or more's the point, the developers behind it. When this quite probably isn't the website's fault - it allows you to filter by colour, if the data however isn't there, then it can't filter by it. Whether it's the feed from stock or the people doing the classification, that "red" box needed to be ticked.
How can you make it better?
Have a search on your eCommerce shop for some real things. Really use it. Do your filters always work? Can you find specific items on your site that you know exist? If not, what can you do about it? Can you ask the team to be more thorough, or can you speak to your suppliers who give you the data?
There's no point having filters if the data isn't there to back them up. Make sure you're not missing out on sales because people think you don't have what you're looking for when really you do. They're there, they want to spend money with you - make sure your website lets them do that.