Happy browsing – 3 killer tips for a better online retail experience

For shopping lovers the world over, browsing is an inherent part of the experience. Before the responsibilities of a mortgage and a child curbed my own spending habits, I was a frequent and passionate shopper. These days my purchases need to be more considered so I find myself doing a lot more window shopping and a lot less impulse buying. However retailers would convert my browsing into purchases more frequently if they just made things a little bit easier. In my mind, anyone that doesn’t cater well to the browsing experience, is missing out on potential sales!

Image courtesy Kendra Sundvall (Flickr profile Chapendra)

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Let me narrow the selection without being too specific. Most larger online retailers do a great job of letting you narrow your selection by a variety of categories such as size, brand, style, and colour to name a few. That’s great if you know what you are looking for, but not so great for the serial browser.  Say I’m looking for pretty top for a Saturday night. If I head to Westfield my head spins at the thought of looking through their 3,123 tops. I don’t have anything in particular in mind, just hoping to find something fabulous. How do I search for that without applying multiple individual brand and type filters? I know that I don’t want a t-shirt, I don’t look good in yellow, I’ve got a gazillion black tops already, and I’m after something a bit classier than Supre.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could remove just these options from my search? Now that’s something that would be achievable online but hard to replicate offline.
  2. Sell me the complete look. If you’re showing me a glossy photo from a professionally styled shoot for a catalogue, I’m buying into the look almost as much as the product being featured. I don’t just want to see the dress. Show me the shoes, jewelry & other accessories that compliment the outfit. Make it easy to buy the entire look. Next Direct does a great job & even includes bras to complement the outfit. Not only do they showcase the range but you can easily add just one, or all of the items to your shopping bag with just one click.
  3. Take me back to where I came from. Offline if I take a few moments to look at a particular item in more detail, when I’m ready to continue browsing I don’t go back to where I started and look over the same stuff again. I’m only interested in the range of products I’ve not yet seen. The same applies online. Ladies fashion retailer Sacha Drake does a great job of this. Using the “Back to product range” link on the top of the product detail page, some quick scrolling acts as a good visual cue and reassurance that you are back where you left off, and haven’t missed anything!

Hint hint

With the Christmas gift buying season upon us I felt obliged to discuss options for those buying gifts. Many online retailers already have a wishlist function but outside of a wedding register, only the boldest people share their lists. I love Uberkate’s Hubby Hint that allows you to send a cheeky message to your significant other that you would dearly love to receive one of their pieces. The Facebook powered Gift Recommender on handmade treasure trove Etsy is a real hoot but somehow I don’t think I’ll be buying my brother a celebrity cross stitch for Christmas.

Where I see the wishlist concept exploding is with the evolved open graph and use of more verbs on Facebook. The hours I whittle away online browsing I could ‘like’, ‘love’, and ‘want’ a whole range of things for all my friends to see. Savvy retailers could tap into this behaviour to make it easy to show others what their friends desire. Expect me to get busy browsing and ‘verbing’ as my birthday approaches!

What could online retailers do better to get you to part with more money? What makes for a pleasant shopping user experience?



  1. Nikki @ Styling You

    So, perhaps those purchases are tax deductible now … required to write this post 😉 And love the Uberkate Hubby Hint. Come back to my blog later this week and find out how you can win a new design from the Uberkate range!

  2. jacki.james

    Ooooh tax deduction. Love it!

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