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E-Commerce App Design: How to Improve Product Findability on Your E-Commerce Mobile App

February 9, 2017

It’s no secret that having properly functioning e-commerce websites and mobile apps separate those companies who are bringing in sizeable profits and retaining their best customers from those who are increasingly seeing their customer base searching for other options. With over 80% of internet users conducting their searches via smartphone, it’s no wonder that increasing the quality of user experience on mobile apps has become vital.


Mobile commerce is growing exponentially (largely thanks to millennials, who cannot recall a time when they weren’t doing the bulk of their shopping online). This inherent comfort in shopping using devices as opposed to brick and mortar locations has essentially shifted the entire landscape of online sales. Increasingly, generation X has become more willing to pay via mobile device as well. This generation, born between the mid 1960’s and the early 80’s was a tough group to crack, as they have needed to shift their way of thinking to adopt this ability to shop online. In terms of traffic, in mobile retail traffic officially surpassed desktop traffic in August 2014.

Looking at leaders in the space will show you the best way to interact with customers through mobile. Giants like Amazon, Groupon, Etsy, and Target seem to have this mobile application thing all figured out. So… how do they do it?

  • Conduct User-Centric Research

Most companies who operate within the e-commerce space have a team dedicated to optimizing user experience and keeping up with the latest trends within the vertical. However, that’s one of the issues most companies succumb to: they have internal employees deciding how their customers are going to use their applications.

Although internal employees often feel they understand the way their customer prefers to go through the buying process, this is not always the case. In reality, the only person who can tell you exactly how the mobile app is used by a visitor is, well, a visitor! Employees can try as hard as they can to remain unbiased when interacting with a given application to model the user experience, but their advanced knowledge of the content of the pages will lead them to make decisions when operating that are different than those which are made by shoppers.

Thankfully, there is a relatively simple approach to solving this issue and it dates back to any general course related to marketing: conduct secondary research. Bringing in a group of carefully selected people who represent your target market and watching how they organically go about finding certain products or services you’re offering is perhaps one of the best things you can do for your company. 73% of companies not currently conducting user experience research will begin doing so in the next 12 months – so start now and remain ahead of the curve!

  • Optimize Your ‘Search’ Options

It’s no question that customers who make use of mobile apps are looking for a fast, smooth and seamless experience. Why, then, do most companies have difficulty maneuvering search capabilities? If you look at the data around e-commerce sites, you’ll see that sites with plain text search features see about 40% of customers abandoning their shopping carts while sites allowing more specific search criteria to be indicated see only 2% abandonment rates. The proof is in the pudding! Following an unsuccessful search, 12% of customers will go to a competitor’s site, which opens the door for major profit losses.

While designing your app, a good rule of thumb to follow when optimizing search options is to never allow the search bar to be more than a single click away from any page where a customer may find themselves. This way, time spent on your mobile app can be minimized and results can be maximized.

Given the nature of society today, companies must also ensure that their searches are quick. Customers will not tolerate needing to wait what they see as a lengthy period for a search to return a result, and consequently, they will uninstall your app. In order to ensure that your search queries are quickly materialized, consider investing in a larger server or cloud-based hosted search.

Additionally, features like auto-completing search allow users to go directly to the pages with recommended products which allows for a much smoother user experience and will often lead to a sale.

  • Increase Filtering Ability

Aside from general search queries, many mobile app users will want to filter their search results in order to further narrow the field to products they may be interested in. The bulk of applications only allow customers to filter based on price, color, or size availability.

As it relates to mobile applications, additional filtering options should be located within the same drop down menu as those already established. Online, however, there are a multitude of options to present these filters (left justified, at top of page, etc.). Numerically, 34% of websites have a poor filtering experience, which vastly limits the ability of users to find the products they’re likely to purchase. This same thing filters down e-commerce mobile applications, which end up having the same issues as well.

To make this experience better for clients, companies should use the data found in their customer-centric research and evaluate it to understand how users are filtering their search queries. For example, an athletic wear company may want to filter their women’s tops section by ‘tight fitting’ and ‘loose fitting’ as most people have specific fits they prefer to wear while working out. Why not allow them to bypass the options which they will never consider?

Overall, companies who are interested in making user experience on their e-commerce mobile applications better are already a step ahead of the game. It is these forward-thinking organizations who will continue to reap the benefits of having their products or services available to the public on their smart devices. As they say, half the battle is realizing that there needs to be a change! So, incorporate some of these suggestions into your e-commerce optimization efforts this year and you should see some positive change.

If you face any other challenges with your e-commerce app, let us know in the comments and we’ll try and address them in our next blog post.

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