One of the first things users look for when shopping is catalog diversity. Users will quickly judge the category to determine if it is likely to have the product(s) they are looking for based on the first few products shown.
If the user does not see that the category has diversity in product selection, they will assume the category/site/marketplace does not offer the products they are looking for. The user will quickly abandon the category and leave the site altogether.
In reality, users are often misled by the product diversity offered, thinking the selection was much narrower. This response is mainly because of how the products are ordered on the site and the use of the default sort order for product filtering.
Offering Product Diversity
Showing the diversity of the product category is essential, regardless of catalog size. Users want to see the full range of available products and want to be guided through the products they have the most interest in.
Bad Example: On Mahalo, the items at the top consist of expensive grouping/sets. This leaves the user thinking their products cost too much and causes them to leave.
Using sort types of “Price” and “Alphabetical” will skew the range of products available and will represent a small portion of your catalog diversity. When the user does not see a true representation of products, they will not spend the time to locate the products they are searching for.
Defaulting to “Best Selling” and “Popularity” is better, however, they will also lack the diversity the user is looking for. These options will not fully show the diversity, but may, by chance, offer enough to keep the user engaged.
Bad Example: At eBags, users were disappointed by the default sorting of “Bestsellers” because the product results in the first 20 laptop sleeves being dominated by a particular sleeve style and patterns and does not show the diversity of products.
Using Diversity-Based “Relevance”
To truly show the diversity of your catalog and shop categories, you need to show product representation of major products within the first 20 products for desktop and within the first 10 for mobile.
Using “Relevance” is sometimes called “Best Selling” sort order, however, “Relevance” shows more diversity overall. Using "Relevance” helps to ensure that the products will be highlighted with the most variety and will appeal to the diversity of your users and their needs.
Be sure to keep your catalog diversity true through the changes of the seasons, holidays, sales events, etc. You will need to keep your categories up to date, this is not a one-and-done task.
Keep Users Engaged by Highlighting Product Diversity.
The way you offer product sorting will influence the users’ understanding of what the category has to offer and the users’ willingness to stay on the site to shop.
Good Example: REI’s“Best Match” default sort order offers a variety of different running shoes, including brands, colors, styles, and running type.
Showing diversity helps the user understand the product types you offer and will encourage them to stay and shop. You can invest in complex algorithms or you can simply manage your catalog product order and offer your users the best sorting options to help them find the products they are looking for.
For more on creating diversity in your shop catalog, visit the full article from Baymard Institute.