10min read

A Guide to Successful Product Category Marketing in 2024

Have you ever been to a big department store that doesn’t have signs directing you where to go? Without signs pointing you in the right direction or a map with pinpointed locations, you could expect shopper frustration. 

Directing shoppers toward their desired products in a physical store is expected. So, what about online stores?

Product categories are the backbone of every online shop

Categorizing your products and taking the time to carefully craft your online directory can be the difference between achieving your business goals and falling behind. 

In this article, you will learn how product categories improve the user experience, optimize your marketing investment, and contribute to your business goals.

What is a product category?

Product categories are like a road map that directs traffic. 

Shoppers need guidance when shopping, especially if you have a big product catalog. The easier the signage is to understand, the faster customers get to their goal – the product they need. 

For a first-class shopping experience, shoppers expect products to be correctly categorized and bundled. Whether customers are searching for skin care products, winter coats, kitchen utensils, or Christmas candles, intuitive product categories are a necessity for marketing. 

How can you categorize products for your marketing?

A product category is created by grouping similar products that share similar features. These shared characteristics, which determine how items in your inventory are grouped together, should be considered in your marketing strategy from the start. 

However, it’s important to continuously review and refine these product categories over time. What was relevant for shoppers in 2018, may not have the same success rate today. Timeliness is key to grabbing your user’s attention.

Examples of product category marketing:

  • ASOS – online fashion and cosmetic retailer 

In addition to the typical  “Shop by product,”  visitors can also search by occasion, season, trends, body fit, and more. They’ve set up their online shop with unique categories that correspond to the current interests of their target audience. ASOS bundles its products in new contexts to continually show the buyer new possible uses and cater to their preferences.

ASOS product category examo=ples
  • Fackelmann – household product designers and manufacturers

In the Fackelmann online shop,  shop customers can = find product categories for specific contexts, such as various  “baking occasions.” This gives website visitors a quick way to find themed baking utensils perfect for the holidays without having to sort through the typical baking tools. 

Fackelmann online shop categories
  • Gorillas – Mobile grocery delivery service 

Products can also be categorized according to frequency of use. A product like mayonnaise tends to be purchased in fewer intervals. Therefore, Gorillas, has classified this product in the “pantry cupboard” category. It’s grouped next to jars of Nutella and other pantry staples, which would typically be on a completely different row of shelves in a physical store.

Through user-centered categorization of their own product range, e-commerce operators can increase their conversion rates and reduce bounce rates. A user-centered approach means that your product categorization strategy must be questioned again and again to find what works best.

What are examples of different types of product categories?

You can create as many product categories as there are features, locations, functions, etc. because a product category includes products with similar product properties and a similar benefit for your customers

You can build product categories hierarchically or in other words, in the form of a tree structure. For example, in the “clothing” category you will typically find that there’s a distinction between women’s and men’s clothing. These categories in turn include subcategories such as “pants,” “jackets,” etc.

Before finally categorizing an article, you should be clear about which classification makes sense. A well-known way of classifying products is to divide them into the following 4 major classifications: 

Please note that the definitions partially overlap

  • Consumer goods: These are products that are purchased regularly. An example of this would be toothpaste. The price and quality of the product hardly differ between the different manufacturers. As a result, customers rarely engage with this type of product. They usually choose a brand and stay loyal to it.
  • Shopping Goods: Goods in this category are purchased less frequently than consumer goods and are generally more expensive. For this reason, customers collect a lot more information and compare offers before purchasing. An example of shopping goods would be electronic devices.
  • Specialty and Luxury Goods: These goods are primarily sought after and purchased by a loyal customer base. Customers know exactly what they want. Often it’s not just about exceptional features and exclusivity, but also about the status that comes with it. A good example of a luxury item would be a limited edition watch.
  • Unsought Goods: These products are only sought after when a specific problem occurs. For example, a light bulb is usually only purchased when an old light bulb has burned out.

Looking for a product categorization tool to lower bounce rates and guide customers? AB Tasty is the complete experience optimization platform that allows you to build better experiences for your customers – fast. From A/B testing to online product category management, your optimization strategy only needs one tool. 

AB Tasty's CTA

How can product categories be analyzed, updated, and used effectively?

An analysis of product categories begins with recording and evaluating product features. The factors that influence the demand for a product positively or negatively are also identified. Not only is your own traffic necessary in the evaluation phase, but competing online shops can also serve as inspiration.

In addition to determining which product categories are assigned, an analysis also includes a more in-depth analysis of each individual product type. The data expands your own understanding of customers. How do they perceive categories and product types? How do they communicate and what is their purchasing behavior?

A comprehensive analysis also helps the shop operator to reflect on current market trends and develop new strategies for category creation.

How to create product categories for marketing successfully?

Now let’s see how you can create effective product categories for your e-commerce marketing strategy using three important steps.

Step 1: Identify the purpose of the product detail pages and product category pages

The most important pages of every online shop are the individual product detail pages and the product category pages. Both types of pages serve a specific purpose.

Product pages are not just the shop windows for the products. Because on these pages, the focus is more on conversion and less on navigation. 

Before visitors get to the product page, they are confronted with the product categories. The purpose of these is to offer customers orientation and guide them smoothly through the range. The categories help the user navigate.

Step 2: Design your product categories with customers in mind

When developing product categories, the customer’s perspective should always be taken. What really motivates them to buy? What information must be integrated into the listing for which product?

To optimize conversion rates in marketing using product categories, online shop operators can turn the following:

Product categories: Summarize and describe

Products can be summarized as described according to the criteria and characteristics presented above. You can then use these groupings for your menu and define main and submenu items. 

(Pro tip: Personalization also makes it even easier for customers to find the product they want)

To give your menu an extra boost, you also have the option to display the categories in a personalized order. i.e. a customer who is primarily interested in the “sneakers” category will see it at the top, while another customer will see “sneakers” further down and “jackets” first because this category is currently particularly relevant to them.

Product category pages: how to design an attractive product category page? 

The product category pages should be clear and attractive. 

  • Information displayed about the product: The displayed products on this page should show any details that help visitors differentiate the products (e.g. size, type, or other information related to the product niche).
  • Photos and Icons: Use clear images on product category pages. This means your customers can use visualization to get a much quicker overview of whether they are in the right area than if they had to read through long texts.
  • Number of products on a page: The key to a good product category page is a balanced number of products. Too few products signal to customers that there is limited variety. Conversely, too many products tend to lead to overwhelm. We recommend between 10 and 50 articles per page.
  • Personalized product ranking: To help customers find the right product for them, you can personalize the order of your products on your category pages: i.e. display “relevant” products at the top. (“Relevant” products are a result of the click and purchase behavior of all users.) You also have the opportunity to display the first products in a personalized way by using recommendations.
Gartenhaus & Co example of product categories

The product category page “Gartenhaus & Co.” from the provider Gartenhaus GmbH shows a structured and limited number of products.

Step 3: Use options to limit choices

Any of the following methods will reduce the number of items displayed. This makes it easier for customers to choose products and increases the conversion rate.

  • Additional product categorization:  Each product category can be divided into subcategories to make the search even more specific. No matter which principle this is used for: the names of the respective categories must be specific and understandable.
  • Functional Categorization: Products are classified based on the function they are associated with. This is the most commonly used categorization.
  • Demographic categorization: Here the products are classified according to demographic criteria such as gender and age.
  • Categorization by area of ​​application:  The key question in this classification is where and how the item is used or installed (e.g. bathroom, kitchen, living room).
  • Specific categorization: Within a product category, you can classify the goods again according to specific characteristics (e.g. according to the size of computer monitors).
  • Categorization of the solution: This grouping is based on a specific problem that customers want to see solved by a product. A good example would be losing weight or building muscle.
  • Filtering: With filters and faceted navigation, shop visitors can narrow down their searches themselves to get to the desired items more precisely.
  • Search: With the onsite search function,  customers enter the name of the product or a feature into the search bar to find corresponding results.

What are other benefits of product categories in marketing?

With product categories, you can track and evaluate customers’ surfing habits. Furthermore, you can analyze their purchasing behavior which enables e-commerce companies to make individually tailored product recommendations. This is useful because very few customers have any need or interest in the entire product range. Additionally, the data obtained through individual recommendations provides valuable information about the behavior of shop customers and visitors.

To get even more out of your product categories for marketing, you can also use them to provide category-specific recommendations.  For example, you have the option of providing an overview of certain categories on the homepage and displaying matching articles from the respective category. Based on your customers’ clicking and purchasing behavior, you can personalize the recommendations and present products that are particularly relevant to them.

Personalized product recommendations on the Görtz homepage from a specific category

Personalized product recommendations on the Görtz homepage from a specific category (“New Bags”).

Why product category marketing is an indispensable part of e-commerce marketing

Product categorization is an essential part of conversion optimization for online shops. If the clicking and purchasing behavior of customers is better understood, the guidance of customers through the range can be optimally designed using product categories. This means you can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates. The insights from the analysis of product categories are therefore becoming an indispensable part of marketing in e-commerce.

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14min read

How To Build A Customer Journey Map

Understanding your customers’ paths is no easy task. Each user has their own unique reason for visiting your site and an individual route that they take as they explore your pages.

How can you gain insights about your customers to improve your website’s usability and understand buying trends?

The answer is simple: build a customer journey map.

In this blog, we’ll dive into a few things: what is a customer journey, a customer journey map, how to map the customer journey visually, templates of different customer journeys, a step by step guide for how to create them, and examples of customer journeys in action. Let’s get started

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey is a combination of all the interactions customers have with your brand before reaching a specific goal.

Creating a compelling journey helps you stand out and shows customers that you care about their experience. An enjoyable customer journey promotes positive engagement, making for more satisfied customers that are more likely to return for repeat purchases.

By better understanding your customers, you’ll be able to provide them with the best possible user experience every time they visit your online store. The best way to do this is by creating visual customer journey maps that present all this information about customers at a glance.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of a customer’s interaction with your business or website. It’s used to define which parts of this process might not be working as smoothly as they should be, thus improving the customer’s experience.

The customer journey map is a (mostly) visual tool that helps businesses understand what a customer goes through when buying a product or service from them. It maps out in clear, concise, visual terms, the journey each customer is likely to experience through buyer personas and user data.

The best customer journey map is a story, brought to life visually, of the customer’s experience. In essence, the best customer journey map is a story, brought to life visually, of the customer’s experience. It should be noted, however, that more complex information on the map may require text.

The map itself highlights “touchpoints, which are specific elements of the customer’s interaction with a business. Each of these touchpoints – for example, seeking a product, researching its content, buying the product, waiting for delivery, and returning it if unsatisfied – can be judged as negative, neutral, or positive from the customer’s perspective.

Customer journey maps require various research techniques that include hard data, customer feedback, and creative thinking. As such, no two maps are the same and each one will depend on many different factors that can’t be simplified or stereotyped as a matter of course.

The heart of customer journey maps: Buyer personas

Buyer personas are at the heart of a customer journey map tool and are broad representations, presented as fictional characters, based on real-life data and customer feedback. Typically, each project will create between three and seven buyer personas, each of which will require its own customer journey map.

The point of the customer journey map is to understand, as clearly as possible, what a customer will encounter when using your service. It will also help you improve the elements that are not functioning properly, are not easy to navigate, and show you how to make the entire experience more satisfying.

Each persona, and therefore the journey map itself, is not meant to be a perfect illustration of actual interactions. Rather, it’s a broad representation of the experience from the persona’s perspective.

Who Can Benefit From A Customer Journey Map?

There are many reasons why a customer journey map can be useful to a business. Customer satisfaction is more important than ever to a business, and it’s tied to loyalty to an extent that has not previously existed. Customers are more demanding, aware of their options, and willing to shop around.

By mapping each of the previously mentioned touchpoints, a well-designed customer journey map template can highlight any problems that clients might experience in the process of interacting with a business and help foster a relationship with an organization, product, service, or brand. This can occur across multiple channels and over a long period of time.

Once a customer journey map template has been designed, the entire enterprise can keep the customer at the forefront of the decision-making process. With a focus on the customer and their experience, or user experience (UX), any kinks, holes, or brick walls within the timeline’s touchpoints can be ironed out.

Bringing Together All Aspects Of The Business

Customer journey maps can help a business by bringing together departments with a focus on customer experience. To begin with, all departments can be engaged to discuss issues that customers may face when dealing with them. This is no small thing as many departments may not be used to dealing with customers, yet the decisions they take may have a profound effect on UX. By creating an understanding of how each touchpoint affects UX across the entire business, decisions can be made from an empathetic perspective.

Traditional marketing stops at the point of purchase, but customer experience does not necessarily end there. For example, perhaps the purchase was not to their satisfaction and they want to return the goods. Departments that might not typically be involved in touchpoints before purchase now have a central role to play. How easy is it for the customer to find the return information on a website? If they need information on delivery or collection times, how likely are they to get a response that will satisfy them? This all requires forethought and a policy that keeps customer experience central to design and organization.

How to map the customer journey visually

A customer journey map is a visual representation that helps you gain better insight into your customers’ experiences (from start to finish) from their point of view.

There are two vital elements to creating a customer journey map:

  • Defining your customers’ goals
  • Understanding how to map their nonlinear journey

By mapping out a customer’s digital journey, you are outlining every possible opportunity that you have to produce customer delight. You can then use these touchpoints to craft engagement strategies.

According to Aberdeen Group (via Internet Retailer), 89% of companies with multi-channel engagement strategies were able to retain their customers, compared to 33% of those who didn’t.

To visually map every point of interaction and follow your customer on their journey, you can use Excel sheets, infographics, illustrations, or diagrams to help you better understand.

Customer journey maps also help brands with:

  • Retargeting goals with an inbound viewpoint
  • Targeting a new customer group
  • Forming a customer-centric mindset

All of these lead to better customer experiences, which lead to more conversions and an increase in revenue.

Want more information on the digital customer journey? Check out our digital customer journey resource kit for a detailed e-book, an editable workbook, a use case booklet, and an infographic.

Examples of Customer Journey Map Templates and Which to Choose

There are four different types of customer journey maps to choose from. Each map type highlights different customer behaviors as they interact with your business at different points in time. Choosing the right template is essential based on your goals.

  1. Current state template

The current state template is the most commonly used journey map that focuses on what customers currently do, their way of thinking, and how they feel during interactions.

It’s great for highlighting existing pain points and works best for implementing incremental changes to customer experiences.


2. Future state template

The future state template focuses on what customers will do, think, and feel during future encounters. It’s useful for conveying a picture of how customers will respond to new products, services, and experiences.

3. Day in the Life Template

This template is similar to the current state template because it visualizes present-day customer behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. However, this template assesses how customers behave both with your organization and with peers in your area.

This type of journey map works best for spurring new initiatives by examining unfulfilled needs in the market.


4. Service Blueprint Template

When creating a service blueprint template, you typically begin with an abridged version of a current or future state journey map. Then you add a network of people, methods, procedures, and technologies responsible for giving a simplified customer experience, either in the present or in the future.

Current state blueprint maps are beneficial for recognizing the source of current pain points, whereas future state blueprint maps help create an environment that will be necessary for providing a planned experience.


How to Create a Customer Journey Map (7 Steps)

Creating customer journey maps may feel repetitive, but the design and application you choose will vary from map to map. Remember: customer journeys are as unique as your individual customers.

Step 1: Create Buyer Personas

Before creating a journey map, it’s important to identify a clear objective so you know who you’re making the map for and why. Building personas is the most time-consuming part of the process. It requires detailed research, including qualitative and quantitative data, and is the foundation of the entire process. A persona is a highly relatable and rounded fictional character, generalized, but not stereotyped.

Buyer personas help define customer goals, providing a deeper understanding of their needs and topics of interest. More detail makes for more realistic personas, which means you’ll need to do a fair amount of market research to acquire this data.

Start by creating a rough outline of your buyer’s persona with demographics like age, gender, occupation, education, income, and geography. When you have that in place, you’ll need to get psychographic data on your customers. This kind of information may be harder to collect compared to demographic data, but it is worthwhile to understand customer preferences, needs and wants.

In short, demographics tell you who your customers are and psychographics provide insights into the why behind their behavior. Collecting concrete data on your customers helps you serve them better and deliver a more personalized user experience.

Collecting concrete data on your customers helps you serve them better and deliver a more personalized user experience.

Step 2: Select Your Target Customer

After making several customer personas, it’s time to do a “deep dive” into each to build a more accurate reflection of their experience.

Start by analyzing their first interaction with your brand and mapping out their movements from there.

What questions are they trying to answer? What is their biggest priority?

Step 3: List Customer Touchpoints

Any interaction or engagement between your brand and the customer is a touchpoint.

List all the touchpoints in the customer journey, considering everything from the website to social channels, paid advertisements, email marketing, third-party reviews, or mentions.

Which touchpoints have higher engagement? Which touchpoints need to be optimized?

All customer journey mapping examples are unique. Therefore, touchpoints on one map are unlikely to work for another. In fact, every business needs to update its buyer personas and customer journey maps as their business changes. Even quite subtle changes can have profound effects on the customer journey map template.

Step 4: Identify Customer Actions

Once you have identified all your customer touchpoints, identify common actions your customers make at each step. By dividing the journey into individual actions, it becomes easier for you to improve each micro-engagement and move them forward along the funnel.

Think of how many steps a customer needs to reach the end of their journey. Look for opportunities to reduce or streamline that number so customers can reach their goals sooner. One way to do this is by identifying obstacles or pain points in the process and creating solutions that remove them.

This is a great time to use the personas you created. Understanding the customer will help you troubleshoot problem areas.

Anticipating what your customer will do is another important part of mapping the customer journey. Accurate predictions lead to you providing better experiences, which ultimately leads to more conversions.

Step 5: Understand your available resources

Creating customer journey maps presents a picture of your entire business and highlights every resource being used to build the customer experience.

Use your plan to assess which touchpoints need more support, such as customer service. Determine whether these resources are enough to give the best customer experience possible. Additionally, you can correctly anticipate how existing or new resources will affect your sales and increase ROI.

Step 6: Analyzing the Customer Journey

An essential part of creating a customer journey map is analyzing the results.

Now you have your data, customer journey mapping template, touchpoints, and goals, it’s time to put it all together and define where the UX is meeting expectations and where things can be improved. It is important to note that mapping where things are going well is almost as important as defining what isn’t. Some elements of the journey can be spread to other areas.

As you assess the data, look for touchpoints that might drive customers to leave before making a purchase or areas where they may need more support. Analyzing your finished customer journey map should help you address places that aren’t meeting customers’ needs and find solutions for them.

Take the journey yourself and see if there’s something you missed or if there is still room for improvement. Doing so will provide a detailed view of the journey your customer will take.

Follow your map with each persona and examine their journeys through social media, email, and online browsing so you can get a better idea of how you can create a smoother, more value-filled experience.

One of the best ways of pinpointing where things are not going to plan is through customer feedback. This is typically done through surveys and customer support transcripts.

Step 7: Take Business Action

Having a visualization of what the journey looks like ensures that you continuously meet customer needs at every point while giving your business a clear direction for the changes they will respond to best.

Any variations you make from then on will promote a smoother journey since they will address customer pain points.

A great way to test your variations to find out what better serves your customers throughout their user journey is by leveraging A/B testing.

AB Tasty is a best-in-class A/B testing solution that helps you convert more customers by leveraging experimentation to create a richer digital experience – fast. This experience optimization platform embedded with AI and automation can help you achieve the perfect digital experience with ease.

Analyzing the data from your customer journey map will give you a better perspective on changes you should make to your site to reach your objective.

Once you implement your map, review and revise it regularly. This way, you will continue to streamline the journey. Use analytics and feedback from users to monitor obstacles.

Customer Journey Map Examples

Customer journey map templates are varied, some appear like works of art, while others are the work of a child, but as long as they are clear and concise, they can be effective.

Customer Journey Map Examples

This customer journey map for the charity ‘The Samaritans’ is a highly empathetic map, focused on the purpose of the charity itself. Note how the text is highly visual and therefore makes it easy to relate to the image of the map itself.

Another example of customer journey map

This is an example of a map that gives the impression of a journey, rather than a linear UX. This can help push home the point that customer experience is rarely easy to define as a journey from A to B.

The Truth about Customer Journeys

Customer journeys are ever-changing. Journey maps help businesses stay close to their customers and continuously address their needs and pain points. They provide a visual of different customers which helps to understand the nuances of their audience and stay customer-focused.

Customer journey maps can vary widely, but all maps share the same steps. With regular updates and the proactive removal of roadblocks, your brand can stand out, provide meaningful engagement, improve customer experiences, and see positive business growth.