5 Key Takeaways From Baymard Institute’s eCommerce Filter Research

Posted by Lisa Roberts at 4:38 pm in eCommerce Stats & Trends, Research

Our team was extremely excited to see recent research published by Christian Holst at the Baymard Institute benchmarking top ecommerce sites’ on-site filter capabilities. In short, they are “passable, at best”. Holst said, “when it comes to filtering, the majority of even the top ecommerce websites come up short compared to physical retail, where a customer’s request such as ‘a light casual spring jacket in size medium’ or ‘a rugged case for this digital camera’ isn’t out of the ordinary.” How many ecommerce sites do you know that allow you to shop that way?

Baymard’s research was conducted with a large-scale end user usability test and the benchmarking of 50 U.S. retail websites across 93 guidelines. Here are some of the findings that both interested and surprised us:

1) Only 16% of major ecommerce websites offer a reasonably good filtering experience.
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There are three core filtering types that can make or break the filtering experience: category-specific filters, thematic filters, and compatibility filters. According to Holst, “if just one is lacking, the user’s filtering experience will be shattered.” Yet a shocking 60% of major ecommerce websites lack one or more of these filter types. The good news? By having these three filter types available to your shoppers, you can get a leg-up on the competition.

2) 42% of top ecommerce websites lack category-specific filter types for their core product categories. [Tweet this]
Category-specific filters, such as ‘megapixels,’ ‘zoom level’ and ‘lens mount’ for cameras, provide shoppers with fundamental decision-making criteria specific to a product type. During Baymard’s usability testing, users that encountered websites without this filter type would abandon once they realized they would have to manually browse a generic list of hundreds of products to find what they were looking for. What’s more, it often took them a long time to realize those filters weren’t available, assuming that “it must be here somewhere” and not believing that the website would neglect such a basic filter option.

Tip: Review each of your core product categories, determining ways your shoppers would decide on those types of products. You may already have some important attributes called out in the child categories of your site. For instance, a kitchen supplies retailer may have food processors organized into ‘full-size’ and ‘mini’ child categories, but not have a filter for ‘capacity.’

3) 20% of top ecommerce websites lack thematic filters, despite selling products with a clear theme. [Tweet this]
Shoppers often use themes when shopping in-store, asking a store associate to help them find a “dress for an evening wedding” or a “techy gift for dad,” and they expect to shop the same way online. This is clear in that retailers utilizing thematic filters see a high engagement rate – often greater than 50% for these filter types.

Tip: Identify attributes and provide thematic filters within a product category, such as ‘style’ (e.g. casual, modern), ‘season’ (e.g. spring, holiday), ‘usage’ (e.g. outdoors, underwater), and ‘occasion’ (e.g. wedding, music festival).

4) 32% of top ecommerce sites lack compatibility filters. [Tweet this]
Try shopping for a phone case without a filter for ‘device type.’ It may seem like a trivial task, but was extremely difficult for Baymard’s test subjects, who had a completion rate of only 35%. This means that 65% had to give up or, worse, ended up purchasing a product that they believed was compatible but was in fact, not.

Tip: If you sell any compatibility-dependent products (accessories, integrated systems, spare parts, consumables, etc.), not having compatibility filters can be a deal breaker for your shoppers. Make sure you allow your shoppers to filter by attributes such as ‘model name or number’, ‘size,’ ‘capacity,’ or ‘power.’

5) Electronics, apparel and sporting goods are the biggest losers in ecommerce filtering performance. [Tweet this]
Filtering performance varies greatly by industry, with electronics, apparel and sporting goods sites suffering the greatest from insufficient filters. Mass merchants take the lead despite having the most complex filtering needs, by using advanced filter logic and data-post processing to provide a broad variety of filters (including category-specific ones).

Tip: The key players in your industry may not be the best role models. Look outside of your industry for ideas and inspiration.


Studies at this scale and depth are always eye-opening and provide information worth acting on.

We wanted to dig a bit deeper, and were very excited to be able to get a few additional questions and insights from the author of the study, Christian Holst. Check out the interview in this accompanying blog post.

Want more data on the challenges hindering shoppers’ search and navigation process today? Check out our study defining the modern day shoppers’ demands and how to meet them.

lisa roberts

Lisa Roberts is a 15-year Ecommerce vet who’s worked with technology innovators, including Edgecase, who are building real solutions for hard retailer problems. Her experience working inside a retailer, agency-side and vendor-side give her a unique perspective on how to innovate at the pace of consumer evolution while remaining focused on delivering proven results.

Follow Lisa Roberts on Twitter @lisadoesaustin

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