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How to organise your store in Shopify

For an eCommerce website, creating a logical and easy-to-understand store structure and organisation system is really important. This is your store's foundation and it must be strong. Otherwise, you risk ending up with a messy, disorganised store that might even need to be completely rebuilt in order to make sense (true story - I've had a few businesses approach me because they just couldn't cope with their messy store structure and needed help).

In 2015 I built my first Shopify eCommerce website – for a sports shop selling over 300 products across multiple categories.

I spent hours (perhaps days) creating a website structure document and navigation menu map to guide the project. I then spent more days figuring out how to set up the store structure in Shopify. As a Shopify newbie, it was a big learning curve.

Figuring out how to intuitively organise your online shop is an essential first step when planning out a new eCommerce website.

What makes it confusing is that each website platform has its own organisation quirks: WordPress / WooCommerce has product categories and subcategories, while Shopify has product collections but no sub-collections.

Ways to organise your products in Shopify

In Shopify, you can organise your products by:

  • Collection, 
  • Type
  • Tags
  • Vendor (brand)

Collections – the main way to group your products

Think of these as your product categories. You can have as many collections as you want and products can fall under more than one collection. 

For example, if you have an online fashion store for women, you might include collections such as:

  • All (created by default) 
  • New 
  • Sale
  • Dresses
  • Shirts & Tops
  • Skirts
  • Pants
  • Jeans

Collections are the foundation of your online store’s structure. It’s important to map them out before you start creating your website. 

There are two types of collections you can create in Shopify:

  • Manual Collections – You manually assign products to the relevant collection(s).
  • Automatic Collections – You specify conditions to automatically include matching products.

When creating your shop navigation menus, you’ll be linking to your store’s various collections. Here you will be able to create hierarchy by creating nested and dropdown menus.

It’s entirely up to you what collections you create. 

But remember – your goal as an online merchant is to create an easy shopping experience for visitors. Your collections should make sense to your target customers.

Product Type

This is an additional (and optional) way to organise your products.

Unlike collections, each product can only be assigned to one product type (you can assign products to multiple collections).

It’s important to map out your store’s product types before you start creating your online store.

Product types can also be used in your storefront filtering system. Learn more about Shopify’s storefront filter system here https://help.shopify.com/en/manual/online-store/themes/customizing-themes/storefront-filters

Let’s look at our example of a women’s fashion store. Here we could create the following product types:

  • Dresses
  • Skirts
  • Jeans
  • Shirts & Tops

However, it could make more sense for store owners to create more granular product types, especially if you want to use them in your storefront filtering system (storefront filtering by product type is now a native feature in Shopify 2.0).

So instead, we might create these sorts of more granular product types:

  • Mini dresses
  • Midi dresses
  • Maxi dresses
  • Mini skirts
  • Midi skirts
  • Maxi skirts
  • High rise jeans
  • Skinny jeans

Then, when using storefront filtering, a website visitor viewing the dresses collection page, could filter products by: Mini dresses, Midi dresses, Maxi dresses.

Doing it this way will improve your website’s user experience, particularly for large catalogue stores and those with many collections.

Assigning a product type to your products is optional. If you only have one or a few products, you might not even need to use this organisation type at all.

Product Tags

Product tags are another optional and useful way to organise your store.

They are helpful in 3 main ways:

  • Along with the other main product fields such as product title, description, vendor and type, product tags are connected to the search terms a website visitor might use to search your online store.
  • Many premium themes offer Filter by Tag as a storefront filtering feature. This means you could further improve your customer’s shopping experience by using tags or tag groups to filter products on your collection pages.
  • You can use the tag system to automatically assign products to collections. 

Tag systems can quickly become disorganised as your product range grows. To complicate matters, tags are case sensitive, which means ‘dress’ and ‘Dress’ will be registered as two separate tags.

This means it’s essential to map out what sort of tag system you’re going to use (if any) during the planning stages of your online store. This way, store managers always know what tags to use when uploading products.

A note about Shopify’s new (2.0) native storefront filtering system

At the end of 2021, Shopify 2.0 launched. With the many amazing feature updates, Shopify also added a native storefront filtering system.

Learn more about storefront filtering here – https://help.shopify.com/en/manual/online-store/themes/customizing-themes/storefront-filters and here – https://www.identixweb.com/shopify-filters-how-to-create-custom-filters-without-coding/

Note: If your store is set up to filter products using tags, then you won’t be able to use the new storefront filtering system. Storefront filtering provides a more robust filtering experience for your customers, allowing them to find products of interest quickly and with greater accuracy. For this reason, if you’re planning an entirely new Shopify store it’s best to use Shopify’s new filtering system, rather than tags.

Product Vendor

This is an additional and optional way to organise your products. It’s mainly applicable to those stores that sell different branded products, like big sports, health and beauty retailers.

Many stores won’t need or want to use this organisation category.

To summarise

  • Shopify allows online store owners to organise their products by Collections, Product Type, Product Tags and Product Vendor.
  • Collections are the main way to organise products into logical groups. Products can fall under many different collections.
  • Each product can only be assigned to one product type. Product types can be used in Shopify 2.0’s native storefront filter system, making them a useful way to improve the customer experience in some instances, particularly for large catalogue stores.
  • Product tags are another optional way to organise products in addition to collections, product type and product vendor. Product tags are a great way to improve your website’s searchability. Store owners can also use product tags (including tag groups) to create collection page filters; however, tag filtering cannot be used alongside Shopify 2.0’s new storefront filtering system. 
  • Product vendor is another optional organisation type that is useful for stores that sell products made by different brands.
  • It’s important to map out your store’s organisation structure and navigation map before choosing a theme or creating your website.

Store organisation impacts customer experience and conversions

Have you ever arrived on a website and immediately felt confused or frustrated? You looked at the navigation / shop menu and nothing made sense. You couldn’t find what you were looking for because the products had been grouped strangely into collections that were unexpected using unfamiliar collection / navigation link names. Perhaps the store owner thought they were being clever or creative…

When your store organisation doesn’t make sense to your website visitors, then they’re going to have a hard time understanding your store and navigating it. This hurts sales.

Helping you organise your store intuitively forms part of my Shopify Store Planning, Design and Setup service. If you’re interested in working with me, send an email to meg@nutmegstudio.co.za and I’ll send you a questionnaire that will help me create a cost estimation for your project.

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