One of the testing ideas covered in the webinar Best Ecommerce Tests — Case Studies & Practical Advice to Raise Conversions Before the Holidays is grid view vs. list view in search results.
We know from eye-tracking and search engine behavior studies that, when presented with a list of search results, people often click the first result - paying attention to the top 3 or so. Rarely do folks click to the next page (past the 10th result).
Online stores may present search results in list view or grid view (grid view is more common on category result pages). Some e-stores offer both views for visitors to toggle between (like Home Depot, Walmart and QVC).
But which layout performs the best? Which view should you show by default?
There are many questions testing can answer:
Which view should you show by default?
Which view encourages more product exploration?
Which brings more customer satisfaction (is more "usable"?)
Which leads to the customer selecting an appropriate product and ultimately making a purchase?
Are customers conditioned by search engine results to click the top result most often?
Are they more likely to consider all the available products when presented in list view?
Measuring Success of Your Search Page Test
Testing alone does you no good unless you're clear on what you deem success. Search results are not responsible for closing the sale - they are a step in the selling process. To understand which view "wins," I suggest you measure the following:
1. Search page abandonment
Understand your "bounce" rates (leaving page in under 5-10 seconds, depending on your analytics configuration) and exit rates (leaving the page, or leaving your site altogether) for list view vs. grid view.
2. Search result click through by position at each view
SLI Systems tested list view against grid view for one of their customers and found that clicks were more evenly distributed among result positions in grid view than list view:
You may use this information to "searchandise" and present your highest profit margin matches first for certain terms, knowing that the customer is most likely to click on the first 1-3 results. You should also pay attention to...
3. Conversion rates
If folks only consider the first few results in list view - are these results relevant enough to encourage purchase? Or does grid view outperform?
4. Revenue per sale and contribution margin per sale
Which view ultimately moves your highest priced and highest margin products?
This is not just something you can test quantitatively (with a Google Website Optimizer or Omniture Test and Target tool), but qualitatively with real users.
Moosejaw has another approach to displaying category and search results: the ability to toggle between regular view and "Custy Reviews View":
Would showing Custy Reviews View by default lead to higher click through to products? Testing can reveal whether folks even notice they have the ability to switch, and whether customer review snippets are more persuasive than the default details.
Given customers' preference for social content, this may be a very effective tactic for many retailers. Dare to test it out?