Taxonomy For Furniture Ecommerce – Part Art, Part Science

March 12, 2015

If I told you we had a resident Taxonomist on staff who regularly applies his MLIS to the job, would you believe me? As it turns out, taxonomy (not to be confused with taxidermy) is not just for classifying the animal kingdom. To learn how taxonomy applies to ecommerce and why it’s so important to selling furniture online, read on.

Taxonomy – Not Just For The Birds (Or The Stuffed Birds)

Taxonomy boils down to the art of making stuff “findable” – which can be applied to anything that has volumes of information. It’s an increasingly valuable and sought-after skill set in the ecommerce world. And that’s exactly what Nick Chin, Taxonomy Manager, does for our furniture retail clients’ websites.

At Blueport Commerce Nick is tasked with developing data structures and taxonomies to support product enhancement and searchability on our ecommerce platform. He organizes heaps and heaps of product information, working with our content and development teams to create a great user search experience, and increase sales opportunities for our furniture retail clients.

“There’s always been an overlap between professional business and taxonomy, especially in the Information Age, where this is just so much stuff to manage,” says Nick. “Today, taxonomy more broadly applies to the art and science of facilitating people in finding what they need. If you are an ecommerce company today, you need people to figure out how your data should be presented online and how it can logically be found.”

Data Classification – A Crucial Link Between Many

Nick’s role offers a link between the development team who codes and builds our platform, the support team who performs daily website maintenance, the product presentation team who writes copy and refines imagery, the ecommerce team who provides strategic business direction and ultimately the retailer. Where a copywriter or imager works specifically on the online presentation of one particular product, Nick looks at groupings of product and optimizing those groupings to ensure easy find-ability for the shopper, and ultimately stronger conversion for the retailer.

Classifying Furniture That’s Similar But Different

When it comes to classifying furniture products, there’s an interesting problem where the same piece type can have multiple names. Take for example the “nightstand,” which, depending on the retailer and region, may be called a “bed table,” a “bedstand” or “bed side table.” In this case, the different names for virtually the same piece type should be mapped to the related product by automatic keyword indexing.

On the other hand, there are furniture piece types that appear similar but are slightly different by design or function. For example, a sofa bed and a futon. Functionally, they’re similar in that both allow for sitting and/or sleeping. But, in other ways, they’re different; sofa beds are typically constructed as a sofa with a separate pull-out mattress while a futon collapses using the same cushion as the mattress. As a retailer, you have to make important decisions in how you classify and present such items online, depending on the products you carry and the types of shoppers you’re targeting. In some cases sofas, sofa beds, and futons should be presented separately. In others, it might make sense to combine them. Whatever the grouping, it’s important the shopper is presented a clear path to finding the product using menus or filters.

Nick’s advice to furniture retailers? Think like a shopper and how you would search if you were in their shoes. Good ol’ gut instinct can go a long way here, as can digging deeper into your site’s data to learn how your customers are searching.

Suffice to say, organizing and communicating your product data effectively online, especially for furniture is critically important for retail success. Before you go hiring your own Taxonomy Manager (Nick’s taken!), contact us.