Product Selection and Discovery: What You Can Learn From the Telco Industry

Though yesterday’s webinar was niche – we focused on the telco industry specifically – a number of best practices presented in the session are applicable to any online store. This post is a summary of the Phone and Plan Discovery portion of the webinar, highlighting what telcos are doing to help customers find the right wireless handset amongst a sea of options.

Filtered Navigation

Most telco sites do take advantage of filtered navigation options to help customers find the best phone for them. This is so important when there are as many as 180 products to choose from, and features play an important role in the purchase decision.

All retailers can benefit from adding more relevant filters based on important product attributes. This can improve conversion rates as you help customers hone in on and compare only products relevant to their purchase criteria. It also helps customers understand products better when they can see major attributes at a glance – “Oh, some phones have FM radio and speakerphone? Yeah, I want that.”

Filters limited to Category / Manufacturer were not as helpful:

Think about your current filter options (commonly price, brand, style) and think of how you can filter further by attribute like color, size, feature, battery length, star rating etc.

Product Results

Some ideas on improving category, filter and search results pages:

1. Don’t waste pixels in screen resolution

Often there is opportunity to grab more screen real estate to display more product information:

2. Allow customer to toggle between list and grid view

3. Add badges for feature highlights

4. Put model and color variations on one product page

Instead of listing a separate sku for each color / version (like 8GB vs. 16GB), show one product page with available options:

5. Customer AND expert reviews

Allowing customers to sort by and filter by customer and 3rd party review ratings is helpful for humanistic and methodical shoppers, respectively.

6. Consider slide tools

Horizontal sliders replicate the in-store experience of scanning a display shelf and gives your site a modern feel. It can help the customer compare the looks of the product (very important for phones that are now fashion accessories) without scrolling up and down and may work well for books, music, fashion and jewelry categories.

7. Give them a quick look

Mouseover/hover features are a great way to expose more product detail that a customer is interested in.

Sometimes this is done with a “lightbox” feature like Adobe Scene7′s Quick View feature.

Comparison Matrix

The comparison matrix is very helpful for side-by-side comparisons – and it warrants a blog post of its own (yes this is a hint that I’m going to blog about this soon on Get Elastic.)

Best Buy is a nice example, it shows the number of phones you can select at a time and allows you to launch the compare tool from the product you just selected. (Some sites require you to scroll to the top of the page to find that hidden “Compare” button).

From the matrix, you can remove selections, print the page or highlight the differences between the models being compared:

Product Discovery

One of the most challenging things about online retail is the fact that the customer must rely on 2 dimensional images to experience the product. Anything that shows off a product helps reduce fears, uncertainties, doubts and dealbreakers about products.

It’s now common to find image zoom, color switching and multiple product views — and more and more e-stores are adding video, 360 degree views and size comparisons.

Some products, like mobile phones, software, appliances and electronics benefit from additional tools like:


Very helpful for new and existing customers:

Product simulators

The above is by Sony Ericsson, we haven’t found other handset manufacturers providing this.

What‘s in the box

Showing visually the accessories that come with a product is more effective than a bullet point list. It can also be a value proposition – look how much stuff is included with {insert product name here}.


When your product has a lot of features and specs, icons can help customers scan the page and hone in on what they care about – especially for those who process information visually better than textually.

The full one-hour webinar covered many more tactics including navigation, guided selling, cart/checkout and service upgrades. Why not check out the replay of Ecommerce Best Practices for the Telco Industry?

Next Webinar

Every Second Counts: How Website Performance Impacts Shopper Behavior

Is your website keeping up with the competition when it comes to web page response times? Today’s shoppers have high expectations when it comes to buying online. Websites which take too long to load can result in negative brand perception, diminished goodwill and a significant loss in overall sales.

Join us on November 4th to learn about the impact of site speed on shopper behavior. In this one hour webinar, Marketing Manager Margaret Rivera of Akamai will present findings from a new study which has identified two seconds as the new threshold for acceptable web page response times.

Webinar Takeaways:
• How poor site performance leads to shopper dissatisfaction and site abandonment
• How website performance reaches beyond the site into the physical store
• The consequences for an online retailer whose website underperforms

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8 Responses to “Product Selection and Discovery: What You Can Learn From the Telco Industry”

  1. Jackie says:

    Great ideas for filtered navigation options! Thanks!

  2. Hey Linda,
    Another group of retailers that comes to mind when thinking about the need for good e-commerce filtering options are computer retailers. Computers have roughly the same mix of user needs regarding tech, design and functionality as phones (but obviously on a much higher scale).

  3. Mark Azo says:

    In my recent experience with T-mobile and AT&T websites, the navigation was still pretty horrible. Maybe when it comes to device/product selection it works great but trying to change a service is still a pain even with their new designs.

    Product discovery is the next big thing in online retailing, true! And we are in this business (360 product views) patiently waiting to see telco’s come our way :)

  4. Thanks for the post I really need to know this. It’s very informative and very helpful.


  5. Excellent point about how adding a set of filters “helps customers understand products better when they can see major attributes at a glance.” I think that part is underestimated by retailers.

    In terms of conversion, how much does adding relevent filters improve conversion rate? Any anecdotal stories or professional studies you can point me to?

    • @Dan Barbata – it helps conversion by reducing the drop off between landing on your site and purchase, but the filters alone don’t convert anyone. They are an aid to reduce site abandonment. I would measure the impact of filter vs. non-filter by the difference in category/search page bounce rate, exit rates and finally, overall conversion. I do not have a study/example for this.

  6. aasemsj says:

    that was a fantabulous post. me too of the same opinion. and do check out my blog on online shopping, spams, featured products at

  7. Kandice says:

    Fantastic post! I especially agree on the subject of filtered navigation–it is so irritating when shopping online to either have no filters, to have only the three basic filters (price, brand, style/category).

    I think the problem a lot e-retailers have with true filtered navigation is that their data lacks the right attributes to be able to support it. It’s great to allow your customers to filter by different features, colors, etc., but if your data isn’t structured that way, it’s not going to work. (Cell phones seem to be done pretty well, but in so many other product categories, the information is just lacking.)

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