As a B2B organization looking at ecommerce as a way to grow your business, chances are good you’ve read about or heard an ecommerce vendor mention “faceted search.” You might also be wondering, “What is faceted search? Does my site have faceted search? Why do I need facted search?” Let’s look at faceted search and how it might be useful to your B2B ecommerce web site.

First, there’s the question of “What is facted search?” Wikipedia defines faceted search as

“a technique for accessing information organized according to a faceted classification system, allowing users to explore a collection of information by applying multiple filters. A faceted classification system classifies each information element along multiple explicit dimensions, enabling the classifications to be accessed and ordered in multiple ways rather than in a single, pre-determined, taxonomic order (Source: Wikipedia).”

So, what does all that techie speak mean? Simple–faceted search allows the user to apply multiple filters during a search session and know exactly how many results meet their criteria. Still not sure what I’m referrring to? Here’s a picture of facted search in use on a site you are certain to have experienced before:

What is faceted search1In this screen shot from the website, you can see that I was searching for laptop computers. Let’s say that I wanted to buy a Toshiba machine for less than $400.

By selecting the filters for “Toshiba” and “Less than $400,” my search results are quickly narrowed to show only the machines that are Toshiba brand with a price tag of $400 or less. The selected filters are shows in the red circle.

Below the two filters that I selected are the additional filters that I can apply to my search. The number of facets, or options within that filter category, are shown in the parentheses.

For example, if I knew that I wanted a 16″ screen, the facted search feature shows me that I have eight achines that are Toshiba, with an Intel processor, and a 16″ screen. Conversely, if screen size isn’t important but the brand of processor is, faceted search shows me that there are four Toshiba machines within my price range that offer Intel processors.

what is faceted search2But can faceted search be used effectively in a B2B ecommerce enviroment. Absolutely–and Grainger is doing it effectively. The screen shot below from the Grainger online store shows how a B2B organization can effectively use faceted search to help the online searcher quickly and effectively navigate a large SKU count to find the product he/she needs.

In the search shown on the Grainger ecommerce site, I knew that I needed a cylindrical lockset and once I filtered the Grainger product list by that criteria, faceted search allows me to quickly see how many cylindrical locksets are also mortise-style locksets (39) or how many of the results are cylindrical locksets with escutcheon plates (26). By continuing to filter the results I can quickly arrive at the product that will best meet my needs.

In the short video clip below, Darin Zins, Chief Technologist at Insite Software, explains what faceted search is and what it can do for the ecommerce experience.

So, here’s the $64,000 question: Should your B2B ecommerce site include faceted search? Yes, your ecommerce site should include faceted search technology if:

  • Your site requires the visitor to navigate a large SKU population
  • Your products have a lot of features that visitors will filter their buying decisions on.
  • You want to implement the most cutting edge search capabilities into your B2B ecommerce site.

To learn more about how to leverage the power of your B2B ecommerce site, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.