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I'm currently working on an e-commerce website which sells magazines, books, subscriptions, and training materials.

When the user searches for a product filter options are provided to refine his search. I was recently told that the stakeholders want to get rid of the price filter because they think that the user is not the person who will pay for these products, his company will pay for him. However, they have no idea how the users use their website because they didn't get feedback from the users in the first place.

Is their reasoning sound? Should we not display the price as a filterable option?

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5 Answers

Thomas W. Dillon and Harry L. Reif found in their paper:

Factors Influencing Consumers’ E - Commerce Commodity Purchases (PDF)

that "product perception (price and quality) and shopping convenience" are critical to the purchase decision. Even if the user isn't making the final purchase, price is still important as a part of product perception, and therefore facilitating user browsing of price (via price filters) is reasonable.

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The key thing here is that there seems to be some misconception about who the user base and what their spending habits are and how they might potentially use the site. The questions you need to ask yourself or your stakeholders\clients is :

  1. Who is using the site
  2. Do we have an assurance that people will buy it despite the price being shown
  3. What is the budget for the people whose companies are buying from this site
  4. Do companies give carte blanche to these individuals in placing an order item without justification for its price.

That said, with regards to the question of whether you should use filters or not will depend on your understanding of the user base and any analytical data you might potentially get by observing user interactions.

However if you are looking for information to convince your stakeholders about the need to have price filters,I recommend looking at this article which has this to say :

Filtering is a way of reducing the number of products in a product listing. Users choose which criteria are important to them and view only relevant products. For example, price-conscious users may choose to view only products for under £10 (thereby filtering out all products over £10).

I also recommend looking at this article 10 keys to an effective ecommerce site which has this to say :

It’s surprising how many sites make it hard for customers to find what they need. Their basic navigation is confusing. The search options don’t return relevant results. Options to search in different ways are limited. Offer flexible options for searching and sorting and navigation like some of the following: “Did you mean?” spelling corrections when searching.

Search suggestions while typing. Related searches list. Advanced search options. Filtering by price. Filter by availability. Filter by free shipping. Search tips and advice. Shop by brand. Shop by price. Saved searches and views. And by all means, make sure that your basic search functionality returns relevant results for keywords in the title, description, options and even the product ID. At this point you actually have someone looking at your site. Don’t lose them because they can’t find what they want.

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My approach would be to do if possible a A/B test and see if that feature is used, and if it is, if it improved sales.

See more in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A/B_testing

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You don't use AB testing to see if a feature is used or not, that's what standard analytics would be used for. AB testing for whether or not a filter option is used is not going to be easy - what about users who are presented with the field but don't actually use it? Are their conversions going to be treated differently to those who aren't presented with the field at all? How do you determine those users who weren't presented with the field but did purchase something - because they may actually have bought more / differently if the field were there. It's too difficult to AB test with this. –  JonW Feb 21 '13 at 13:36
    
I see. Thanks for the clarification. So we would use products like webtrek and Google Analytics to see the impact of the changes. –  Sorcerer86pt Feb 21 '13 at 14:48
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I'd say you're asking the wrong question.

Our goal as designers isn't to add features just because people use them or like them. Our goal is to solve problems. In this case selling training + book & magazine subscriptions.

So the question isn't whether a price filter is user friendly, or whether it's used by people on the site, or whether it's a feature that's been requested.

The question is - does having the price filter sell more on an ongoing basis.

You should - of course - look to peoples' behaviour on the site to figure this out - but looking at whether the feature is used is the wrong question to ask.

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Wouldn't it be better to collect statistics for, let's say, a week?

Then you could take the decision (or help someone who will decided) based on the behavior of the real users of the site. You can find, for example, that even when the company pays something for the person, that person has a specific/limited budget to spend, and by seeing trainings that fit inside that value, he'll choose the most interesting/etc for him.

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100% this. If users use the price filter, keep it. What stakeholders "think" users want isn't relevant in the face of actual data. –  Sam Blake Feb 20 '13 at 13:23
    
I totally agree with you, the stakeholders are hard to convince sometimes... –  Leo Feb 20 '13 at 17:29
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