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I am having another discussion with a colleague and the debate is now whether to create product categories based on product material, or to include the product material in the product title.

The two different materials in question are fiberglass and acrylic. We are selling bathtubs and showers sold in both materials.

I think having product categories based on material is confusing and may inhibit a purchasing decision if they do not know the differences between material and the benefits of one over the other. I feel if they do not know they should not have to go looking for the answer. Putting them in the title adds extra length to an already long product title and will just confuse the customer in my opinion.

I think the best option is to have a layered navigation filter and a specification area of the product page that lists the material it is made out of.

I feel product categories should be based on the intended usage not material. For example:

Wheelchair Accessible Showers Low Threshold Showers ADA Compliant Showers

instead of:

Fiberglass Showers Acrylic Showers

Curious what others think. If there is some research or studies that have been done on this or something similar that would be fantastic, I did some searches and did not find anything.

EDIT: I should add that these will be the main product categories and there will be no sub-categories.

  • It depends, do users typically make buying decisions on a tub being fiberglass vs. acrylic? Regardless, I agree, usage is perhaps the best way to categorize, and material is a good way to filter/tag. – DA01 Aug 12 '15 at 0:19
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If you look at a large ecommerce site like Amazon, "categories" aren't really treated as definitive categories where a product belongs to a single category. They act more like a predefined set of tags. A product can belong under multiple categories.

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Example from Amazon

Some shoppers may care about the material of the shower, others may care that it's wheelchair accessible. Allowing people to search using both would be ideal.

Putting this into the product title is not ideal as you say because it makes the product name longer than it needs to be. However if your system doesn't have full faceted search capabilities, then this is an option to allow them to search for what they need. Not at all ideal though.

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