Product Categorization in Magento and 3rd party extensions

Product Categories are how products are organized for browsing in an online store. This Categorization is a valuable tool that influences the customer's’ experience in a store by improving their ability to navigate and search for products. And is as important as a good design and the right collection of products.

The main importance of having good categorization is that it gives your customers a comfortable environment to browse products in.

In a way this "environment" of the categories and the design of your online store are analogous to the layout and the design of a physical shop (or perhaps a supermarket) once you go into a shop its organization, just as much as its design is what determines whether you’ll stay there. If you decide to browse the shelves or look for a product or two and don’t find them you may get frustrated and leave, or decide you are not likely to find anything good.

The same principle doesn’t just hold true for an online store, it is even much more so than for a physical store, as hopping to another store is as easy as clicking a link. Customers often get into your store from search engine results, If navigating the store isn’t easier than a Google search, Google is just one click on the “back” button away.


How Do Product Categoried Help Your Online Store?

While the main function of categories as mentioned is allowing your customers to navigate easily and find products it has a few additional benefits:

  • Well designed categories and navigation, will often keep a customer inside the store after they already checked out the product that brought them in.
  • Great categories (when they categorize an exhaustive catalog) can even keep a customer returning to your shop as their go to area to browse for products in some niche.
  • SEO - Good categorization will improve your page's ranking in search engines.
  • Categorization enhances search results, and allows users to filter search results by category.
  • Categories in search results allow further browsing, users often search for a specific product or by keywords, and then browse the category the search results belong to.
  • When navigation is convenient and helps a user find multiple products, Google is no longer one "back" away, when a user finishes browsing a product and hits back, he doesn’t immediately leave the shop.
  • Categories can be visual elements that improve the design of your store.

How to Improve Product Categorization?

Product categorization goes beyond just making sure each product in your online store belongs to some product category.

The following are some of them:

  • Make sure every new product is assigned a proper category (see extension)
  • Make sure categories are well not over crowded. If a category includes 200 products, then the ones on the bottom are likely to never be noticed.
  • Use Subcategories - the two goals above can be achieved by dividing products into subcategories when they are too crowded. Try to keep the distribution of products balanced.
  • Use Parent Categories - Parent Categories are categories created to be the main categories of the store and group together other categories, sometimes (such as in Amazon.com) they are not clickable.
  • Add seasonal categories such as "Summer Clothing", or holiday period products.
  • Add special categories such as "Sale" category (see extension).
  • Add category landing pages - these are landing pages designed to bring traffic from search engines of customers looking for a specific category of products. You can include helpful information on such pages.
  • Use sorting of products inside categories to direct the user to best selling products (see extension).

Having good organization of product categories allows the user to browse or search for products based on their needs, but also allows you to present customers with specific products you want to promote by adding categories such as a “Sale” product category, or seasonal categories.

A single product can also be placed into multiple categories, which will cause it to appear in multiple different areas of the store. All of these different capabilities make it easier to have sales and promotions.


How to Setup Categories with Magento?

Setting up categories is a relatively simple process and can be managed by going to Catalog -> Manage Categories. With Magento base software categories have to be manually created, which can be a cumbersome and time consuming process when maintaining a large store.

Magento’s Admin Panel allows you to view all of the products in a certain category; this allows the administrator to manipulate the order in which they appear, as well as to compare similar products that belong to the same category.

categories in the admin panel

Creating a new Category: To create a new category, simply click the "Add Root Category" or "Add Subcategory" buttons, To add a product to this category, go to the categories tab in the manage product screen for any product. There, use the checkboxes to check off the categories you would like to add your product to.

Adding an item to a category

As you can see, base Magento has support for all the basic operations to configure categories and populate them manually.


Extensions to Support Categorization

While Magento base software does support the manual creation and management of product categories, the process can sometimes be quite tedious, labor intensive and cumbersome, and when dealing with large catalogs, tweaking some control panel elements and automating category creation can make a real difference.

We’ve rounded up a few Magento extensions for that purpose, that will help you reduce the effort involved. All of the following extensions are available on Xtension Galaxy, and can be tested online in a demo Magento store.


Automatic Sales Category Generation Extension

The Automatic Sales Category Generation Extension automatically creates a category for products that are on sale. It allows customers to browse products on sale and allows you to manage products on sale, and configure the design for them.

In a Nutshell:

  • Automatically creates and populates a “Products on Sale” category
  • Easy access to manage your products on sale.

Features:

  • Generates a category listing of all products with the "Special Price" attribute populated
  • This category works like a normal category and can be used in both product filtering and as its own separate tab in the store
  • Is easy for to visually differentiate your Sale category from your other categories
  • Everything is generated and populated automatically
  • Works with one product or thousands of products, very scalable
  • No configuration necessary
  • Can be installed by using the Magento Connect Manager or by manually extracting the provided files over the Magento installation.
  • Priced at $79.99

To try out this extension now in a live demo store head to: https://xtensiongalaxy.com/automatically-generated-sale-category.html


Category Product Link Extension

The category product link extension allows the administrator to edit a product from the category administration page. This allows you to quickly edit a group of related products for a category such as a Sale creating a special category or expanding your catalog to include a products of some new category. While it’s very simple it can save you a lot of time!

In a Nutshell:

  • Edit products from the category administration page
  • The extension is free!

Features:

  • In the category administrator page, the last column will allow you to edit products
  • When edit is clicked, the product’s edit page opens in a new tab
  • No changes to Magento functionality, core or tables, does not affect the store UI.
  • Fully compatible with any other extension
  • The extension is free

To try out this extension now in a live demo store head to: https://xtensiongalaxy.com/category-product-link-3766.html


Dynamic Category Extension

The Magento Category Products and Listings Editor extension automates the adding of products to categories. It eliminates the need to tediously categorize products, by defining rules that do it for you. For stores with large product catalogs, automating product categorization is a must. And for stores with automatic feed adding products to the catalog, this extension eliminates the manual part of the process.

In a Nutshell:

  • Adds products to categories based on predefined logic
  • Once the logic is created, the populating of categories is automatic

Features:

  • Runs as a cron task periodically
  • Create product categories and use rules to allow the extension to automatically add products to categories
  • Dynamically assigns new products to categories
  • Can generate list of products that have not been added to categories
  • Customizable categories can accept multiple product attributes and tags
  • Works with category hierarchies (where child categories utilize their parents’ logic)
  • Includes OR/AND logic
  • Can add products based on a variety of features including
    • Any product attributes and tags
    • Lowest / Highest selling products (x days back)
    • Dynamic dates and variables can be used
    • Discounted product rules (Includes Category Price Rules)
    • Most / Least viewed products (x days back)
    • Deals with date attributes.
    • Use custom date attributes in rules
  • Email notifications if product is uncategorized
  • Category Attribute are still editable after automation
  • The extension costs $99 per store and you can view installation instructions in the documentation.

Out of the four Magento extensions we mention here this is the only one that requires configuration to work (you need to define the category rules), the user manual included with the extension is well written and covers these configuration options with illustrated examples (see user manual).

To try out this extension now in a live demo store head to:https://xtensiongalaxy.com/proxiblue-dynamic-category-products.html


Magento Sorting Extension & Sorter Plugin

The Magento Sorting Extension & Sorter Plugin allows a user to sort the products by their popularity. This way the most popular products with the highest conversion rate are displayed first in the category.

In a Nutshell:

  • The user can sort products products based on which the extension designates as the "best sellers"
  • Calculates best sellers based on popularity of a product over a certain set period of time

Features:

  • Adds a new sort option that allows customers to sort by "best selling products"
  • Automatically generates the order for this category based on a time range
  • Runs daily automatically - no configuration needed
  • Auto-recalculates order of products
  • Time range is customizable (default is 30 days)
  • Customers can find the best-selling products and the administrator is able to present their most popular products to the customer first
  • This extension costs $79.99.

To try out this extension now in a live demo store head to: https://xtensiongalaxy.com/bestseller-sort.html


Putting It All Together

In the example below you can see a sample online store using product categories. The products are divided between subcategories in a balanced way, and the online store is easy to navigate.

It contains a "Sales" category that lists all the products on sale, the search results will contain all the categories from the menu, and the categories are part of the page design.

You can see this example in the online demo store in the Xtension Galaxy website. To access it you will need to login with a user account. With the above extensions installed you will be able to see the enhanced admin panel and automatic update of categories as well.

The categories tab with the product link extension

Conclusion

Improving category assignment and sorting can greatly improve your store’s conversion rate by making search and navigation easier for customers. Using extensions can make your categorization work much easier and allow you to do these actions automatically, and handle large catalogs, and streamlines the process of adding products to your store.

Links to all the extensions mentioned in this article: