Taxonomy: Streamlining the online experience

December 11, 2015By Industry Intuition, Views

As seen in "My Turn"  in Chain Drug Review, August 24, 2015

By Kyle Lentz

Taxonomy is the second topic in a six-part series that explores technology and how it helps consumers manage their health and wellness. Additional subjects in the series will focus on the user experience, the power of images, social media and mobile health, as well as wearable technology.

Taxonomy is a behind-the scenes organization system that is designed to get your customers from point A to point B on your website with as few impediments as possible. It’s the road that leads your customers to their final destination and, in the best-case scenario, a purchase.

So the question that you need to ask yourself is, “Does our site taxonomy provide a smooth, direct road leading our customers to their destination quickly, or does it resemble roads constantly under construction with roadblocks at every turn that eventually force our customers to get off the road and take an alternative route altogether?”

We all appreciate traveling on that smooth, direct road, but how can we be assured that this route is available when customers with the same end result in mind start off on different paths? Or, when they start off on the same path, what happens when the roads lead them in different directions?

Determining the path to purchase

In our previous article about the user experience, we discussed how Monica the Millennial and the Rileys, a senior couple that had just purchased their first smartphone, used various technologies and how it enhanced their user experience. We’ll use the same individuals to determine if their searches on three different online drug store websites result in a purchase or if confusion leads them to choose an alternative website.

Monica, an avid runner, was experiencing a bit of discomfort in her knee, so she decided to go to her online pharmacy of choice to see what products would be ideal for her to use to alleviate the discomfort. She typed in her drug store’s URL and, under the search function, she typed in the words “knee pain.” Seven products appeared on the page, all external analgesics. She also had the option to select health resources that would direct her to numerous knee pain articles and related materials.

At the same time, Mrs. Riley went to her favorite online pharmacy to see if she could find a product to relieve her minor knee pain that developed after she spent the day working in her garden. She followed the same steps as Monica; however, when she typed “knee pain” in the website search engine, three articles appeared. Under the “Products” tab, nothing was listed.

After the completion of their initial searches, Monica, who was looking for an internal analgesic, found none in her search results, while Mrs. Riley wasn’t given any product options, which made her feel that she was wasting her time. As a result, both decided to try one more online pharmacy site and started their searches the same way.

After typing in “knee pain,” 153 products were listed. They were both initially confused when the first two products on the landing page were toothache medications; however, they were also offered several external analgesics, a few internal analgesics, and an elastic brace. Bingo! The search results included the internal analgesic that Monica was looking for and the knee brace that Mrs. Riley was seeking. Both Monica and Mrs. Riley ended up making a purchase because the results that were provided fit their respective needs.

Improving your taxonomy

Your website taxonomy should be as fluent and ever-changing as your offerings and product mix. There are several questions you should ask yourself when determining if your taxonomy leads customers down the path to purchase or if they leave your site frustrated and without any meaningful takeaway.

First, does your website taxonomy offer product recommendations tied to condition-specific searches? If you answered no, why doesn’t it? Customers like Monica and Mrs. Riley may not know what is available to them in terms of knee pain relief. By offering several options from the very beginning, you will increase your odds of earning the sale and your customer’s trust.

Did you consider the physical layout of the front-end in your brick-and-mortar store and how that translates to your site taxonomy? Customers typically shop the drug store in three distinct ways. They look for medicines and treatments, personal care products, and/or beauty care items. There are logical adjacencies within your store that should be considered with your online taxonomy. A great way to think of creating “adjacencies” on your website is to present with the search results recommendations of similar, complementary or regimen-type products as additional items to consider for purchase. When Monica purchased her internal analgesic, a topical pain relief patch could have been offered as an additional solution.

Third, is the content of your company’s site written for search engine optimization (SEO) and does it support the taxonomy of your site? Are you monitoring keyword searches on your website and in general that can then be incorporated into your SEO writing? If Monica and Mrs. Riley type the words “knee pain” into a search engine, will your site be one of the first 10 options?

When you are evaluating your website taxonomy, keep these ideas front and center. Monica and Mrs. Riley both made purchases, but had to do some additional investigating to do so. Make the road a smooth, quick drive for your customers and you will see your online purchases increase.


The other articles in this series that examine how consumers are using technology to manage their health and wellness are: Omnichannel experience must be consistent; What it takes to create product images that sell; Social media has impact on consumer health care; Health information now captured by what you wear; and Mobile devices back drive for health, wellness.

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