Shopify Categories vs. Collections: Which Is Best for Merchandising?

We take a look at two types of product groupings: categories & collections. Learn how they differ & how you can use them to improve your store's merchandising.

Jaques Cilliers - Writer for Fast Simon
By Jaques Cilliers
Kirsty Macdougall - Editor for Fast Simon
Edited by Kirsty Macdougall
Oli Kashti - Writer and Fact-Checker for Fast Simon
Fact-check by Content writer and fact-checker Oli Kashti

Updated November 14, 2023.

Product organization is vital in eCommerce. 61% of Americans report that the most important aspect of online shopping is how easily they can find what they're looking for. Two fundamental ways of grouping your products are by category or collection. The distinction between them is sometimes blurry, and there's some debate about which method is better for organizing Shopify Search products.

We'll take a closer look at Shopify categories vs. collections to help you find the best strategy for your store's merchandising.

What Are Shopify Categories?

A Shopify category is a group of products that share a common attribute. Categories are organized using a hierarchical structure, with products arranged from broad categories into smaller ones.

Categories can be used to group products by product type or topic. They allow customers to easily navigate through your store's products, as they can browse the categories to see all the products listed under them.

Benefits of Using Shopify Categories for Merchandising

Apart from improving your customers' navigation, categories can help you arrange products in meaningful ways to create a more visually appealing layout and storefront. If you have large product catalogs, categories can also simplify management by letting you add or edit products in the appropriate category.

For example, the online footwear, accessory, and apparel retailer Steve Madden simplifies the shopper's navigation by creating a "Women's Shoes" category and using narrower subcategories like "Sandals" and "Slides".

Steve Madden Shopify Product Categories

What Are Shopify Collections?

A Shopify collection is another type of product grouping. It's based on shared characteristics, which are often defining factors in shoppers' product searches, like seasonality, promotional items, or vendor.

Collections are more flexible and customizable than categories. They can be created manually by selecting specific products to include or automatically using rules based on selected criteria. Where categories are usually part of a store's homepage and main menu, collections can be featured on specific collection pages or as a promotions collection on your homepage.

Benefits of Using Shopify Collections for Merchandising

Collections allow you to group products based on various criteria like product type, color, and price range. Customers can browse and filter products within collections to quickly find relevant products. This keeps them engaged, less likely to leave your store prematurely, and more likely to make a purchase.

Additionally, you can create smart collections that automatically update based on product attributes. This saves time and effort because you don't have to manually update your collections when products change.

For example, the mobile computing accessories company Targus organizes their products into collections like "Laptop Bags", "Tablet Cases", and "Antimicrobial Collections".

Targus Shopify Product Collections

Within these, products are further grouped according to brand. So under "Laptop Bags", there are a number of brand collections like "Transpire" and "Work+".

Targus Shopify Laptop Bag Collections

Choosing the Best Option for Merchandising

When choosing whether to use categories or collections, it's important to consider:

For example, if you have an extensive product catalog, you may benefit from using categories to create a hierarchical structure. In contrast, if you have a smaller catalog, you may find collections more flexible and customizable.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It's essential to test your strategy to find what works best for your business. You can do this by analyzing sales data and customer behavior, conducting A/B tests, and using predictive analytics.

Find the Ideal Merchandising Strategy for Shopify

Effective merchandising involves structuring your products into logical groups to help organize your offerings. Categories are a convenient way to create a hierarchical structure for your products, while collections offer more flexibility and customizability. The best approach is to try both options, considering the size and complexity of your product catalog, merchandising priorities, and customer preferences. Ultimately, an effective merchandising strategy can improve your customers' shopping experience and increase your online store sales.

» Product organization is just the start. Check out more sales-boosting eCommerce merchandising strategies