Graham Charlton's interesting article for eConsultancy (How retailers make January sales easier for customers, posted 5th January 2011) made us think how different user behaviour can be during sale times. Users are more inclined to be in browse mode, browsing the sale items with no specific requirements in mind, but keen to hunt down a bargain. Conversely, they may have pre-researched their sales requirements and be very specific in their search - looking for a specific electrical item at a discount or a particular dress for a special occasion for example. They therefore want to be able to be as broad or as specific as they choose when filtering sale products.
Some faceted search tools filter too far. Users may want to select multiple filters for colour, brand or size - if the Tshirt is only £10 I don't mind whether it is blue or green. Users don't want to conduct a new search each time.
The way users prioritise filter options may also change in sale time. Price is likely to be far more important. Brand may be less so.
The upshot is that a highly filtered approach can be as time consuming to use in sale time as one which does not filter products, simply because the user may need to conduct multiple searches to find anything they want. Retailers need to decide if it is feasible or desirable to change the way their filters work in sale times when users want to search through lots of options but feel both time pressured and aware that there may be limited stock of their chosen item. Or perhaps the need to easily choose more than one option within a filter field applies all the time, not just during the sales?