When you think about a website redesign, what comes to mind?
If you’re like most people, you might be envisioning a revitalised look and feel for your site. Something cool, something fresh. A new way to express your brand identity that captures the eyes (and hopefully, the clicks) of more people. You probably think of optimising for…everything: conversion, retention, SEO. You definitely think of endless review sessions and making countless tiny tweaks until every stakeholder has a migraine.
But it’s all for good reason. Your site design, of course, is incredibly important. It must be responsive, intuitive, robust but not doing too much — a well-designed website has to look amazing and perform exceptionally, like an Olympic athlete who is competing while dressed for a Sports Illustrated cover shoot. Your website does a tonne of work, so redesigns require a tremendous amount of thought.
When it comes to the goals behind a redesign, the big one is the same for most businesses: to deliver a better online experience that leads to more clicks, more conversions and higher revenue. And today, if you’re talking about increasing on-site discovery and conversions, you’re inevitably talking about site search — which is why search is actually the most important part of a website redesign.
Better on-site search means a better customer experience.
You probably know that ranking in organic search depends on having a content-rich website, complete with individual landing pages to capture local search traffic. But a robust website that’s built to perform well across search engines will quickly become difficult for visitors to navigate without a way to cut through the mass of pages to find what specifically they’re looking for.
As a result, most websites’ strategy will eventually encounter the same content paradox. “The more quality content your site has, the more useful it is, but the harder it becomes to find that content,” Jes Scholz writes for Search Engine Journal. “At a certain point, well-designed site navigation alone is not enough.”
A great online experience is one where it’s easy for customers to find the information they want — when they want it, in response to queries the way they ask them. Think about whether or not that journey is simple and intuitive when it takes place entirely on your website. (Without great site search, it probably isn’t. Explore this look at major brands who returned incorrect or missing results for common website queries.)
It’s a pretty simple concept: when your customers can’t navigate your website easily, or can’t find the answers they need, they get frustrated. And when they’re frustrated, they’re more likely to leave your site. Research shows that if customers can’t find what they’re looking for in 2–3 attempts, they’ll give up. And once they leave, they’re unlikely to come back. 68% of people say they would not return to a site that provided a poor search experience — investing in better on-site search will help you keep your business from falling into that category.
Successful site search leads to an increase in conversions and average order size.
Not every person who comes to your website will immediately turn to site search, but the ones who do are actually your most valuable customers: these high-intent customers are the most likely to convert. The 15% of people who use site search account for 45% of e-commerce revenue. Site search is 1.8 times more effective at producing conversions and it has been shown to lead to higher average order value as well.
So if the goal of your website redesign is (at least in part) to increase conversions and grow your business, it pays to design a great on-site search experience. If valuable customers with a clear purchase intent can easily search for — and find — exactly what they want, you’ll likely see an increase in orders.
On the flip side, the cost of driving away these valuable customers with a poorly designed, search-last experience is steep. On average, more than a third of on-site searches (34%) end in failure, with wrong or missing answers. Let’s say your business meets this “average” — that means you lose the attention of one-third of your customers who use site search. Keep in mind that these customers using site search may account for 45% of your e-commerce revenue.
If that’s the case, the cost of poor site search is potentially equal to a 15% loss of your e-commerce revenue overall (one-third of that 45%). That’s not a mistake you want to make — particularly considering the amount of time and money you’re likely investing in your site redesign. The stakes here are decidedly not small.
“By offering a user-friendly site search experience, businesses can help customers find items they’re looking for in a more streamlined way,” Ornaith Killen writes for eConsultancy. “[Place your] visitors in control of their own shopping experience,” she advises, “which helps increase customer loyalty and makes them more likely to convert and return to the site for more purchases.”