Ecommerce Site Search: Creating A Competitive Edge

We can get a lot done through the convenience of digital platforms these days. From scheduling a yoga class to visiting with grandma a few states away — We have more power at our fingertips than the Apollo guidance computer that brought us to the moon in 1969. 

Like all technology, Ecommerce has evolved quite rapidly in recent years. It was one of the bricks that laid the foundation for the internet in the early days, and it still continues to hold its weight in the ever-changing world of digital media. If you can remember online shopping before the “filter” and “sort” features, you can appreciate the growth we’ve seen. 

Businesses both big and small have recognised the growth in taking their products to the web and the competition to stand out is more intense than ever. If you want to bring in new customers and keep them from bouncing, the online experience you offer is just as important as the goods you sell. 

An organised site that beautifully highlights your products is, of course, a top priority, but the job doesn’t end there. It should be ultra convenient, provide suggestive upselling and smart enough to predict what the consumer is looking for — even when they don’t. 

The brands ranking at the top utilise modern day search that goes beyond basic keywords — it should understand complete sentences and the way people naturally search for what they want.

Our Site Has Intuitive Navigation With a Long List of Filters — Isn’t That Sufficient Enough to Find What They Need?

It’s equally important, but it’s not enough to stay competitive with today’s digital leaders. To remain progressive in your online business, you can do better. And consumers are already expecting better. 

Several important factors go into a high-performing Ecommerce site, but oftentimes search is overlooked. Not only does it create a more efficient experience for your users, but it also delivers critical consumer behaviour data. Analysing search queries can help you better understand what your customers are looking for and provide direction on where to improve. 

Research has made it clear that people don’t want to waste time sorting through endless categories to find what they’re looking for. The ideal consumer pretty much knows what they want, and they’d like to start seeing relevant options as quickly as possible. 

There is little use for browsing basketball shoes when you’re shopping for walking shoes, so the fewer steps needed to get users there, the better. The faster and easier you can provide users with appropriate choices, the more likely they’ll be to frequent your site on a regular basis. 

It was no surprise to us that 43% of users go directly to the search bar when visiting retail sites. Even more valuable is that searchers are known to be 2-3 times more likely to convert, an important market to capture. 

If you’re not utilising modern day search to its fullest, you’re likely passing up on potential revenue.

My Website Already Has a Prominent Search Field in the Header. What Makes One Better Than the Other?

Perfect. We’re glad you see the value in having search front and centre on your site. Every well-built website should have a search feature that’s easy to find — but there are a lot of important differences in how they function and what they’re capable of.

We’re sure you have searched for something specific within a website only to be shown a long list of links or a variety of products that don’t quite match what you were looking for. That can be super frustrating and, in the worst cases, a complete waste of time. Even a site with the best products will quickly lose visitors with outdated search. 

Consumer expectations of search capability have increased over the years, largely because of the advancements made in artificial intelligence. With the improvement of natural language processing (NLP), computers are better equipped to understand our language in the way that we naturally use it. 

You can use this technology to your advantage and offer visitors the best experience during their interaction with your brand. Studies show that consumers no longer use fragmented keywords in their searches but ask questions just as if they were talking to a friend. (Hey, Alexa!) But the journey doesn’t end there — users expect relevant results that will deliver the options they’re looking for. 

Investing in modern-day search for your business keeps you in control of the experience your users have. You have the ability to provide accurate answers, quick and relevant product options, and convert more sales by utilising the most up-to-date search features.

I Understand That Consumers Find Value in Adequate Internal Search, but I Don’t Know Where We Rank. What Features Are Most Important?

Yes, internal search is incredibly valuable. Consumer behaviour data shows that casual visitors and active searchers think differently, or at least they’re further along in the consumer journey.

Casual visitors tend to be window shopping, whereas active searchers are looking with more intent to make a purchase. It’s an opportunity you can’t afford to pass up on when searchers are 216% more likely to convert than casual visitors.

Luckily you’re in the right place. Let’s go over a few key practices to keep in mind when optimising your on-site search.

Best Practices for Site Search

  1. The search box should be front and centre. Users won’t interact with Search if they can’t find it. The best placement tends to be in the upper right-hand corner or the middle of the header. It should appear in the same spot on all pages and be designed to be user-friendly for mobile users, which typically account for the bulk of your searches.  
  2. Increase engagement with a clear call to action. A well-suited text prompt will encourage users to take advantage of the search bar. You can show specific placeholder text such as “Enter item or brand” or use an open-ended question like “What can we help you find?” Either way, it’s imperative that your system accounts for misspellings, abbreviations and alternative terms. It’s helpful if you keep the search query in the search bar so it can easily be amended if needed. 
  3. Maintain an optimal load speed for the best customer service. Your visitors are using search because it should be fast and efficient, and that’s what they should experience. Google research has shown that “if search results are slowed by even a fraction of a second, people search less.” While you’re at it, provide predictive text for added convenience that will improve input quality and offer suggestions that show your range in inventory.
  4. Deliver relevant results with semantic search. Websites that are still operating with an outdated search function treat words within a query as unrelated and present results based on basic keyword matching. Thanks to advances in AI, modern search is sophisticated enough to understand natural language and the intent behind related words, which delivers a more accurate result. You can display the exact matched results first, followed by a section similar to “Other items that might interest you” to provide inspiration. A filter and sort feature is a welcomed tool for broad search queries to narrow down and organise the results. 
  5. Finally, don’t ever lead users to a dead end. Instead of losing visitors to the dreaded “No results found” message, you should kindly apologise for the issue and offer other categories to browse or partially matched options. It’s critical that your search function return results on all website content, not just metadata or HTML. If you truly don’t have any content to display, always provide details on how to contact support for further assistance.

It’s Clear That Sophisticated Search Provides the Consumer With an Overall Better Experience, but How Can It Help Improve Business Operations?

Analysing search data is imperative for all site owners — and Ecommerce is no exception. Researching common behaviours of your website visitors will provide valuable insight into what people are looking for and allow you to strategise the most effective approach to marketing your products. If a specific running shoe is trending, you can highlight that item with a promotion or create a targeted landing page to grab their attention. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you simply can’t ignore this valuable information.  

As you continue using site search analysis, you’ll learn more about your customers’ intent and the questions they want to answer. It allows you to research how people interact with your site and pinpoint any gaps that should be addressed. 

Just because your web developer thinks your site flows smoothly doesn’t mean your target customer thinks so too. The goal is to anticipate their needs and eliminate unanswered questions, so they’re better equipped to make a confident decision. 

Remember, searchers are already on the path to conversion, don’t lose their attention because they couldn’t find the information they wanted.

Consumers Want Answers, Not Ads

If users can’t find the answers they’re looking for, they’re likely to head off-site to see what external search engines come up with. The one thing they know they’ll find — ads.

And then more ads. 

The advertising battle in search engines like Google has grown out of control. People are frustrated with the results, and so are we. 

With the growing popularity of voice search, it’s becoming increasingly important to offer a search that can accommodate more complex queries. The future of site search is intuitive, it’s sophisticated, and it guides the customer journey toward a purchase they can feel good about. 

We can provide a solution that everyone can be happy with. When brands push back and take charge of their data to provide accurate, complete and relevant answers on their own platform, they’ll have a competitive edge in the market.

Sources:

  1. The State of Ecommerce Search | Nielsen Norman Group
  2. Must-Have E-Commerce Features | Forrester
  3. Site Search: The Secret to Doubling Your Chances of On-Site Conversion | HubSpot
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