How does Website Search impact Customer Experience? We share our key findings

The ability to access information on a multitude of topics has been one of the greatest advantages of the internet. 

Since the dawn of the World Wide Web and the introduction of search engines, businesses have been on the profitable side of this advantage. The ability to connect with customers from anywhere and offer solutions to their problems has never been easier. 

But the way people search for information has changed. In a digital world now accustomed to receiving information at the touch of a button – whether it’s finding directions to the nearest café or learning about the different services a business offers, the customer journey has changed and consumers expect specific answers from a business’ website search results. 

Moreover, 45% of senior UK marketers think that visitors are often frustrated with website search results. And when customers don’t find the answers they’re looking for, they resort to taking their business elsewhere. 

To explore the impact of website search on customer experience, Visionary Marketing conducted research on 300 UK and France marketing professionals on behalf of Yext. 

Afterwards, an online panel consisting of two moderators – Adrian Swinscoe, Yann Gourvennec – and six influential voices in the UK customer experience and digital marketing space – Claire Boscq-Scott, Clare Muscutt, Elise Quevedo, Naeem Arif, Tim Hughes, and Nico Beukes – came together to discuss the findings.

In this blog, we highlight the findings from our research into customers’ attitudes towards website search tools and offer some key takeaways from the roundtable discussion for businesses looking to improve their customer’s experience. 


The detrimental gap 

Since the pandemic began, digital services have become more important in connecting businesses and customers than ever before. Our previous research on customer attitudes conducted by YouGov found that 58% of UK adults use site search at least weekly, and 88% of respondents using site search agree it’s an important tool in providing them with accurate and up to date information online. 

However, despite its importance, we found that over half (56%) of UK adults using this tool believe that site search provides them with unrelated search results.

On the other hand, 70% of marketers believe that site search is fairly or very strategic and 81% of UK marketers say their website search engines are fairly or very satisfactory.

Even with confidence in site search, 94% of marketers agree that visitors resort to other means when the quality of the results from site search is unsatisfactory.

Altogether, these results demonstrate a clear gap between a marketer’s understanding that site search is essential for the customer’s journey, and the need to actually provide a good site search experience.

This gap can be detrimental to business growth as the marketers surveyed believe that a better search experience will improve their customer’s level of trust in the company (79%) and their likelihood to buy from the company (70%).


Meeting customer expectations

Ultimately, the search function on a brand’s website is for customers to access relevant and valuable information quickly. 

However, for some customers, website search doesn’t achieve its purpose of providing the expected answers. In our research, 46% of users believe site search doesn’t understand their questions, over half (56%) believe it provides them with unrelated search results and another 35% believe that it provides them with out of date or inaccurate information.

On top of this, according to Heap, 43% of consumers think most websites are not designed with the end-user in mind. But astonishingly, 95% of the product teams surveyed said that it’s “somewhat” or “very easy” for users to navigate and use their site.

This again shows a conflict between what customers expect from a business’ site search and what the business itself thinks it’s delivering to its customers. It also highlights how the little and often overlooked things – such as a site’s search function – can significantly impact a customer’s experience.

These findings didn’t come as a surprise to our panellists. They believe the marketers reported an understanding of the significance of website search in a customer’s journey because most brands now acknowledge the importance of delivering a consistent, effective, omnichannel customer experience, even though they may not be meeting customer expectations. 


Key takeaways from the panelist discussion

  • Not getting it right will cost you: “We live in an age where e-commerce websites have evolved from one-page websites to sites with thousands of pages, products and services in one domain. So, if it’s not done right, you will lose customers. Remember, customers want help now. And, if they cannot find what they are looking for within seconds, they will go somewhere else.” says Elise Quevedo, author, advisor, speaker and one of the Top 50 most influential female voices in tech.


  • Website search is an important touch-point on the customer’s journey: This was aptly summed up by Claire Boscq-Scott, a UK Customer Experience Expert who said: “On-site search is just another touch-point within the customer journey, and therefore it needs to be as efficient as everything else.” 


  • Shopping at a physical store doesn’t limit the use of on-site search: Naeem Arif, a CX Expert highlighted that on-site search isn’t just for when customers are at home, at the office or on the move when they use the function. He said, “Search is a really critical part of the buying process even for customers who are in-store. They’re now not asking a salesperson for information, they’re going straight to your website whilst in-store and are searching for products and information.”


  • Website search has to account for our human failings too: “Search also has to account for the fact that many people are bad at spelling. I have a friend who sells jewellery to more people who can’t spell jewellery than can spell jewellery because it’s easier to bid for words that are misspellings.” Says Tim Hugues, world leading pioneer and exponents of social selling.


  • Navigation menus aren’t sufficient: Giving marketers a lot to consider, Clare Muscutt said, “We’re in this kind of content paradox where we’ve got so much content now that navigation alone won’t take you where you want to go.”


  • Insights from website search can be used to inform business strategy: This point is made clear by Nico Beukes, Senior Vice President of Yext when he said: “One client, Central England Co-op, doesn’t sell online but have used the insight they have gained from their on-site search to learn more about their customers. That has allowed them to offer their customers different payment plans, new product lines and even open locations in new places.”


A required evolution

A mindset shift must be made to deliver a great customer experience and marketers can no longer look at channels and touch-points in isolation. 

Senior marketers need to see the whole picture, including website search, and ensure that every element is owned, invested in and managed efficiently.

Doing this effectively will enable businesses to deliver consistent and valuable omnichannel customer experience that customers have come to expect and this will in turn keep them loyal to the business. 

Otherwise, as Claire Boscq-Scott stresses, “Anytime your customer can’t get what they want from you, they’ll go to your competition. Not only are you losing customers, you’re losing revenue, and you’re losing loyalty. It’s just a very, simple business mindset.”

To find out how we can help your marketing team to improve your customer’s experience by enhancing your website search tool, schedule a personal demo today.

You can download the free whitepaper on our publications page.

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