May 13 2016

Blog: User Experience

The Importance of On-site Search

Shoppers will navigate away from your site for any number of reasons – it loads too slowly, the design doesn’t convey trust or confidence, a login barricade or hop up requesting an email address deters them. If you succeed in getting visitors to actually shop your site, don’t give them another reason to turn to one of your competitors.

As an e-retailer, you likely spend a lot of time ensuring that your navigation is user-friendly, your products are merchandised appropriately, and your checkout process is optimized. Your attention is focused on the larger, more visible aspects of the site, like product detail pages and interactive tools. For customers who are just looking to browse your site, these features are undeniably valuable. They may help a shopper find something that tickles their fancy, causing them to spontaneously proceed to checkout with one (or more!) items. There’s also the added benefit that any new content you post keeps them engaged with the brand and encourages them to continue coming back, and/or they may recommend your site to a friend.

The functionality that often gets overlooked on your site, though, is that little search box housed in the header. But while you may have forgotten to optimize it, your customers have not forgotten to use it. In fact, that little search box has a big impact on conversion. Research suggests that up to 30% of visitors to a commerce site utilize on-site search, and that those who utilize it convert at rate 5-6x higher than those who just browse your site. That’s because shoppers that use search know what they want and they’re ready to buy – and the search box is the most efficient way to help them find what they’re looking for.

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to configure search in a way that will be useful to your customers and to avoid the dreaded “No Search Results” page that can cause major frustration for your customer and cause you to miss an opportunity for conversion. You’ll want to make sure your ecommerce platform can support the following functionality:

  • Synonym/hypernym dictionaries
  • Guided search redirects
  • Suggested spelling corrections
  • Ability to handle spelling variations (stemming)
  • Auto-suggests in search box
  • Ability to define which attributes are included/excluded from search index
  • Ability to customize/control results set and display order
  • Ability to customize “No Search Results” page

You’ll also want to be sure you have a resource on your team who can actively maintain the search settings. For example, every time you add a new product to your site, that person should configure the search settings for that product. They should also be digging into analytics to determine why customers are seeing the “No Search Results” page - are they using the wrong terminology, spelling, or phrasing; do you not sell the specific product or brand; is the product out of stock or otherwise unavailable? Then take action! Update your search dictionary with synonyms and hypernyms and use the “No Search Results” page to display similar alternative products or upsells.

With a few easy optimization tactics, you can capture sales from searchers and increase your bottom line.

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