Does your site search provide relevant results?
How about the conversion rates you want?
If you own an eCommerce business, you should focus on providing the best search options possible and make it easier for the customers to find what they are looking for.
eCommerce search engines are not just a feature on your site or a mobile app. Its function is to help customers find items they want and improve their buyer journey leading towards increased customer retention.
The Baymard institute published a study based on eCommerce site search usability and they classified consumers into one of four search categories:
- Exact search — users know exactly what they need and the exact name of the product (e.g. Asus Vivobook S14 flip)
- Product type search — users search for general product rather than a brand or a model (e.g. ‘laptop’)
- Problem-based search — users search for a solution to their problem and they do not know what type of product they need (e.g. ‘headache remedy’)
- Non-product search — users look for information rather than a product (opening hours, shipping etc.)
Some studies in the past revealed that visitors who utilize the ecommerce site search tool convert at almost double the rate of those who do not. Imagine what a refined site search can do for your business?
Successful site search features support shoppers to find what they need, no matter if they know exactly what they want to buy or they just look for information before they take the plunge.
We bring you some of the best practices to ensure a fully optimized search option for shoppers to complete their purchase without any friction.
Site Search Best Practices
Autocomplete and error tolerance
Search feature is there to help visitors quickly and easily find what they are looking for — it is its primary goal. However, today we have a lot of products with complicated names or names that we just do not know how to write or spell. Some product names are easy to spell but keep in mind that there are people that shop on mobile devices thus there will be typos so autocorrect will be the right thing for your search option.
Optimize your site search to grasp phonetic misspellings or typos in order for simple mistakes not to return an empty results page. If you want to make your search option more effective, try Natural Language Processing (NLP) — it interprets a query’s intended meaning and helps parse the meaning if queries are complex.
Below you can see some autocomplete examples from the Etsy store. For example, you want to shop for a mosaic table and even if you cannot spell it properly or you type in just a part of the phrase, it provides autosuggestion listing the correct name. On the other hand, in case you omit a single letter in a word and the website does not have any other result suggestions yet it shows an empty page — it can be rather annoying, don’t you agree?
Make the search box visible
Although this should be the first rule of any eCommerce site or a mobile app, let’s repeat it — make sure your customers can instantly see the search bar. There are some usability related practices for the search bar like do not get too creative — make it easy for people to see it and make it clear so people know exactly what it is. You can use magnifying glass to make it more intuitive and widely used to refer to search.
For example, a popular website IMBd is an example of an excellent and clearly visible search bar where users exactly know how to navigate and find what they look for.
Don’t allow site search to return empty page
If there is a shopper on your website who came with an intent to buy and your site returns an empty results page, it sends a message that you do not have any item for them. In this case, the shopper will go to another vendor and make the purchase with them.
It is highly important to make the common search return some kind of results.
In case you do not have such relevant products to return, set up the search bar in such a way to recommend related or similar products instead of displaying an empty result screen.
Use data to refine future site search parameters
You can gain more insights into your shoppers’ habits and the way they search or shop through the analytics of your search engine. Once you collect enough data to generate conclusions, you will be able to see if customers’ words align with what is written on your product pages. In case it is not aligned, take steps to connect the terms to facilitate your search options and further increase customer retention.
If your customers use jargon, speak the language your customers speak. You can include it into synonym search, meaning that even if the customer types in the word that does not correspond completely to the word on your site, it should display the synonym results. The purpose of your search engine is to serve your shoppers as best as possible.
The analytics will provide a clear picture of terms your shoppers type into the search bar, the results that are displayed per search and how identified segments of your audience use the search bar differently and more details.
Optimize your site search functionality as it will only help provide better service and keep your customers.
Configure mobile search functions
The percentage of eCommerce traffic coming from mobile devices keeps increasing and easy payment methods continue to make the entire purchase process easier to perform on a mobile device.
Due to this, pay attention to make your search functional on mobile as well. Query suggestions is a powerful tool to keep mobile searchers navigate your business as it reduces the amount of typing.
In his article, Nick Babich UX designer explains what designs are good or unwanted in mobile search for eCommerce businesses. It is clearly visible with instant suggestions once the customer starts typing.
Provide plenty of filtering options
Let your customers search the way they want to search — provide plenty of filtering options so they can filter information per topic, product categories, pricing, colors etc. Some people only want to read the reviews while others want to see the lowest price first.
When you set up your eCommerce search, keep in mind customers and usability because happy customers shop more and come back to purchase again if they are satisfied with your service.
Provide access to more products
Your visitors can search within a category of products rather than seeking a particular product. Ensure for your site search function to provide the desired results by indexing not just product names but also technical data, size charts, category overviews and other relevant information.
Another good choice is to include SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit) in your search. If you make it as easy as possible for your customers to find and buy the products they want, you will be rewarded with the increase in sales and customer retention.
Additionally, make your search simple so that customers can easily navigate the process from interested prospect to happy buyer.
Add graphics and buttons to search results
Your search page is a huge opportunity — your customers use search functions because they search for something they want. By enriching your search results, you can:
Weight your products differently for better overview which results are displayed and when
Recommend relevant products even if you do not have the particular item the user is looking for.
Add more options for your customers like Add to Cart or images to help them make the decision to purchase easily and to provide a one-stop-shop experience.
Retail giant Target did it the right way — they do not only show category results and images but provide rich filtering options like related links and a button leading the customers to the checkout with a single click.
Provide proper metadata
Metadata are all the tags, titles and descriptions you apply to your products and do not overlook them — they are your daily bread of search. Make sure that the keywords your customers often use to describe certain products are included in the metadata description.
You can use one of many keyword tools available online or just generate the insights from your analytics tool.
Exploit site search analytics to fine-tune your SEO
In case you notice that some topics or terms are the most frequently searched on your website, create a page helping shoppers better understand the topic.
Take a look at what features or words your customers type once they try to decide on the product and include a checklist of those features.
This type of content will help you appear in organic search and provide relevant resources for your onsite search tool to generate reports.
Data obtained from your search engine will provide insights about your customers and their behaviour. Do not be afraid to experiment — include images, continue to add more filtering options and so on.
Whenever you wish to implement something, think about how well it works for your site’s visitors? When building your search options, always keep your customers in mind.
At the end of the day, you want to deliver the most relevant results and provide the best user experience for each query and that requires a combination of features and functionalities.