10 Tips for an Effective Ecommerce Site Search Function

It is surprising in this day and age that so many ecommerce sites place most of their focus on improving the basket area of their sites and often don’t pay much attention to their ecommerce site search function.

Don’t get me wrong, the basket area is extremely important but when analyzing the journey we need to take care of the steps prior and the starting point is very often search. In most cases, the search function lays down the foundation of the customer experience and the overall impression that the customer develops of your ecommerce site is dependent upon its overall look, feel and usability.

Statistically speaking the search stage of the buying process is the area that drives most of your visitors away if your search offering is poor. On the flipside, statistically speaking your highest conversion rate will arrive from customers who have used the site search function. Econsultancy found “Visitors converted at 4.63% versus the websites’ average of 2.77%, which is 1.8 times more effective. Consequently, visitors using search contributed 13.8% of the revenues“. Why? Because customers who use site search are often in the late-stage of buying. They simply want to be presented with a product that matches their requirements.

So theoretically improving the search experience and pushing more customers along the journey and into the basket should yield a much higher conversion rate.

Here are 10 key tips to improve your ecommerce site search:

1. The most obvious but also the most overlooked is to make sure the site search bar is easy to locate, looks easy to use and is in keeping with the general theme of your site.

2. Implement a smart site search tool that provides you with the functionality to be able to deliver an engaging search experience. Don’t rely on the standard search function offered by your ecommerce platform. Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director states “The platforms many sites are hosted on aren’t designed with site search best practice in mind. Often, you get what I like to call ‘e-catalogues’ that focus on allowing you to publish a bunch of products online with little thought as to how visitors your site might find/refine them.”

3. Install a search tool that offers auto-complete, handles common misspellings and makes it easy for customers to find products with synonyms.

4. Use a site search tool that incorporates past behavioral data of the individual and therefore, displays only relevance to that individual.

5. Use an agile search tool that offers a detailed reporting tool, enabling you to be proactive for example if you see that one of your top selling items is running low on stock, you could push a similar item to show ahead or in place of that item.

6. Offer an easy path to non-product areas such as customer service. For example, if the customer types “returns”, “delivery” or “twitter” then you can attach those terms to a re-direct URL. This helps to ensure customers are guided to their desired location thus eliminating the risk of frustration. 2 years ago Simon Driscoll wrote “Imagine coming to a site, typing in “returns policy” and getting redirected to a returns policy page. Imagine using the same search box to type in the name of a product and getting a results page with facets pertinent to that product.” Today, these features are no longer preserved for imaginations, these are the features customers expect to see when using a site search function.

7. Display product categories and brand suggestions alongside items in the search results. Providing customers with multiple, relevant options is key.

8. Ensure all search functions are responsive and make sure the search function operates exactly the same way across the various technology platforms.

9. On the search result page, allow the customer to filter their results, configure what they would like to see in the future and also offer a drop down bar so that results can be organised for example from priced high to low.

10. Try at all costs to reduce zero result shown. This can be a huge frustration to potential customers so firstly, offer a recommendation even if zero results are found and secondly, use a solution such as PureClarity that will report on zero result shown, allowing you to very quickly create a new search rule cancelling out the zero result. What’s more, zero result analytics gives you key insights into the types of products customers are looking for on your website. This information can be invaluable in spotting future products trends or understanding customers’ demands.

Do not underestimate how much of your traffic you can drive away with a poor search offering. If you are unsure of how well your ecommerce site search is working for you simply request a site search audit using the form below.

To summarize, when considering your whole personalization strategy, try to break down the customer journey and simplify it to four stages (base these on the typical journey as we know customers may only have the intention of touching parts of that journey at any one time). I would break it down into four key areas:

Information Search > Evaluation of alternatives > Purchase > Post purchase

These areas can then be broken down further but the Search function falls into “information search” and if we get that part right, then we stand a good chance of moving more than the usual amount of customers into the next part of the journey.

Next, I will focus on “evaluation of alternatives” and what you can do to keep those customers moving along to the basket area.