Why You Should Invest in Ecommerce Site Search

In this mobile first, time-poor age of ecommerce, having effective site search functionality on your website is becoming increasingly essential.  

If you know exactly what you’re after or you’re *cough* just a little *cough* impatient like me, you’ve probably used site search before on one of your travels around the web and have most likely had varied degrees of success using them. But one thing is for certain, the little bar embedded (typically) in the header saying “Search here”, “Search products”, “Searching for something?” or something along those lines is a key facet of delivering a great ecommerce experience.

Nothing is more frustrating as a customer than typing in the bar and searching for a product only to be presented with a “Product not found, please try again” message. Equally, as a retailer you’re leaving money on the table. It’s the equivalent of walking into a shop, asking the store assistant for a product and them saying “I can’t find it, ask me for something else”. ‘Treat Yo’ Self’ moment ruined. 

You’ve got to be in it to win it

Practicology’s benchmark report on Australian retailers shows that shoppers who use site search are almost twice as likely to convert compared to those that don’t. 

In some retailers where optimisation of the search experience is a focus, we've seen it account for 40% or even up to 50% of total revenue for the site. This is a very large percentage considering that in our experience site search is often overlooked in day to day trading activity. 

Site search optimisation should be a key focus for any ecommerce trading manager to drive incremental revenue.  

Seamless search experience can enhance conversion

It’s simple but true. A good search experience is more likely to result in a purchase, but we see so many retailers fail in this area.  The most common search crimes include; reaching a dead end with no suggestions for further actions, simple misspellings not being corrected, too much noise in search results, no autocomplete function (this saves the customer from typing the full product name, and search results display in order of relevancy).  

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For example, in the above, rather than suggesting the correct spelling to the customer, it would be more effective to display results for fairytale. By doing this, the customer would land on a successful search results page instead of a zero results page. Downloading and analysing these lists of zero search terms every week and making these small adjustments will improve the user experience and increase conversion.

Depending on your platform/site search tool there may also be other configuration options, redirects, synonyms and hypernyms that you’re not using. Be sure to explore all the options available to you to ensure you’re getting the most out of your tool and report on the results. 

Capture the customer  

A searching customer is one that knows what they want, and want to get there as soon as possible. They are already well down the purchase funnel and have (most of the time) already committed to the purchase. 

Most information gathering has already been completed prior to coming to the site and they want to view product content to satisfy other buying motivators, such as price, availability and delivery charges.

The site search bar is given prominence above other tools on sites (and rightly so) but with that comes the expectation from customers that this promoted tool will lead to a seamless experience to a product detail page. 

Gain valuable insight into customer trends

Analysing search terms can give insight into what customers are interested in at different stages through the year. For example, in December you may have already established a marketing plan centered around gift guides for the holiday season and promote this through all relevant marketing channels and across the homepage. However, analysis of popular site search terms may reveal popular search terms to be swimwear, t-shirts, shorts and other summer beachwear suggesting an appetite for these over gifting items.  

Trends in search results can also reveal information about products or brands that customers would like to see on your site. For example, a popular footwear retailer that Practicology works closely with continues to have a high site search volume for a particular brand of footwear that isn’t sold by the retailer, these insights can be useful for the buying team.

Increase usage of mobile devices 

Practicology's benchmark report on Australian retailers shows mobile traffic has increased nearly every month for the past year and a half, rising from 45% (April 2015) up to just over 54% of all sessions (October 2016). 

It’s also a well-known fact that use of site search is higher on mobile devices than it is on desktop, with some retailers seeing site search usage nearly twice as high on mobile as it is on desktop. 

Therefore, getting the mobile search experience right is key and is only set to become more important over the coming years. With that in mind – one small change that will yield positive results is to stop hiding search bars in hamburger menu’s and display them where it's easy to locate.

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Takeaways 

_Site search is a key conversion tool that will become more important with the growth of mobile

_Ensure that your search bar is easily accessible, especially on mobile

_Existing tools are not optimal and retailers fall back on many criteria

_Site search is often overlooked in day-to-day trading, don’t ignore this key conversion driver

_Monitor, report and make adjustments based on search terms

_Use search terms to inform marketing calendars and buying decisions

To wrap-up, search habits constantly change, find the time to optimise and bank incremental revenue, or if your search tool isn’t optimal (as can be the case with some default platform tools) explore the market and look into installing the right plug-in for your business.

For any additional insights on site search, or if you'd like Practicology to review your current site search strategy, contact us today.

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