Across the vast expanses of the Internet, drawing customers to your site is half the battle. The other half is helping them out once they get there.
Many, if not all, e-commerce sites have a function allowing consumers to quickly search for (and hopefully find) the products they want. And consumers are happy to use them. RichRelevance reports 83% of consumers say the search box on a Web site is important or extremely important when shopping online, and three-quarters of them say they always or often use the search box when shopping on a retailer’s site.
Yet, in many cases, this search function is failing consumers. Even as search marketing has become more sophisticated, with more mobile friendliness, more conversational responsiveness and a better understanding of how consumers use it, site search can be frustrating. More than a third of shoppers said they were unsatisfied with search results on a mobile device, and a similar amount said “irrelevant product results” was their number one site-search frustration.
“Site search is tremendously important to shoppers, but [it] under-delivers when it comes to all the channels where consumers shop today,” Diane Kegley, RichRelevance’s CMO said, in a statement. “The reality is that there haven’t been major advances in site search in a decade, and this is hurting retailers’ bottom lines.”
In a recent webinar for RetailCustomerExperience.com, Dylan Telford, senior manager of product management at Express.com, said focusing on an improved site search experience increased sales conversions by more than 18%. Among his site search tips were to make the search relevant and engaging, guiding consumers to the products they want to buy in the easiest and most-pleasing fashion, be mobile optimized and be self-learning to meet business objectives.
The rules for site search are much the same as general search, namely to understand and anticipate what consumers want. That includes anticipating that they may use terminology that is different from what’s on your site, and anticipating misspellings and typos (particularly when consumers use the smaller mobile keyboards). According to a 2014 Baymard Institute study, 70% of the top e-commerce sites in the U.S. required the consumer to use the same language as the company’s when referring to a product.
“We can't control customers’ language or grammar,” Telford said during the webinar, noting they’d often have to enter possible typos and misspellings manually, and those that didn’t match resulted in zero-results pages. “[Having a] self-learning system that understood the buying intent of shoppers was key.”
Even for marketers and retailers who have completed many of these things, more adjustments can be made. Adding the ability to “search within” a product category, for instance, can improve results for consumers who are looking for specific results, and better aligns with consumers’ mentality that assumes they are narrowing searches as they move deeper into Web sites.
And finally, the basics need to be taken care of. No amount of site search improvement will help if the site itself isn’t user-friendly or responsive, Telford said. “Search won’t magically sell your products for you,” he said. “It makes them more acceptable … but the rest of your site is still crucial for conversions.”