Websites have become a major part of ecommerce strategies amidst COVID-19 lockdowns, especially during the holidays. Site search can make or break a company's holiday profits.
Data shows that 58% of those participating in the survey said their organizations invested more than $500,000 in their company’s site search features -- mostly on tools and headcount -- to keep the site running well.
As their dollar investments rise, organizations are more likely to see a higher return on that investment through high-quality features.
For Algolia’s first State of Search and Discovery report, 500 business and technical leaders shared insights into financial benefits, technical challenges, and best practices for site search.
About 20% of those surveyed were Algolia customers. The remainder were not, providing an unbiased look at the importance of site search.
The data aims to help marketers and website owners gain an understanding of the context of the data, revealing best practices and insights into what high-quality site search looks like, as well as potential pitfalls behind search-related investments.
Ashley Stirrup, CMO at Algolia, said site-search speed and relevance are most important, but some features actually hurt both. “There are times when adding personalizing or another algorithm to the mix can slow things down if they’re not implemented correctly,” he said. “We’ve worked long and hard to deliver faster search. It’s much easier to deliver relevant search. Providing fast and relevant gets more challenging. Often speed and relevance compete with each other.”
He said companies also need to think about the merchandiser's and marketer's point of view based on optimization strategies. Companies tend to have a greater focus on consumer experience and less focus on the business experience.
Marketers participating in the survey who invested less than $500,000 annually had varying degrees of success: 36% cited a high degree of success compared to 44% who said their degree of success was average and 20% who described it as low. Some 75% who invested more than $500,000 annually experienced a high degree of success, and 25% said rated their success as average.
"Some 39% of consumers are influenced by relevant search," said Ivana Ivanovic, senior content strategist at Algolia, referring to prior research.
The survey also asked respondents to report on the number of engineers and non-engineers working on their site search teams. Those with larger teams are more likely to see higher financial success from site search.
Analyzing all survey responses might suggest a higher success rate, but a closer look at the approaches companies take provide a different picture.
Different patterns emerged depending on whether a website is built and managed by an in-house engineering team using open-source tools or third-party tools.
Organizations using in-house tools typically have larger teams and reach average success relatively easily, but don’t increase success with larger engineering teams.
While third-party tools see a continued improvement in their success as they add search functions, site search tools built in-house don’t see higher financial returns after the company adds between three and four features.
The most-implemented features are those supporting product and content discovery such as filtering at 49%, personalized results and recommendations at 42%, and mobile-optimized search at 42%.
Search analytics follows closely at 41%, with smart search at 39% and machine learning at 35%.
Multi-language support came in at 35%, while voice-enabled features were integrated by about 29% of those participating in the survey, image search at 28%, and A/B testing capabilities came in at 23%.
When survey participants were asked whether they think site search should not be limited to the search bar, most agreed that companies should allow site visitors to have multiple ways to discover information and products. In fact, 40% strongly agree and 22% agree, while only 18% didn't agree.
It's pretty clear from the survey results that it takes multiple years of investing in improving search results to achieve success. It is a multiyear project.
The data shows that third-party tools deliver average success levels sooner, and progress to a high level of success at a faster rate. No matter what the search implementation path, optimizing search for success takes time.
Some 56% of those with a three-year plan using in-house tools typically see low success, followed by 38% see average success, and 6% see a high degree of success.
About 35% of those with a three-year plan using third-party tools typically see low success, followed by 52% see average success, and 14% see a high degree of success.
This column was originally published in Inside Performance on November 20, 2020.