We find many clients are using an internal site search tool that came default with the website platform they are using. This is a missed opportunity as these tools tend to have the bare minimum when it comes to intelligence, flexibility, marketing capabilities, and analytics features. Considering conversion rates are higher for those users using an internal search this can leave revenue on the table for eCommerce sites that aren’t optimizing the search experience. Let’s walk through some key tools and areas of optimization to consider.
Internal Site Search Intelligence & Natural Language Processing
Perform a quick test on your website by searching the top 5-10 terms that users search for on your specific site. What were the results? We did this recently with a new client during the on boarding process and we found when we searched “shoe” it only presented 2 products. This is an issue considering there was a “shoe” department with many more items available. This happened because their website was using an out of the box search solution that had basic logic that only looked for the term “shoe” within the item name and item description field so it missed products using terms such as “sandals”. A more intelligent search solution would use additional data available as well as give the flexibility to redirect a user automatically to a category/department page improving the user experience. Most users would have likely left the website after not bring presented with the full spectrum of offerings per their search query. Even further advanced site search solutions can use natural language processing to understand more complex search entries such as “shoes under $50” and present relevant results. As most of us type how we speak, this type of functionality creates the most complex yet accurate results.
Search Auto Suggestions
Before a user even lands on a search results page, they may experience auto suggestions in the form of a drop down menu. This feature helps a user better define what they are looking for by being presented with various options. This can lead to users clicking directly from this menu to a specific page versus a search results page pushing them further into the conversion funnel. One example shown below from Mezereon has several features to give instance visual cues to the user about their search query such as auto suggestion of the suspected term, suggestions of similar terms and it uses different font and styles to separate the different information available for quicker decision making.
There is nothing more frustrating than searching for something and landing on a page with extensive results, but not have a way to narrow them down. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and cause users to abandon the website. Let’s discuss an apparel example, if you are searching for a specific shirt, you do not want to see options that don’t include your size and/or that don’t fit your color requirements. Filters help users further refine their search and find what they are seeking faster leading to higher satisfaction and higher conversion rates. If your content has this complexity, make sure your tool not only has the ability to filter but make sure the tool is also intelligent enough to only show relevant filters for the content shown.
Data is key to making the right decisions for your website and data regarding the search experience is no different. It is critical that you have information on what users are searching for and the results of those searches so that you can make informed decisions on how to better align the search experience to improve conversions. Is your top searched term converting higher or lower than your other searches? If lower, it may be that you are not serving up the right items or perhaps your top sellers for that term are showing too far down in the results that they are not getting the visibility they need. It is critical to have a tool that can give you the necessary information to continually tweak and adjust your results as your catalog and content changes. Make sure this data is being reviewed at least on a monthly basis or more if the content is changing on a more regular basis.
Marketing Within the Search Experience
Since users that use search tend to go directly to the search bar, it is important that you can still market to these users. They may not see your featured items from your homepage or all of your promotional banners so find a tool that allows you to give that exposure to this segment of your users. For example, some clients are wanting to feature certain items due to seasonality so they need a feature to help promote these on top of the search results page so they can move that inventory. We also see the use case of clients wanting to bury an item lower on the page due to products having a lower margin than others. Some search tools like the previously mentioned Mezereon inclue the ability to create landing pages so that you can craft a specific campaign page to point customers to. Banners are also key to show sales or discounts for items which can keep users engaged and searching longer. With the ability to market within the search experience you can improve both the user experience as well as your bottom line.
Companies spend a great deal of time and money to drive users / customers to their website so it is equally important to give these users an optimized experience to gain the return on that investment. Make sure you have the right search tool set for your business when it comes to features, but also find a solution that easily integrates with your website and has regular releases for new features.