30 July 2014
When prospects find your website through popular search engines, such as Google or Bing, they’ve already begun a journey looking for a specific keyword or product. But the searching doesn’t end there. Your visitors also use your own internal site search tool to find what they want. And make no mistake: your site search tool’s usability plays a big part in your eCommerce success.
The Status of Site Search
Let’s look at the company FootSmart, which sells foot and lower body healthcare products. By using analytics and optimizing their site search tool, FootSmart increased their search conversions by 82%! Yet despite the proven effects of good search for eCommerce, many websites still have work to be done in this area. According to a report by the Nielsen Norman Group, website visitors surveyed were only successful 64% of the time with their first on-site searches.
So how can you (and your website shoppers) get the most out of your site search tool? Here some tips:
When using search your visitors know what they’re looking for, but they may not know how to spell it. They might not even know the correct terminology for a product. A high-quality site search tool compensates for misspelled words.
One option for autocomplete is to have the remaining letters complete the word in highlighted text as your visitor types within the search bar itself. Another option is to have a dropdown menu with a list of several potential search options.
Semantic search is intelligent search. An evolution of the classic dictionary-styled keyword trawling, semantic search tries to interpret both the context of the search as well as the intent of the user. If you want to offer your potential customers more suggestions and aid them in their searching, make sure that your site search tool uses semantic search.
Filtering options offer your visitor a chance to narrow down what they’re looking for. Whether by checking off boxes or using a variety of dropdown menus, a good site search tool allows your potential customer to pick specific parameters for the results of their search. For example, someone could filter shoes by size and color, only returning search results for black shoes in size ten.
Advanced Search Options
For additional parameters, a quality site search tool offers even more advanced options. Advanced options range from the highly specific, such as filtering by manufacturing material type, to parameters that aren’t even related to the product itself, such as filtering by promotions or sales.
Sorting is how your site search tool displays the search results. If you’ve got a particularly vast product catalog, your visitor’s search is likely to turn up a whole lot of results. In this case, you want to offer them the ability to sort their results. Sorting options include: Alphabetical, By Price, Highest Rated, and Most Popular.
You also want to decide which is the default setting for sorting results. For example, the first time a person searches for “generators” on your site, what comes up first? An alphabetized list? Or a list of cheapest to most expensive? Running analytics on your site (such as A/B testing) gives you insight and data into which default setting results in the most conversions.
Don’t Tell Your Users “No Results”
When you reach a dead end in the road and you don’t know where to go next, that’s when you just turn around and go home. “No Results” is a dead end.
Instead of giving your visitors a “No Results” from their search, if your site search tool can’t identify the specific keyword they entered, why not offer them something else instead? Rather than an empty page, offer a links to new products or top sellers. The goal here is to keep your visitor engaged with their search and help them eventually find (and buy) what they’re looking for.
Your visitors use your site search tool because they know what they want, but they don’t know how to get there. One of the most ironic and counterintuitive things you could do then is to hide the search bar from them. Yet many websites put their search bars in unconventional areas of the page and leave it to the user to figure out where it is.
To remove any confusion for your visitor, you’ll want to stick to the established standards for a search bar. The bar mostly appears in the upper right hand corner of the website. A magnifying glass is a recognizable symbol that the text box in that location is indeed the search bar. And if you want to make it even easier, you can pre-insert greyed out text that reads “keywords” or puts the names of products already into the bar, showing exactly where your visitor is supposed to enter their query.
Put Your Site Search Tool on (Almost) Every Page
If your website visitor suddenly gets a “Eureka!” moment and thinks of a product they want to buy while browsing your site, having your search bar quickly accessible lets them jump right into searching for it. You don’t want your guest to forget what specific item they want to buy because they put all their mental effort into finding a page with the search bar.
If you want to reduce their frustration, visitors should be able to search when they want. Of course, there’s always an exception…
Don’t Include Your Site Search Tool During Checkout
Once your visitor has found what they’re looking for, it’s best not to distract them. While at checkout, it’s okay to omit your site search tool from the proceedings. Allow your customer their full concentration on executing a purchase.
What If Your Visitors Are Not Searching for Products?
Consumers aren’t always predictable. Sometimes they won’t just be looking for products, but also other aspects of your site or company. They may type in “help” or “customer service” or “return policy” into your search bar.
A good site search tool knows what to turn up when these queries are entered in. Whether redirecting to another page on the site or linking directly to an email address, visitors have a better experience when they get answers to their queries.
Site Search Tools – Not as Simple As They Look
Sure, the little bar with the magnifying glass looks minor, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. And the numbers prove that the search bar is an important part to an e-commerce website. If you want to satisfy your website visitors with a coherent, enjoyable experience, keep in mind these tips for a great site search tool.