Site search is an essential tool for any e-commerce site to help customers find what they’re looking for. Good site search can reduce site abandonment rate and improve customer happiness.
If your site’s search function isn’t cutting it right now, don’t panic. There are plenty of ways you can tweak your site search so that it helps visitors find exactly what they want as quickly as possible.
Read on to learn how site search can improve customer service and increase conversions with these six tips for creating a helpful search experience that your customers won’t soon forget.
The case for search
When it comes to the bottom line, the importance of search can’t be over-emphasized. Almost half (43%) of e-commerce site visitors go directly to the search bar when they land on your site. If you’re looking for a competitive advantage, there’s no better place to start than search which can impact abandonment rates, enable customer self-service, and boost conversion rates.
Google's research along with a Harris Poll study shows that on-site search abandonment costs retailers more than $300 billion annually. Poor site search has a proportional impact on brand loyalty; 85% of consumers view a brand differently after an unsuccessful search.
Besides abandonment concerns, another reason to invest in better search is to enable customer self-service. As online retailers scale operations, customer support costs can grow quickly. Improved self-service via search will lower customer support costs.
Finally, better search is the key to higher conversion rates, too. Even tiny improvements in search success can lead to significantly higher revenue. For example, Catch continuously iterated and improved their search algorithm to achieve a staggering 40% more revenue through search.
Let's now look at 6 ways to improve your search results to improve customer service and user experience.
Great search starts with data
Nobody wants to sift through pages of products that don’t match their intention. Irrelevant search results either drive customers to contact your customer service team or, worse, abandon your site.
If they’re getting poor search results, it could be for several reasons:
- Poor website data and structure
- Outdated content
- Query processing
Data and structure
Bad data in, bad data out. If product titles, descriptions, images, and other information are low quality, results will suffer. Your site structure and data quality make a huge difference in how well site search performs.
Start by improving your site content. Every product or web page should have a unique title, clear structure and schema, and additional metadata that can help a search engine make sense of results. For more ideas, check out our blog on 12 Ways to Improve Your Search Index.
Is your index up-to-date? Many sites lack real-time indexing, also known as instant indexing, which means newly added and updated products are missing from results. You may have added a new product or variant, or updated pricing information, description, etc., but if it’s not indexed, it won’t appear in the results.
A new search engine should detect any changes to your site and automatically update the index so your customers are sure to get the latest and greatest.
Spelling errors, question-based searches, vague queries, spelling variants, etc., can confound a search engine and lead to a “No results found” message or poor results.
Misspellings, poorly constructed search queries, and even the searcher’s intention can be addressed with better natural language processing (NLP) and newer AI-powered search technology, such as Neuralsearch®. Neuralsearch even understands concepts which means customers can type in questions or descriptions for what they want and still get great results.
Responsive site search
About half of all web traffic is from mobile devices. Starting your search approach mobile-first will optimize the user experience for customers who are increasingly beginning their shopping experience on their phones.
Whether you’re selling through mobile-optimized web pages or a mobile app, the same rules apply. The search interface should be easy to use, and the search bar should be clearly visible. You can accomplish this by displaying a persistent search bar on the top of the screen or by using a magnifying search icon in a prominent spot like the nav bar or tab bar below the screen.
Features like autocomplete (autosuggest), typo tolerance, recent search history, advanced search, filters, etc., can be delivered to the mobile experience. You may have less screen space to work with, but results can be equally compelling to customers as they begin their search journey.
Boost high-converting results
You want the highest converting products at the top of search results, but the highest-converting products are constantly changing. For a large product catalog, there can be thousands of highest converting products in different categories and for different queries.
If the best results aren’t included in the top search results, customers are more likely to bounce.
Most search engines have a concept of signal processing — pushing the best results to the top based on clickstream and conversion data. We also offer dynamic boosts, a way to accelerate the process to get faster time to value.
Personalization is another layer of data that can improve results. For example, if you know a customer’s brand preference or recent purchase history, you can deliver better, tailored results.
Include in-store results if you have physical stores with available inventory
If you have physical stores with available inventory, be sure to include those products in search results. Including inventory that’s located in your physical stores in your site search will help customers save time and avoid shipping times. If you happen to be selling a product that’s currently out of stock, be sure to include that information, too, with a way for customers to be alerted when it’s available.
Offer product recommendations based on similar searches
Site search engines are also used for product recommendations. As customers search your site, you can display recommended products to help customers find complementary or alternative products quickly. It not only improves customer satisfaction, but boosts the shopping cart’s average order value.
Include non-product pages in results like exchanges and returns
Your returns policy, shipping information, membership, and other services information should be included in your search index. If visitors can’t find that information easily, they’re going to spend some frustrating time and energy searching or reaching out to your call center.
Optimizing search for product results is often the biggest challenge you face, but don’t forget the rest of your site!
Visitors to your website won’t always know what to search for. Even if they know the exact product they want, they may not know how to find it. That’s where site search comes in.
When done correctly, site search can be a major boon to both customers and e-commerce owners. E-commerce owners can use site search to improve the experience on their site by helping customers find what they’re looking for quickly without overwhelming them with choices.