Is Your Retail Website’s Search Function Up to the Job?
We have a question for you.
When is the last time you thought about your retail website’s product search functionality? No, not its place in the search results for its keywords, but the actual product search on the site itself, the method by which your potential customers search your inventory once they have arrived at your site?
Sadly, for many retailers, the answer is not in a long time and that is a huge mistake. All that effort you put into PPC, SEO, social media and other methods of traffic generation can be for nothing if visitors can’t find what they are looking for when they arrive via one of these channels.
eCommerce site owners are, research says, particularly guilty of product search functionality neglect, which is surprising, given that – you would think – is something that any web designer creating such a site would focus on.
16% of retail sites didn’t support searching by product name or model number, 70% of retail websites required users to search by the exact product type or name that the website used. For example, “blow dryer” didn’t return any results for hair dryers. Only 40% of retail websites offered their visitors any form of faceted search. As in a search that allows visitors to filter results by specific criteria like size, color, etc.
These are HUGE mistakes. Take the blow dryer example. A person searching for one is unlikely to revise their search just because you chose to call it something different. Instead, the chances are that they will just click away and head somewhere else. And if that happens several times a day you could be losing significant amounts of money.
This is actually a wider problem in customer journey optimization as a whole. Building a website that suits your preferences and criteria is not something you should do. Your site needs to be all about your end user; the customer.
The search function is just a single aspect off the CJO process, but addressing problems is a great start. If this search neglect is something you are guilty of, here are some pointers and ideas to help you get the search on your site up to scratch.
A Featured Search Box
Many – maybe even most – websites treat their search box rather shabbily, hiding it behind fancy slideshows, pop-ups and other ‘toys’.
Paying more attention to your search box and restyling it can easily make a boring, dictionary-like search box into a dynamic, intuitive, and interactive tool to connect directly with customers. And as many site owners have discovered actually doing an upgrade can pay off big time.
Smart Product Search
While you are making your search ‘prettier’ you should make it smarter as well. It should not only be able to cope with misspellings but also understand the different variations on the same thing people may search for ie: pants, trousers, slacks. Where can you get a smarter search box like this if you don’t have such a thing?
For smaller sites, Google provides this product search functionality free of charge, you’ll just have to make a couple of back-end tweaks to get it up and running. A larger site may, however, need a more robust solution but the good news is that there are plenty of good ones out there.
Track Site Search Data
If you aren’t tracking your site-search data, you are ignoring the most valuable first-party customer data you can get your hands on, and that is especially sad as doing so is easy and straightforward when compared to monitoring some other site metrics.
You don’t even have to track a huge number of extra metrics. Even something as simple as tracking the number of users who make use of your search box, in general, can be a great insight, but if you add on search conversion rate (how often a query results in a sale) and revenue per search such metrics can be even more useful.
If you do choose to make use of Google search this allows you to integrate search metrics into your Google Analytics dashboard in just a few clicks, but other solutions – like Yahoo! search and the search built in Shopify offer fairly robust analytics as well, you just have to remember to use them!
The Power of the Picture
When a user searches your site are they presented with a long list of text links or are they presented with the images of products that match their search query? On average sites that can offer the latter generate 40% more click-throughs to the product page itself.
Think about Amazon. How many product searches have you ever done that result in products with no images? Very few we’ll bet. Amazon – whose sales are now made up by more than 50% from independent third party sellers – knows that this would be a conversion killer, so it mandates them. You should do the same.
Search That Actually Works
Believe it or not, a great many webmasters are in charge of a site that no longer even has a search function that works properly and don’t even realize it, because no one has bothered to check recently.