With such a large selection of products available on numerous eCommerce websites, the primary concern for many of these sites is product discovery by presenting relevant search results. A visitor must be able to find the right product quickly and make a purchase effortlessly.
To this end, the Search box is a powerful site feature critical to the shopper’s experience. A clear and well-positioned search box greatly improves findability/navigability and can dramatically increase overall conversions.
“Mahmood Ahmad of FindWise, a site-search consulting firm, estimated that the number of visitors using site search was really about 50 percent.”
Offering relevant search results encourages visitors to shop more. But how can an eCommerce site improve its on-site search? What are the critical search features that visitors prefer?
Generating relevant search results for eCommerce sites
In this blog post, I have listed down 10 remarkable essentials that eCommerce stores can implement to improve your search functionality and maximize your site search results.
- Synonym Detection
- Spell Check and Fuzzy Search
- Faceted Search
- Power to Merchandisers
- Mobile Compatible
- Variants Support
- Personalized Search
Autocomplete shows visitors a list of terms related to their search query, prompting them to select from the drop-down list. This is a helpful tool to lead shoppers to the correct result faster and also avoid spelling errors.
If we go a step further, i.e., rich autocomplete, visitors can see specific products in the drop-down list with a thumbnail image, short description, and even price. Such a rich autocomplete will help buyers skip a step and go straight to the product description page and convert faster.
Another advantage of the rich autocomplete is that if you are unsure of the exact name of the product, you might get suggestions for that specific name, thus leading your search in the right direction. Or even better would be to get a more desirable option than the actual query.
For example, while searching for ‘green honey tea’ on The Republic of Tea, I found several drop-down options, including ‘lemon honey green tea’ – something that actually interested me more. Nice. This website also does a great job of displaying thumbnail images of different related products and other necessary information. This feature surely made my shopping experience exciting, convenient, and quick!
Subcategory in Autocomplete
Another striking feature that Target possesses is category-specific Autocomplete. For instance, if I search for a laptop, I would see two subcategories- laptop in electronics or laptop bags under luggage in the drop-down list. This is a pretty efficient way of showing products under categories and making sure visitors find what they’re looking for.
2. Synonym Detection
Ever wondered how the synonym detector in your search box can help you? Let me give you an example – If I type ‘sofa’ in the search query and the eCommerce site only labels products like couches,’ I may not get any search results. A product can have different names so they be used interchangeably, and a smart search must identify these names.
Let’s figure out what will happen if a search box is unable to detect synonyms-
1. Zero Results Found: Even if you have a couch in your product range, it will fail to show any result because I entered the word ‘sofa’ in the search box. Zero results lead to zero sales.
2. Irrelevant Results: A customer who has searched for ‘blazer’ gets all woolen overcoats, pullovers, but he wishes to see ‘business suits.’ This could displease the visitor, eventually dissuading him from any future searches on that site.
3. Missed Opportunity: An irrelevant and slow search could result in the loss of a potential customer.
Quick Tip to Fix Zero Results
The best way to identify which synonyms you should add to your site search is to scan through your site search data. Identify search queries for which your website showed zero results and tag those search terms corresponding to the relevant product in the stock.
This is actually a useful feature of Unbxd Search – eCommerce companies can easily create synonyms for key search terms using our web dashboard in just a few clicks.
Redmart is a Singapore-based online grocery retailer, and they faced a unique problem – the Singapore population consists of various nationalities, and people had their own terms for everyday items and grocery essentials. To counter this, they added multiple language synonyms so every visitor can get relevant search results.
For example, if you type ‘cooking wine,’ ‘Hua Tiao Chiew,’ ‘bai mi Chiew,’ ‘bai mi jiu,’ ‘Hua Diao jiu,’ it will all give you the same results as these are all synonyms in different languages. Also,if you type ‘Hua Tiao Chiew,’ the search will show a more popular name of the product in the bracket that is ‘cooking wine.’
3. Spell Check and Fuzzy Search
Spell check and fuzzy search address common problems such as typographical errors, spelling errors, and plural forms of words.
For example, Etsy is an eCommerce website focused on handmade or vintage items. A search for ‘erring will ask users if they meant ‘earring’ and show the correct results. Using spell check is a prominent way to improve the user search experience and also ensure higher sales.
With the ever-growing size of eCommerce sites, it is challenging to optimize search results, focusing on user preferences and intent. In this scenario, a context-aware search will be an outstanding feature. Wondering how? A context-aware search understands the intent of the visitor and shows only the most relevant results.
This feature solves two-word or three-word queries intelligently by understanding what a user’s object of interest is. For instance, your search for a ‘table lamp,’ and you may get a dining table, center table, etc., in the result. The reason here is that the search could not understand the intent and resulted in irrelevant output.
To make it clearer, let’s take an example of a three-word search query, say ‘brown leather jacket.’ The results may include a brown leather purse, leather shoes, brown jackets, and other brown objects. However, showing a purse or shoe isn’t an optimal result when the visitor was not looking for them at all! Displaying brown jackets first, then differently colored jackets would have been an accurate search result.
Marks & Spencer, a major British multinational retailer, identifies two-word or three-word queries really well. I searched for ‘blue cotton top’ on this website and got very relevant results. Understanding the intent of a buyer is essential to have maximum search relevance and ensure happy customers.
Simply put, stemming helps display consistent results for different forms of a query. In stemming, a word written in different forms, such as plural, or a different tense, would reduce all forms to its root word. For instance, “scarves” and “scarf” would be identified as scarf, and the search will show consistent results to shopper for both the queries.
A search query for ‘handbags’ or ‘handbag’ would give almost similar results on Amazon, which is a good example of stemming. Consistent results give clarity and limit confusion.
6. Faceted Search
Faceted search allows your customers to dynamically refine searches by narrowing down search parameters such as color, size, price range, and others. This is a more interactive, convenient way of navigating a website, letting customers enjoy browsing on a website. If color is a priority for a user, he would filter down the color and leave the remaining parameters. Likewise, eCommerce stores can use all the facet parameters based on the user’s preference either simultaneously or separately.
Why is Faceting Important?
1. It readily delivers results that are easy-to-scan/browsable for a user.
2. The search refinement is grouped under useful headings, which help a user segregate his choices dynamically and instantly.
3. Faceted search gives power to a user to create a personalized navigation path through successive refinements that help them to access their desired product really fast.
4. It is based on the intuitive thought patterns of users, giving them a delightful shopping experience.
Myntra is an Indian fashion and lifestyle e-commerce portal that shows various facets for narrowing down the search. On the left corner, it has multiple facets for the category, gender, brand, price, color. A specific search like this helps a customer to be precise and quick when shopping online.
Faceted search has become an expected feature by the users, and online retailers must understand the significance of faceted search and implement it to improve the user experience.
7. Power to Merchandisers
The whole point of the online shopping experience is to give relevant results with minimum hassle. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to have a web-based tool that can help you as a retailer contribute to a better search experience?
Merchandising search results, or ‘Searchandising’ as it’s often called, helps eCommerce merchandisers control search results to obtain certain business objectives. For example, if the objective is to increase profits, merchandisers can boost high-margin products in search results.
Brands can use merchandising power can be used to show relevant searches in many creative ways. Some of the smart ways are –
1. Manually boost certain products which are the best selling
2. Control results based on seasonal preferences of trends. For instance, during Summer, it makes sense to show summer dresses first when a user searches for a dress.
3. If there is a search query for sandals and you know that wedge heels are trending, show them wedge heels in the top results.
4. You can use this feature to your advantage by pushing high-stock products if you wish to clear that particular stock.
Merchandising also gives you the power to create your own business rules that work best for you.
Unbxd comes with a full-feature merchandising dashboard that allows merchandisers to create business rules like filtering, sorting, boosting, etc., in real-time with an easy-to-use dashboard.
8. Mobile Compatible
As mobile shopping is on the rise, your customers must get a rich mobile shopping experience. Since there is little room for navigation on a mobile screen, dependency on the search box is essential. The search box hence should be visible and prominent on a mobile interface. A mobile compatible search should have the following features-
1. Mobile autocomplete
2. Fast and relevant search
3. Avoid too many results (it takes time to load images which can leave customers restless)
4. Flexible resolution on different phones
5. Add social media to your site
6. Design compatible on different interfaces
7. Flexible and customizable
Below is an example of Redmart’s site on mobile where it clearly gives relevant search results, with a high resolution and a well-positioned search box. Additionally, it shows offers and promotions wherever applicable.
9. Variants Support
Variants support helps users narrow down on products of their choice by giving them the option of selecting a size, color, and other fields related to a product on the same page. It becomes really convenient for a shopper to get all the variations of a product on the same page rather than clicking multiple times and tabs just for different color/size options.
A simple example could be searching for a ‘sandal’ on Zappos, where I clicked on a particular sandal. Ongoing to that product page, it displayed two more color options available in that model. I had to click on those models and got to view a large picture there itself, without having to open another tab. What a hassle-free and seamless experience!
10. Personalised Search
Personalized search is a brilliant feature that can yield highly tailored search results specific to the individual’s interests if incorporated. This feature uses information beyond the specific query provided by the user. There are several ways of personalizing a search, some of which explicitly specify users’ interests or demographic/cognitive characteristics. Another efficient way of doing it is by keeping track of the user’s search history or tracking its search behavior on the website. It can involve a wide range of information at a micro-level such as the user’s brand preference, price points, color, style, and much more.
For example, when a customer clicks on an item to learn more about the product, it shows his interest. You can use this behavior to understand the users’ preferences in real-time. Similarly, with each click, you can capture and analyze his onsite behavior to show personalized search results.
One of the best things about site search is that it gives a big opportunity to a customer to find out what they are looking for and grant them a positive shopping experience. With the help of these 10 powerful strategies, you can make your site search deliver accurate results, helping you in customer retention and building customer loyalty.
Do let me know which strategy worked best for you or if you have any other insights, share them with me in the comments below.