With such a large selection of products available on numerous ecommerce websites, the primary concern for many of these sites is product discovery. 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 their on site search? What are the critical search features that visitors prefer? In this blogpost, I have listed down 10 remarkable essentials that can be implemented to improve your search functionality and maximize your site search results.
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 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 which also included ‘lemon honey green tea’ – something that actually interested me more. Nice! isn’t it? This website also does a great job of displaying thumbnail images of different related products along with 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 as couches’, I may not get any search results. A product can have different names which can be used interchangeably and a smart search must be able to 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 leads to zero sales.
2. Irrelevant Results: A customer who has searched for ‘blazer’ gets all woolen overcoats, pull-overs, but he wishes to see ‘business suits’. This could displease the visitor, eventually dissuading him for any future searches on that site.
3. Missed Opportunity: An irrelevant and slow search could result in 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 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 bracket that is ‘cooking wine’.
3. Spell Check and Fuzzy Search
Spell check and fuzzy search addresses common problems such as typographical errors, spelling errors, usage of plural form of words.
For example Etsy is an ecommerce website focused on handmade or vintage items. A search for ‘ering’ will ask users if they meant ‘earring’ and show the correct results. Using spell check is a prominent way to improve user search experience and also ensure higher sales.
4. Context Aware
With the ever growing size of ecommerce sites, it is a challenge to optimize search results keeping the focus on user’s preference 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, you search for a ‘table lamp’, and you may get a dining table, centre table etc. in the result. The reason here is that search could not understand the intent and resulted in irrelevant output.
To make it more clear, let’s take an example of a three-word search query, say ‘brown leather jacket’. Now, 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 coloured 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 consistent results will be shown for both the queries.
A search for ‘handbags’ or ‘handbag’ would give almost similar results on Amazon which is a good example of stemming. Consistent results gives clarity and minimises 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. For a user if color is a priority, he would filter down the color and leave the remaining parameters. Likewise, all the facet parameters can be used based on the preference of the user 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 are grouped under useful headings, which helps a user to segregate his choices dynamically and instantly.
3. Faceted search gives power to a user to create personalized navigation path through successive refinements that helps 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.
Jabong is an Indian fashion and lifestyle e-commerce portal which shows various facet fields for narrowing down the search. On the left corner, it has multiple facets for 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 in order 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 which 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.
Merchandising power can be used in many creative ways. Some of the smart ways are –
1. Manually boost certain products which are 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 is searching 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 the power to create your own business rules that works 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, it is extremely important that your customers get a rich mobile shopping experience. Since there is a 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 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 on your site
6. Design compatible on different interfaces
7. Flexible and customisable
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 user narrow down on products of their choice by giving them option of selecting size, color and other fields related to a product on the same page. It becomes really convenient for a shopper to get all the variation 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. On going to that product page it displayed two more color options available in that model. I simply 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
Personalised search is a brilliant feature, which if incorporated, can yield highly tailored search results specific to the individual’s interests. This feature uses information beyond the specific query provided by the user. There are several ways of personalising a search, some of which are done by explicitly specifying users interests or on demographic/cognitive characteristics. Another efficient way of doing it is by keeping a track of the user’s search history or by tracking search behavior of the user on the website. It can involve wide range of information at a micro level such as the user’s brand preference, price points, color, style and much more.
Take an example, when a customer clicks on an item to learn more about the product, it shows his interest in it. You can use this behavior to understand the users preferences in real time. Similarly, with each click you can capture and analyse his onsite behavior use it to show personalised search results.
One of the best things about site search is that it gives 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.