This week, we’re introducing a new weekly series where we’ll grade an ecommerce site on it’s Site Search. Having worked with several clients to help them improve site search, we’ve shortlisted certain crucial parameters like autocomplete, context awareness, relevancy and more which are critical to a superior site search experience.Based on these features, I’ll review a new ecommerce site every week and see where they excel and where they can probably do a little better.
Today, under the site search scanner is Merrell.com. Merrell.com is a popular US-based store, that specializes in high-performance hiking boots and other hiking essentials.
Overall, Merrell’s site search performance is above average but there are certain aspects of their search that they can improve. I’ve taken a look at some crucial search parameters and analyzed how Merrell’s search performs for each of them.
Critical Site Search Parameters – How did Merrell.com perform?1. Autocomplete Merrell has autocomplete which suggests popular terms as I type in a query, say, boots. It helped me search faster and provided results for both men’s and women’s boots.
However, when I decided to enter ‘women hiking boots’ in the search box, I was perturbed with it’s autocomplete which gave me suggestions separated with ‘+’ signs. It’s really not natural for visitors to enter multiple word query with a ‘+’ sign and this is something they should fix immediately.
My Suggestion to Improve Merrell.com’s Autocomplete
To make search more specific, Merrell can make use of guided autocomplete which further narrows down options for visitors. For instance, Boots for Men’, ‘Boots for Women’ or ‘Boots for hiking’, ‘Boots for casuals’ etc. in the autocomplete can lead me to a more relevant search results page.
Also, personally while shopping online, I appreciate sites that use visual autocomplete. It gives me an idea of the look of products, their price range etc, keeps me engaged and takes me straight to the product page.
2. Search Relevancy – Is it Context-Aware?
A context-aware search understands the intent of the visitor and shows only the most relevant results.
In order to analyze Merrell.com’s relevancy, I typed ‘brown shorts’ in the search box. What appeared in the results was a big let down! It showed brown shoes instead of shorts in the search results!
My Suggestion to Improve Merrell.com’s Search Relevancy
Opt for semantic search engine that understands user intent. Typical text search engines are not suitable for ecommerce search, particularly for two & three word queries.
3. Synonyms and Keyword Stemming
Synonyms and keyword stemming help in avoiding zero results as well as irrelevant results. Visitors may get confused if you show different results for similar words. In this case, while searching for ‘runner shoes’ and ‘running shoes’ I got different search results.
Merrell.com’s synonym detection is just average – For some words like caps and hats it shows relevant results but for bag and backpacks, it shows very different results, mostly irrelevant.
My Suggestion to Improve Merrell.com’s Synonyms and Keyword Stemming
A great way to solve this is by looking at site search data and identifying search terms that visitors are using on the site. This will help narrow down the synonyms that visitors use and tweak site search accordingly.
4. Faceted SearchMerrell.com doesn’t have faceted search. They use very few facets & filters for navigation but none for search. Faceted search allows your customers to refine searches by narrowing down search parameters such as brand, gender, color, size, price range and others.
For a query like boots, it’s very important to have a way to filter by size, colour or in their case even benefits (waterproof, vegan friendly etc).
Where Does Merell.com’s Site Search Shine?
1. Search Speed and Search Box Positioning
Site search speed is an important factor in improving search experience. Merrell.com has a good search speed of 1.35 seconds.
As for their search box, it is positioned well and isn’t difficult to spot. I would suggest having a simple call to action next to the search box in a different colour to make it easier for visitors to spot their search box.
2. Product Properties
Merrell.com uses product properties to describe the type of their products on their search results page. For instance, for hiking boots, they show small icons that indicates if the boots are ventilator-type and Vibram traction type, backpacking grade etc.
Product properties like these help visitors make a better purchase decision and speeds up the selection time.
Merrell.com’s Site Search GradeTake a look at how Merell.com did in the Unbxd Search Grader
Adequate attention needs to be paid to important aspects like spellcheck, context awareness, autocomplete etc. which contributes towards providing a better search experience.
Want to grade your Site Search?
If you want us to grade your site search simply enter your URL here – site search grader and we’ll send over a detailed search performance report.