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eCommerce entrepreneurs often overlook one simple but effective tool for conversion optimization. This tool is site search.
You probably noticed that Shopify provides only basic site search that cannot serve customer needs and is well behind good website usability. The good news is that by improving your site search, you will kill two birds with one stone: provide a better customer experience to your clients and boost your profitability.
Let us take a closer look, why site search is essential in the first place, how to improve it and what possibilities of business development it can bring.
Why is Site Search Important?
43% of website visitors go immediately to a search bar once they open a website.
Site search can either kill the conversion rate of your eCommerce store or skyrocket it. As Forrester Research has found out, 43% of website visitors go immediately to a search bar once they open a website.
These people are at the late stage of their buying journey: they search for a specific product to find out product details such as availability, price, delivery methods, and charges. Forrester Research calls such website visitors "spearfishers" and urges businesses to pay special attention to them because customers who use search are 2-3 times more likely to convert than those who just surf the website.
That is why it is vital to reduce customers' path to the product and make sure that your search engine is smart enough to understand visitors' input. If site search has poor performance: limits search results to a few products, does not correct typos and mistakes, or, worse of all, returns zero result page, your potential customers are very likely to turn to competitors. Another research has shown that frustrating search experience results in an enormous churn and burnout level — to the tune of 68%. On the contrary, a smart and predictive search engine can provide a great customer experience your shoppers will want to repeat.
In addition to this, site search can be more than a navigation tool. It can give you new ideas on how to develop your business further. Best smart search apps conduct an analysis of your customers' behavior. These data analytics can give valuable insight into what your visitors look for, allowing you to adjust your business strategy.
How to Improve It?
As we already mentioned, the default Shopify search delivers only basic functionality. However, there are professional third-party services that can vastly improve your site search. Most of them provide a wide range of features and are easy to implement. Let us see in more detail what smart search apps offer to their users.
Auto-Suggest and Autocomplete
Autocomplete may seem a simple tool, but in fact, it can boost conversion by as much as 24%!
Auto-suggest and autocomplete offer suggestions when visitors start to enter characters in the search bar. This makes the search easier and faster, as users do not have to worry about typos and mistakes. What is more important, it ensures that the search will return a product result, not a "sorry, nothing was found" page. Autocomplete may seem a simple tool, but in fact, it can boost conversion by as much as 24%!
If you think it over well, it will not seem surprising because really smart search apps can make sense even from heavily distorted words. For instance, if a user searches "lite", bearing in mind "light", the search engine will provide relevant suggestions, as shown in the picture below. This is essential for conversion because research shows that only 20% of people who did not find what they wanted from the first try would bother to refine their search and try one more time. Even worse than that, 21% of visitors left the website after getting unsatisfactory search results.
Auto-suggest provides another powerful search optimization tool — synonyms. For example, a customer looking for outerwear may enter "parka", "anorak", "trench" and get few or zero search results if your search engine is not supporting synonyms. It is not fair to lose potential customers who mistakenly assume that your store does not have what they want, is it?
With optimized search engines, customers will always find what he or she wants. Take a look at search results on Macy's website after searching "parka". Only one of these three products has "parka" in the product name; the other two are named "coat". If Macy's website search was not using synonyms, the user's search would return only a few products, not 139.
Faceted search is a navigation system that allows customers to narrow down search results by applying various filters and find precisely the product they are looking for.
Zero search result is bad, but thousands of search results are inefficient as well if there is no way to filter them. Here comes to help faceted search — it is a navigation system that allows customers to narrow down search results by applying various filters and find precisely the product they are looking for. This saves customers' time and contributes to the usability of your website.
Visitors looking for one particular item would expect the search engine to return filterable options, allowing them to sort results by price/size/color, and so on. Including more filters such as sale items, material, new in stock, etc., is always a good idea because it makes search results more customizable for visitors.
Another user-friendly way of navigation through search results is swatches — a feature that shows visitors what colors of the product are available. Customers can look at the product in selected color without any additional navigation or reloading the page. Product information such as price, availability, and sizes will be updated every time the user selects a different color. This feature makes it easier for customers to find the product they like most and improves the general user experience. The picture below shows filtrable search results that also have swatches.
How to Make Search Drive Sales Effectively?
Professional search apps are much more than just an intelligent search engine. Apart from improving user experience by refining search results, search apps deliver tools for increasing sales. These tools are product promotion opportunities and valuable data on customer behavior that can give you insight into business development ideas. Now let us see how exactly smart search can contribute to conversion raise.
Product Promotion Opportunities
As much as 35% of Amazon's revenue is generated by purchases made from recommendation blocks.
Product promotion opportunities include merchandising in search and product recommendation blocks. These tools have proven to be highly effective by such eCommerce giants as Amazon. As much as 35% of Amazon's revenue is generated by purchases made from recommendation blocks. So let us see what product promotion opportunities smart search apps offer and how to make the most out of them.
Merchandising in search is the first helpful tool. In other words, merchandising in search is an ability to tailor search results by criteria you set. For example, you can set special offers and discounts on certain products to promote them or add a "limited edition" tag on exclusive products. Also, you can arrange the search results to show your best-selling items always on the top. Or, on the contrary, you can use search to promote products that are not selling well. You can even put a specific product on the top of the search result regardless of search input. Like in the example below, the pink armchair appears on the top even though the user searched for "sofa". This was arranged by the store's owner with the help of the search app.
Product recommendation blocks are another effective way of increasing sales. And yes, smart search apps can do this for you as well. For example, when a user searches for dog shampoo, the smart search can suggest taking a look at other products frequently bought by dog owners. Related suggestions and recommendations increase the average customers' check, so make sure to implement this tool as well.
Understanding Customer Behaviour
A close look at customer behavior allows businesses to understand the target audience better and be able to craft products and services that would be in demand. Or, even more than that, to try and influence customers' buying habits. To do this, you need to analyze data that is collected by smart search apps.
Analysis of how customers search can lead to real business insight. You can find out what are most frequently searched products, underperforming products, how exactly customers search, and even how they perceive your store.
Also, pay special attention to the analysis of search queries with zero results. We have discussed a lot that a search should return a product result in a perfect world, not a "sorry, nothing was found" page. However, there is one situation when search queries with zero results can be helpful. They can give you information about products customers want to buy.
As an example, the owner of a farm products store found out that apart from milk, meat, and vegetables, his clients often search for berries, although he did not sell them. He saw it as a development opportunity and introduced strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry to the stock, growing sales and average check. It is a win-win situation both for customers and the store owner.
If you want more insights into customer behavior, take a look at these statistics. Also, the article cites useful data on eCommerce in general. You may also look for some Algolia alternatives to power up your site search.
As you have seen, smart site search is a potent instrument for your eCommerce business. To make the most out of it, do not forget to:
Trust proven solutions. A professional site search solution will not only improve website usability but also assist in business development. If you struggle with building one yourself, you can use services like business and disaster recovery.
Use all capabilities. Smart search apps are much more than just search: they offer merchandising options, product recommendation blocks and help to better understand customers' behavior and needs. To gain maximum value, make sure you use all the functions.
Analyze the site search data as early as possible. This information can give you valuable ideas for business development. Do not overlook it.