E-commerce site search: making sales easy

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The evolution of search engines has changed the online landscape. With engines run by Amazon and Google leading the e-commerce charge, shoppers have come to expect nothing less than instant results. When they’re ready to buy, if they can’t find what they want on your site within 2 to 3 seconds, they quickly move on and you lose that sale. Conversely, improve your website’s search performance, and your engagement, conversion and retention rates rise – and so do your profits.

What is e-commerce site search?

Your site receives two types of visitors, “browsers” and “searchers”. “Browsers” are still gathering information and usually use site navigation, like categories and drop-down menus, to browse organically and explore what’s on offer. “Searchers” have already identified what they want and they use the search box to hone their search further. This second type of visitor is usually ready to buy and you need to make that as easy as possible for them.

E-commerce site search helps these ready-to-buy visitors find what they’re looking for on your website. It searches through all your products for those with attributes that match the keywords or phrases entered in the search query. Then it displays the matches in a list of results.

Find out what features give you the best results here

Why is e-commerce site search important?

With Google as the gold standard, today’s shoppers expect searching to be quick and easy, and the results to be relevant and accurate. Any obstacle in their way will lose you sales.

Let’s look at some compelling statistics:

  • Between 10 and 40% of visitors to your e-commerce site will use the search box.

  • Those visitors are ready to buy, and they are 4 to 6 times more likely to convert than someone who is still browsing.

  • 20 to 30% of all searches give a zero result, often because shoppers haven’t used exactly the same keywords as the site. The shopper then goes elsewhere because they think you don’t stock that product, even if you do.

  • With a seamless search experience, your rate of zero-result searches can be reduced to 5 to 8%, dramatically increasing your sales.

An example

An e-commerce site search is slightly different from a Google search in that it uses filtering and sorting to search for specific attributes, whereas Google searches for content and text. There are many similarities though, and Google is useful for the purposes of comparison.

Imagine how you would react in these scenarios:

When I put “fresh pineapple” into Google, the helpful results show that Google knows what I’m looking for. The search engine also provides access to further information I may be interested in.

Google search for fresh pinapples

When I type the keywords “fresh pineapple” into the site search of a well-known local retailer, I get the frustrating result below. I know if I walk into their store I can buy fresh pineapple, but I can’t find it on their site.

Search on a local store for fresh pineapples

If I simplify further and enter just “pineapple”, I now get a whole range of products that involve pineapples, including pajama pants, but still no fresh pineapple.

Search result on a local retailer shoing results for pinapple

Unfortunately, this kind of experience is common in South Africa. Add input errors, like incorrect spelling, and the problem is exacerbated.

“18% handle phonetic misspellings so poorly that users will have to pass a spelling test to be presented with results (e.g. 0 results for “Kitchen Aid Artysan” when looking for the “KitchenAid Artisan” mixer).” (Baymard)

It’s no wonder that local consumers often prefer buying from retail outlets, rather than online. Luckily the problem is easily solved with good site search functionality. Learn about the most important features of your site search here.

Seven benefits of excellent e-commerce site search

The right site search for your business benefits both your customers and your bottom line in many different ways. It improves:

  1. User experience:
    When your site is really simple and enjoyable to use, visitors tend to spend more time on it and are more open to registering on your mailing list.

  2. Conversion rates:
    If your customer gets instant and relevant results from your user-friendly site search, you save them time and effort – and they are far more likely to buy from you, boosting your sales.

  3. Average spend:
    Satisfied customers buy more from you because it’s easy and they trust you. Read more about growing your average order value (AOV) here.

  4. Retention rates:
    If a customer’s first experience is positive, they are likely to come back to buy from you again, building long-term loyalty. Find out more about how to retain your customers here.

  5. Referrals:
    As your reputation grows and your brand comes to represent shopping satisfaction, customers come to you first, rather than your competitors. Your customers become your best ambassadors, online through reviews and social media, and offline as they tell their friends all about you.

  6. SEO ranking:
    Two of the factors that affect your search ranking are the number of pages users visit and the time they spend on your site. If they’re having a good experience, they’ll take time to explore your site further rather than bouncing away.

  7. Analysis of data:
    A good search solution collects concrete data that helps you understand your visitors’ behaviour on your site. It can tell you which products are trending (or not) and which ones your customers wish you sold (in which case you might consider stocking those in future). It also gives you insight into the language they use to find what they want, which is extremely useful both to fine-tune your search solution and for PPC campaigns.

Standard and advanced search functionality for your Comalytics e-commerce site

An e-commerce site search solution can be built in or integrated with your online store. Comalytics uses nopCommerce for our B2C sites and the built-in site search is powerful enough for many online stores.

We strongly recommend you regularly test your site search by putting yourself in the shoes of a visitor who is ready to buy. Search for your products using full product keywords, as well as parts of words, incorrect spellings, alternative spellings and synonyms. If you don’t get the results you want, there are several options available to enhance your search functionality.

Option 1:

The basic nopCommerce software package we offer currently includes reasonably good search functionality. As we’ve mentioned, it’s important that you test this search as if you were a customer, using your own products, to check if it provides you with the right results for your business. If not, consider upgrading your solution.

Nopcommerce search results

Option 2:

Comalytics integrates with two excellent search engines, Algolia and Doofinder:

Option 3:

Other options we can offer include:

A list of good search engines

Some of these are simple one-click installations, while others may require more complex integrations. We can help you with both. Contact us about enhanced search to keep your customers happy and stay ahead of your competitors.

Tip: Check Google Analytics to identify your most popular internal site search queries. Then use those to evaluate any search provider to make sure their functionality delivers results that are relevant to your business.

The bottom line…

Excellent search functionality is a vital component of any reasonably large e-commerce site. It helps visitors quickly and easily find what they’re looking for, creating customer satisfaction and building loyalty and trust. For the best user experience, make sure your search functionality includes these “must-have” features. Then keep testing it to ensure it’s always optimised for the best possible results. Your business will reap abundant rewards in increased engagement and higher profits.


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