When people shop online,
they’re usually looking for the
quickest route to the items
they seek — whether they
have lots of time to browse
or just a few minutes.
Since most shoppers go to the search box
to find what they want, delivering accurate,
relevant search results is one way to satisfy
busy shoppers. However, a fulfilling shopping
experience goes beyond just relevant
search results; in order to fully engage your
visitors, you need to improve the overall
You can increase the likelihood of shoppers
making purchases by adding features to your online
storefront, which showcase your products in a
visually attractive manner, and makes it easy for shoppers
to hone in on the details they’re interested in, in as
few clicks as possible. By providing them with a positive
(overall) experience, you also increase the likelihood
Below are some practical ideas for helping shoppers
make easier buying decisions through added site
Provide Fast Info with Quick-View Windows
Increasingly, shoppers view site search as the online
equivalent of scanning a rack of merchandise in a realworld
store. They’re trying to collect as much information
as possible about their prospective purchases
without having to click through too many pages, or
back up to the search results, if the item wasn’t what
Quick-view or quick-look windows can facilitate
this process. They work by showing buttons that hover
over product images in search or category pages, or appear
just below a product image.
When shoppers click on the button, they can view
a window with essential product information. For instance,
a picture they can enlarge, a short description,
any available product ratings and “Add to Cart” buttons.
It’s very much like a product minipage.
If shoppers are viewing a quick window and want
to get back to the search results page, they simply close
the window, instead of having to click back several
pages. Quick-view windows can also increase conversions,
because they allow shoppers to buy a product
and even add it to a favorites list without going to the
specific product page.
Save Shoppers Time with Stock Status Updates
It’s annoying for online shoppers to find the product
they are eager to buy, drop it into the shopping cart
and click on the “Checkout” button — only to find
out that the item is out of stock. Unfortunately, this
is still a common scenario on many retail websites,
even big-name brands, especially if they are using
less-than-robust homegrown site search or search
that was provided as part of an e-commerce platform.
Shoppers will be less prone to such disappointment
if you add stock information to the beginning of the
search process, giving your customers the opportunity
to view similar products that may be more readily
One approach is to place stock updates within
search listings, so visitors can choose to only see instock
items in the results, or rank in-stock items higher
than out-of-stock items. You can also add a refinement,
which allows shoppers to select whether they want to
see out-of-stock products or not. If you do display outof-
stock products, make sure to include information
about future availability.
You should also think about how you’ll display
stock information, and how you can help customers
recognize when a product is out of stock. For example,
hair care retailer, Folica, places a stock status notice in
a highly visible location, next to its “Buy Now” button.
However, when a product is out of stock, the “Buy
Now” button changes to “Out of Stock” and is gray instead of orange. These changes provide a helpful visual
reminder for shoppers who are quickly viewing search
results (see sidebar).
Encourage Brand Fans to Shop More
with Hybrid Search/Category Pages
If your online storefront includes name brands, you
can use hybrid search/category pages to display more
of that brand’s products and to encourage sales for
shoppers who prefer searching by brand names.
Hybrid search/category pages are like a store within
a store. They can include features that you would usually
find on a category page, such as a large product
image, text about the brand or the category, promotions
and news articles. Sports Unlimited takes this approach
for some of its bigger brand names, such as The
North Face, an athletic clothing brand (see sidebar).
When shoppers search for The North Face and
reach this page, they not only know they’re in the right
place because of The North Face branding, but they can
also begin shopping within categories such as men’s or
women’s clothing or by clothing type. If they don’t immediately
find the product or category they seek, they
can browse popular products within the brand name.
They can also apply search refinements — for instance,
they can filter a search by sport or price.
One of the most popular uses of search category
pages is for gift guides. You can compile a group of related
products, such as items less than $50, or products
relating to a holiday, and place them under a
special header with seasonal images.
Make Search Results More Visible with
Infinite scrolling is used on sites such as Facebook and
Twitter to show users more information without requiring
extra clicks. When website visitors scroll down,
additional info, such as more tweets or additional Facebook
updates, appear automatically, rather than forcing
a user to click on a page number or a “Next” link.
By adding infinite scrolling to your site, shoppers
can view more search results without having to make
extra clicks. Hurried shoppers might not take the extra
step to click through to a second page of results —
they’ll think that if the sought-after product isn’t on the
first page of results, it won’t be on the second page either.
Infinite scrolling allows search results to simply
show up on the screen, which means customers are
more likely to keep looking and keep shopping.
About the Author: Terry Costa is the vice president of marketing for SLI Systems, responsible for global marketing efforts as well as for driving growth of SLI’s search technology and services in the e-commerce and publishing industries.