With more and more shoppers understanding how a website should operate - and growing frustrated when it doesn't meet those expectations - retailers cannot afford to ignore their site search and how it helps visitors complete their goals.
This post discusses some of the ways retailers can use to improve the quality of search on their sites, ensuring that customers find exactly what they are looking for.
Filtered navigation is an absolute necessity. Except in cases where users search for products very specifically (e.g., products that have unique model numbers or specific catalogue codes), your searches will provide several products matching whichever terms were used. These can be as many as hundreds of items, which are too many to sift through, especially for a purchase-ready consumer.
By adding options for product filtration, you can allow shoppers to filter search results according to brand, reviews, price, color etc., so that the consumer ends up with a more practical number of results they can finally choose from.
Many site owners program their site to delete search terms once search results are loaded, or some show it in a way that cannot be edited on the search omnibox, but this is a bad idea. By leaving the term in the omnibox and allowing searchers to quickly tweak their searches by including or removing some words or correcting any errors, you can make the process faster for them.
Even though most searches may be product-driven, you should consider that there are searchers who simply want specific information, and they too should be catered for. A useful way to separate your results is to have two tabs for product and non-product results, making it easier for searchers to get what they want. You can add more tabs if you can have categories that are more specific.
Reviews should be included in the site at a place where they can help to influence shoppers. By showing them among your site search results, you're exposing potential buyers to more information they need to make final decisions regarding suitability of products for their needs. This can help a lot, particularly when users are torn between two closely matching options.
Carrying on from the above argument, one of your results filtering options should be reviews, customer votes or customer ratings. This will allow users to quickly dismiss products that have lower ratings when products are almost similar.
Reviews are important, but so are social signals, which can be included in your search results. Other social proof signals can be used to indicate how in demand your products are (e.g., people who have looked at them or bought them). In a way, it tells your potential buyers that they should move fast to make the final call to acquire their product, especially if it is in limited supply.
Buyers have different concerns that should be addressed in your search results. For instance, some may be interested in price and want to see cheaper products first, some novelty and want to see newer products first. Allow them to order results according to the most important characteristics for them.
There isn't one set way you can use to present your search results in terms of number of results per page, pagination of results, list views or grid views etc. Therefore, the answer is to let the consumer decide how he/she wants to view your products.
If you're selling clothes for instance, you should display the clothes with models wearing them as well as on their own. Profile, back and front views of the model are a must.
Users will frequently misspell terms when entering search details. Where possible, devise a way to anticipate what the customer means and provide them with results that are as relevant as possible.
Sometimes a user will be searching for something that you don't stock, or their language is incomprehensible so no results can be displayed. In such cases, rather than just say "0 results were found" for the term, offer some suggestions, like most popular searches, new products or advise to reword their search in a way that might give results.
Many ecommerce sites include quick view options that allow users to access the products page in a smaller overlay format. The point is to help them save time by viewing all the details of a product their cursor is on without clicking through to the product page.
You can have different options displayed when the user's mouse passes over a specific product, for instance pinning to Pinterest, adding to shopping cart or adding to saved items to be viewed later.
Your website's search data is a very useful resource when you're assessing performance of the site and how they use it. You can leverage the details to improve your general performance. For instance, how deep users are clicking might tell you whether they're struggling to find what they need. Maybe you should have more filters to bring what they want closer to them.
Similarly, your search data can be used to identify your online store's bestselling products, popular searches and stock customers want that you don't have among others. You can use these details to set up other product recommendations according to customers' searches. Within search results, you can highlight most popular related products to help buyers make their purchase decisions faster.
Good website search is about providing relevant results and improving user intersection and experience with search results. For instance, filters and quick views enable customers to reach into what they want without struggling. The key is to properly test out any changes to find out what works best for you depending on the products and services you're offering.
Ron Johnson has noteworthy experience in providing affordable search engine optimization solutions to businesses of all sizes in all industries. He has also published many articles on the Lawyer SEO blog and other online marketing sites.