E-Tailers: Tune Up Your On-Site Search Before the Holiday Rush

Jordi Torras
by Jordi Torras 20 Oct, 2016


The holiday season is already upon us. In fact, 40 percent of consumers begin holiday shopping by Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation. For e-tailers, this means the time is now to take stock of how well your website is performing and make any updates necessary to prepare for the holiday rush.


Unquestionably, the holiday shopping season is a vital time making a final push past annual sales goals or to try and catch up if it's been a down year. Beyond that, it's also an opportunity for brands to set themselves up for long-term success, earning real affinity and customer loyalty by providing an outstanding customer experience (CX) during the height of holiday shopping chaos.


Of course, not every purchase journey is going to be seamless. A spike in traffic hopefully means a surge in sales, which often translates to a larger volume of customer help cases. Some companies cringe at the thought of spending more time and money to handle a short-term surge in traffic. Other brands, however, welcome it as an opportunity to strengthen relationships with their customers and convert them into advocates (as well as repeat customers in the future) by delivering an exceptional customer support experience.


Better CX Through Self-Service Support


Online shoppers prefer to troubleshoot issues on their own, making self-service tools an absolute necessity for your website. A whopping 72 percent of online buyers prefer self-service to resolve their support issues over picking up the phone or sending an email. Capitalizing on that trend and offering intuitive, effective self-service can lower costs, improve customer care productivity and increase conversion.


So what makes a solid self-support solution, how do you help customers help themselves? Here are three key strategies for supercharging your ecommerce site ahead of the biggest shopping month of the year.


Search Bar: Make information easy to find


Think of your site's search bar as the warm welcome you might get from a store owner when you walk in the door. It represents an offer of help, should the customer want some guidance through the store. Yet, like an inattentive store associate might turn a customer off from wanting to browse a physical store, a poorly placed search bar can have the same effect on an online shopper's experience and motivation.


E-tailers with an intuitive search experience often see customers using the search box as their very first action, using it effectively as a guide for the site. Those with poorly placed or hard-to-find search bars risk cart abandonment according to Forrester data that found 53 percent of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can't find quick answers to their questions.


Avoid this by making sure the gateway to your entire site is easy to find. Simply put: having a prominent search bar can be the difference between a happy customer and one you've lost to a competitor.


Connected Search and FAQs


What's the first thing most people do on a site when they have a question? Well according to Forrester, 81 percent of online visitors click on the FAQ and hope there's a good answer awaiting. Given those figures, having a well-structured and optimized FAQ is imperative to ensuring that your customers can find what they're looking for.


Optimized FAQ pages should be responsive and evolve over time to match common customer queries (hence the "frequently" in FAQ) and direct them to what they're looking for with ease. But since the overwhelming majority of ecommerce websites still use keyword-based on-site search engines, it's often much harder to make the connection between a search and the FAQs than necessary.


Keyword-based search systems require specific words and phrases to deliver any meaningful results. So, if a customer doesn't know exactly which keywords or phrases to use, you won't be shocked to find that their searches often deliver that aggravating "no results found" or wildly irrelevant results that may very well compel them to do their shopping elsewhere.


In contrast, Natural Language search systems (using natural language processing, or NLP for short) allow customers to search FAQs or your entire site using their everyday language. These systems build context and compute the overall meaning of the search query instead of focusing on individual keywords, ensuring that customers find exactly what they're searching for despite incomplete, ambiguous, or unstructured questions. It is like having a human agent receive a query and return relevant results.




The next best thing to a human may just be a well-programmed machine. Today's customers expect on-demand 24/7 support, and they want the choice of where that happens. Brands need to engage with customers on their terms, and one of the most innovative ways to connect today is through intelligent bots, particularly chatbots.


Gartner estimates that by 2020, 85 percent of customer interactions will be managed without a human. Chatbots, leveraging the same NLP and AI technologies as intelligent search, can replicate a human-human experience and provide consumers with relevant, accurate responses to questions in real-time across platforms like Facebook, Skype or on-site live chat apps.


'Tis the season


E-retailers try to gear up for the holiday shopping season, seemingly earlier year over year. They devise new strategies and promotions for attracting more visitors to their sites in hopes that special offers and shiny products (or services) will lead to better conversions and higher sales.


While good prices and a solid assortment of products are always expected during the holiday rush, maybe this is the year to give your customers what they really want: an intuitive, helpful, and-dare we say it--enjoyable online shopping experience. 'Tis the season to make that happen.