Search is where modern retail e-commerce begins, so getting it right holds the key to higher revenues, happier customers, and an experience that keeps shoppers coming back time and time again.
When on-site search is done well, retailers and brands can enhance their overall site experience so that search works with them, not against them, to become one of the top ways they’re driving revenue growth.
In order to optimize site search for shoppers, let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges e-commerce sites deal with and how to overcome them with a preview of our top six tips.
Challenge #1: Search Diversity
Different shoppers shop uniquely. For instance, while one shopper may refer to a dress as a “sundress,” another just might solely consider it a “loose dress.” Or, what one person may refer to as a “blazer” may be more well-known as a “sport coat” to someone else. There are so many attributes that can go along with just one item of clothing and keeping this level of synonymous search diversity in mind is key.
Challenge #2: Irrelevant Results
If a shopper is trying to find a unique item and irrelevant results pop up, frustration is going to arise. For example, if a shopper searches for a “sleeveless lace top” and instead gets results for a “lace hand towel,” those results are essentially going to be deemed irrelevant (and irritating) to the shopper (unless they’re really in need of new hand towels).
Challenge #3: “Product Not Found”
In a worst case scenario, a shopper looking for a specific product that doesn’t fit the terminology you have on hand, may receive the dreaded “Product Not Found” response. This is bad news for your e-commerce brand as shoppers that can’t find what they’re looking for are not likely to stick around and keep looking. They’re going to move on to the next site – a site with more optimized site search capabilities and better product attribution data built with the language of the customer at the top of the clothing pile.
Tip #1: Know the Parameters of Your On-Site Search
There’s no other way around it, you can’t measure improvement unless you have a clear starting point established. Start by analyzing your site’s search capabilities and assessing on-site metrics like bounce rate, flagging searches that return few or no results, and including actual shoppers when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of a site’s on-site search.
Tip #2: Focus on Impactful Filters and Facets
One of the most powerful things you can do as a retailer is to enhance e-commerce customer intent with better product discovery capabilities and one of the best ways to do this is by adding filters and facets.
Filters are broad categories (i.e., a specific designer/brand), while facets are a bit more specific (think, the color “gold,” or only size small).
Including impactful filters and facets to your search tool and product taxonomy can be used to narrow down a set of items for shoppers so they can more easily find the specific thing they’re looking for. Or, they can be used to widen the search. Overall, they’re a great addition to on-site search and serve as strong ways to help users help themselves.
Tip #3: Create New Categories
It’s no surprise that a dress may be categorized by style, color, size, or any other relevant attribute that may serve as meaningful within your product catalog. But consider expanding even further by creating new categories.
For example, in terms of thematic searches, creating categories such as “New Year’s Eve dress” or a “Cocktail party dress,” or maybe even a “70’s-style dress” for an upcoming 70’s-themed bachelorette party. Including a wide variety of well-thought-out thematic filters can make an immense difference. After all, a “bachelorette party dress” can look very different depending on the theme – e.g., boho chic, 20’s vintage, or Y2K.
Tip #4: Utilize Deep Tagging
Legacy, out-of-the-box attributes sourced from manufacturers or distributors are highly limiting, costly, and prone to inconsistency and inaccuracy. Utilizing machine-learning algorithms to create “consumer-driven attributes” that use the language of the consumer are much more effective and can potentially create dozens of new data points for your products that would not exist in the supplier/distributor/manufacturer-driven world of simple language.
Tip #5: Amplify Search Autofill Suggestions
Don’t be afraid to get even more personal based on an individual’s own search history, amplifying autofill suggestions by taking their past search results into account.
Tip #6: Iterate!
It’s important to remember when tackling on-site search that working to improve it is an ongoing, consistent process. Each step is key in informing the next and know that when you work to repeat the trustworthy process, your grasp on each shopper’s on-site experience and search process can continue to be improved beyond measure.