Why you need to improve site search

Internal site search is the one place where both potential and existing customers consistently tell you what they want and how they look for it. Not only is it a direct path to purchase but it’s also a treasure trove of customer insights, making it one of the most important ecommerce tools in your arsenal. Yet it’s one of the most ignored and overlooked.

The importance of site search

If you regularly put off optimising your site search in favour of the obvious ecommerce maintenance tasks, the benefits of site search might surprise you. Did you know that on average up to 30% of your ecommerce visitors use your internal site search? In fact, those who use internal site search can convert up to 6x higher than visitors who don’t.

These stats shouldn’t come as a surprise, as getting customers quickly to what their searching for makes complete sense. What better way to find what you need than by telling the website exactly what it is? Especially when you know for example, that you want a white shirt or even a specific product code. And when you find that white shirt, the only thing left to do is buy it.

Visitors using site search are typically further along the funnel with much higher levels of purchase intent. This is reflected in the terms they’re searching for, whether it’s a product category or a product code. It’s also reflected in your revenue, with shoppers who use internal site search showing a 216% increase in conversion rate and a 21% increase in average order value. With such a strong purchase intent from the outset, these customers are yours to lose.

Shoppers that used internal site search showed a 216% increase in conversion rate and a 21% increase in average order value.
Image: The Ecommerce Benchmark Report, Demac Media

As well as having a significant and direct impact on your top line, site search provides customer insights that you can’t afford to ignore. Search data from Analytics and Magento can reveal your popular everyday products, yearly or seasonal trends and whether your high margin products are getting the attention they need. All of this should be used to adjust your strategy accordingly and create more successful marketing campaigns.

Your search data can also show you when customers have had to refine or amend their searches. This can help you identify terms where your site search may not be returning the most relevant results to your customers. These insights can then be used to improve your user experience and optimise for better conversion rates.

Improve your site search

The queries in your site search can help gain insight into customer behaviour and the performance of your website. Use these to inform your on and offline strategy, improving the user experience and path to purchase.

Whilst there is lots to be done, start with optimisations that are quick and easy to implement. Take a look our best practices which aim to make your search smarter, quicker and easier for the customer, with a view to improve your overall conversion rate.

Find and search

It might sound obvious, but make sure visitors can easily find your search bar. Typically, they feature at the top right of the page, however marketplaces like Amazon who rely heavily on site search have started positioning their search box at the top; replacing categories and a menu bar altogether. Which you choose depends on your catalog, but either one should be familiar to your visitors and easy to spot.

Amazon use a large search bar at the top and centre of their website to reflect the importance of site search for their business.

You can also experiment with colour, size and the CTA to test which works best for you. The main thing is to make sure your search bar is distinctive from other sign up boxes on your site, and to make sure that it’s available on every page and in the same position.

You should also make sure your search box is big enough for typical search queries, making it easier for customers to see their full search and spot mistakes. Amazon’s search box offers plenty of space to type full product names with room to spare.

Magento best practices

With Magento, you’ll find your quick search box in the upper-right corner by default, but your customers can also use advanced search. Advanced search appears in the footer of your website and provides a form with multiple parameters to search by. Talk to your developer about where these can be moved and styling them to deliver the best possible experience.

Magento’s search results will show products that match all the desired parameters outlined in the form. For customers, this provides an even more refined way of searching, while you can provide results that more closely match your customers’ needs and are more likely to convert.

Smarter search

The key to good site search is quality and versatility. Allowing customers to search for a range of terms, from a product category to the product code, makes it a more attractive navigation option. It’s also important to ensure that with this range of potential search results you don’t compromise on quality. Results pages should be highly relevant to the search query as well as insightful, picking up on spelling mistakes and allowing customers to search by the second or third word in a product name.

This type of intuitive search has become much more common, with customers now expecting to see autocomplete and suggested search when they use this feature. Smarter search ensures queries are much more likely to return results and can even guide customers to other products they hadn’t thought of, meaning less potential conversions lost and more opportunities to cross sell or up sell.

Hobby craft offer smart search with auto correct, suggested search and refining search features.

You can also make using your site search even easier by introducing a drop down of categories or departments by the search box. Customers can then refine their search from the outset, helping them to find what they need even quicker.

Hobby craft is a good example of smart search in action, with a comprehensive list of product and category suggestions even with a spelling mistake as well as an option to refine by department.

Magento best practices

In Magento, you can improve your search by adding new search terms based on the queries your customers are entering. Identify common spelling mistakes or synonyms, such as sofa and couch; redirecting them to an appropriate category, product or landing page.

Don’t forget to set your search configuration settings to customise the behaviour of your search operations. This includes determining the size of valid query text and the search type. For example, if results are based on individual keywords in a product title, on the full text of each attribute and ranked by relevance, or a combination of these. While you should be looking for the most flexible site search settings for your customers, the best converting results may vary depending on the size of your product catalogue and your customer’s behaviour.

Search configuring settings in Magento allow you to set restrictions of query length as well as selecting the search type.

Optimise your search results page

After impressing your customers with your fast and intuitive search, they might find that you don’t currently stock anything matching their query. If you can’t match the query or the product isn’t currently in stock, don’t lose the sale to a disappointing ‘no results found’ page. Instead, use this opportunity to list any similar products, best sellers or special offers as an alternative. John Lewis will detect spelling mistakes and display results for similar products or will provide search tips along with popular categories and products.

Even if the search query does return results, your search page could be doing more to make the most of your visitors increased potential to convert. Designing your results page to show best sellers, related products or newer models is an effective way to cross and up-sell to customers. Providing additional or alternative higher margin products will help increase your average order values and get more out of every conversion.

John Lewis will return alternative products if they can detect a spelling mistake, or search tips with popular products if no results can be found.

Depending on your business you may find customers using your site search for a range of different queries beyond just products. Customers may be using your site search as a general search tool to find other information, particularly if you’re a service provider or offer additional support and advice.

If this is the case you may find it beneficial to show several different result types, either on the same page or separated by tabs. For one search query, customers can view results from your product catalogue, your blog or your information pages. Visitors are much more likely to find what they’re looking for and are likely to adopt your site search as a main navigation tool in the future.

Magento best practices

With Magento, your search results page can be formatted as either a grid or a list with a certain number of products per a page. Your customers can toggle these settings to make browsing search results easier and tailored to their preferences. You can also choose to include a layered navigation to enable customers to filter results by product attribute, just as they would while browsing your site normally. These settings are easy to configure in Magento and can help ease the search process for improved conversion rates.

With Magento your customers can toggle the list or grid formats of the page, select the number of products per page and use layered navigation filters for tailored search.

Final thoughts

Research by Screen Pages looking at the site search of 21 companies found that the average revenue generated from site search was significantly higher than the number of people performing those searches. In one notable case, while less than 10% of visitors were performing searches, nearly 40% of the site's revenue was coming from those sources. On average across the companies, visitors using site search contributed 13.8% of the revenues.

Despite this, most ecommerce merchants overlook their site search or simply don’t dedicate enough time to it, while only 7% of companies report that they learn from and use site search data to drive other business and marketing decisions.

For ecommerce retailers, this should be a big wake-up call when it comes to consistently optimising the internal site search experience. If your site search isn’t already one of your biggest on-site conversion tools, then it should be.

If you want to know more about how site search can become your biggest converter, or need help providing a better site search experience to your customers, contact one of our team today.

Katy Smith

Katy Smith

Digital Marketing Executive

Katy is a Digital Marketing Executive at Netmatter with a degree in Marketing. She has so far gained experience in various areas of marketing including email, copywriting, social media and SEO.

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