Site Search: Optimizing your Customer Experience
Customers visit your site in order to find something. Maybe they're looking for a specific product, an answer to a question, or even a customer service number. It's your job to help them find what they're looking for quickly, and that's where site search comes into play. According to eConsultancy, up to 30% of visitors to eCommerce sites use the site search box. And because site searchers are also usually in their later stages of buying, a seamless search experience is crucial to making a sale.
Keep these best practices in mind when setting up search on your site:
Make it easy to find.
Making your customers hunt for answers on your site is an easy way to increase bounces and lose conversions. Your site search box should be visible across the entire site, and most visitors expect to see it at the top of the page, above the navigation. Make the search box even easier to find by using color, a call-to-action button, and other distinct formatting like a magnifying glass icon to draw attention to it. And don't place it too close to other boxes (like newsletter sign-ups), as this can confuse customers.
Help customers fill in the blanks.
Your site needs category and search filters. If not, this makes it far more difficult for customers to find what they're looking for; it also puts a heavier load on merchandisers who have to come up with more categories to replace the missing filters. Some valuable added touches are including text in the search box itself that disappears as the customer clicks into it. Options like "I'm looking for..." or "Help me find...", or providing examples of what shoppers can search for such as "bathing suits, green sandals, denim shorts" all help guide the customer's search experience and ultimately help them find what they need.
Another great way to aid in the search process is to use auto-complete to preselect popular keywords and offer suggestions when users begin typing into the search bar. This has the added benefit of speeding up the search process and helping customers avoid misspellings so that their search will at least return a product page.
Leave room for mistakes.
You should literally leave room for different queries by making your search bar large enough to fit what customers are likely searching for. If you see that shoppers often search for items by a serial number or long product description, a longer search box will ensure those key words words aren't getting cut off and customers can correct any spelling mistakes as they type.
Additionally, you should anticipate your shoppers' needs by providing a dropdown filter so customers can narrow down the scope of their searches before they start. Customers who are searching often have a specific product in mind, but may not use the correct terms to describe it. Misspellings are the most common mistakes when it comes to site search. Ideally, you will redirect to your best guess in order to get them to products more quickly. If that isn't possible, "did you mean [corrected word]?" is an acceptable fallback, but it does require one more click before a potential buyer has purchasable products on the screen. You will also want to make sure that your search thesaurus can adapt to synonyms and alternate phrases. Anticipating your customer's needs is a major driver of a positive search experience, and when done well, can keep customers on your site longer and improve sales.
Enable different types of queries.
Customers use search for more than just products; they also need to easily access customer service information such as "shipping" or "returns". When they can't find what they're looking for through the standard site search, they become frustrated—especially if they are looking for support. Short-cutting the default search returns and sending customers directly to the information they want reduces clicks and increases customer satisfaction.
Search is incredibly important on your eCommerce site. According to Forrester, as many as 68% of shoppers would not return to a site that provided a poor search experience. Get to know your customers, learn how they shop, and start to anticipate their needs on your site. You may just have what they're searching for.
For a detailed guide on how to increase conversions with site search, check out our partners at SearchSpring. And for more eCommerce insights, subscribe to the Virid Newsletter, and be sure to follow Team Virid on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook! If you're interested in how Virid can help your eCommerce business grow, schedule a free consultation.