Actionable Optimisation

Actionable Optimisation #53 – The Power of Ecommerce Search

 July 20, 2021

By  Will

Search in Ecommerce is an incredibly powerful way of driving sales, if you use it correctly...

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Search is another criminally mis-used function on a website.

The vast majority of websites simply stick the search bar on the site, link it up to their product catalogue and think to themselves ‘great job guys, search is now on-site’.

But as with anything on a website, search needs to be optimised, and needs to enhance the customer experience.

Up to 30% of website users use search, and more would probably do so if they expected the experience to be any good, but we’re all used to pretty basic search tools that either require an exact match search term, or produce a torrent of completely unrelated products as alternative options.

Why, when we know consumers like imagery and visuals, do so many search bars return results in text form only?

How does this help a customer who has a vague idea of the name, but knows what the product looks like because a friend showed it to them?

Why should the customer have to click through to a result to find out whether it is or isnt the product they were looking for?

Searches are (generally) high intent customers, converting at 2.4x the rate, and actually spending 2.6x more as well.

But 12% of searchers will also abandon a site due to an unsatisfactory search result. I’m surprised its not more! 

Think about it, if you walked into a shop, asked a member of staff if they had a certain product and they simply replied with ‘no’, or even worse took you to an aisle with completely unrelated products, you’d probably leave the store wouldn't you?

There’s so much more opportunity with search, and there are the tools out there to let you do it.

TOWER London do a good job of displaying search results with images, as well as allowing you to filter and sort those searches further, without having to click anywhere.

The same search on ASOS simply returns a list of possible recommendations. It’s not the worst experience out there, but if the visitor doesnt know if the shoe is a high top, platform, or chuck taylor, friction is being added to the process.

One way to improve this experience could be to provide suggested products to the right hand side, and have the text suggestions to the left filtering those recommendations.

A final point on search is that we want to avoid putting an end to the customer experience on-site as much as possible (unless that ends with a purchase of course).

And one of the most common problems a customer faces is getting the impression that the business can’t provide a product to resolve their issues.

The product they’ve found is out of stock in their size, or the search term provides the dreaded No Results Found.

Most businesses leave it here and let the customer abandon the site, but you can do better simply by providing some recommended alternatives.

Converse is an OK example of this.

They’ve provided recommendations of their best sellers at the bottom of the search results, although they could acknowledge that onesies are clothing, and so offer clothing recommendations instead.

Are you guilty of settling for the basic search function that came with your website? Are you even checking to see how customers use search on your website?

There’s so much opportunity with search, and if you need a hand locating it just drop me a message.


Will is a Customer Journey Marketing consultant, specialising in CRO, CRM and Customer Experience. Will has over 7 years experience working across a range of consumer facing businesses and has worked for huge brands such as MyVoucherCodes, Europcar, JackpotJoy, Virgin Games and Virgin Bet.


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