By Sue Chapman

I recently served as a “doctor” during the “Doctor Is In” sessions. During my conversations throughout these sessions, as well as broader conversations I’ve had with retailers throughout my career, I find the most common questions as it relates to a retailer’s website fall in one of four areas: site search, navigation & categorization, merchandising on the grid page and metrics & benchmarks.

In this post, I’ll focus on site search.

Three of the most common questions I’m asked as it relates to site search include:

  1. How can we improve our site search results?
  2. Are there ways to reduce no results or to improve our no results page?
  3. Are there any quick wins?

A very important first step to effectively answer these questions is to ensure you understand who is visiting your site and how they are shopping. Basically, are you seeing more searchers or browsers? This is a critical piece of information because searchers tend to be surgical shoppers – they know what they’re looking for and are more ready to buy. In fact, based on our internal benchmark data, we see searchers convert 3x higher and spend 15% more per visit.

So clearly, you want to improve your overall site search experience to increase conversion and revenue.

Here’s how:

  • Review the data attributes or fields being searched – Searching long text fields can cause a lot of noise and inaccurate search results. For example, if your customers are searching for “bowls,” they don’t want to sift through pages of dinnerware set search results because the long description describes what products are included in the set. Consider removing long text fields from search criteria to display more accurate and targeted search results.
  • Reduce the ‘no result’ page experience – If your customers are searching for a discontinued product, create rules to return replacement
    products. One of our clients found this approach to be extremely effective (image to the right); their search conversion increased by 17%.
  • Offer enhanced search suggestions – Regardless of whether or not your customer misspells the product name they’re looking for, it should never produce a ‘no results’ page. Consider offering enhanced search suggestions so customer errors are minimized. One of our clients offered this capability, coupled with images of top selling products matching the search term, and saw a 28% increase in search conversion.
  • Turn a ‘no results’ page into a selling opportunity – Sometimes, you just won’t have the products the shopper is searching for, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed a selling opportunity. Re-engage the shopper with banners on the no results page to advertise special offers, seasonal specials or personalized recommendations.

Up next: navigation & categorization.