eCommerce search has changed a lot in the last few years. Everyone’s experienced that feeling of frustration when using a search box to look for a specific product and not being able to find it, even when we know with certainty that the product exits in the catalogue. Fortunately, this feeling is becoming rarer these days. However, that doesn’t mean that the problem has been completely resolved. Site search experience is much more than just avoiding the frustration a user feels when their expectations aren’t reached; it’s about achieving consistency, reliability and user happiness through the search box.

Search visits are usually the ones that demonstrate the highest conversion rates and it’s therefore alarming to see how these visits can sometimes be ignored or undervalued by retailers. While online marketers and analysts are diving into events taking place outside of their sites or the ones leading to micro conversions and specific goals, leading ultimately to a purchase, many are overlooking what’s actually happening within their own site.

As an example, on average, visits using site search represent around 7% of total visits on fashion retailers. These can go up to 30% for certain business with a wide and complex catalogue such as electronics or books retailers where the search box is often very prominent with a big call to action. Despite these exceptions, the vast majority of eCommerce sites oscillate around a low percentage of less than 10% which could justify why site search performance may not always be a big priority.

Yet, by looking at the transactions and the revenue generated from these “small” percentages sheds a spotlight on just how important it is to understand these site visits and, even more intriguing, how “qualified” and committed these visitors are. In fact, web visitors who use site search are proven to spend between 3-8 times more!

SEARCH SESSIONS vs REVENUE

Interestingly, a retailer with just 4% of visits that use the search box can obtain an incredible 17% of total transactions from those search sessions , corresponding to 20% of the global revenue, that’s a fifth of total revenue. Now that’s a much more interesting percentage isn’t it, and changes the perspective somewhat. Developing a good site search that incorporates good functionality and design can more than double visits, performance and revenue values accordingly. And that’s why it’s so important to measure site performance , which doesn’t just mean setting site search tracking up on Google Analytics. A powerful search box can offer huge insights to analysts and marketers with many useful inputs that can, in turn, contribute to the design, search performance and customer experience.

SEARCH USERS BEHAVIOUR

Conversion, transactions and revenue are KPI’s that will convince marketers and management to invest time and effort on improving site search experiences. However, we know people make buying decisions based also on emotion , and not only buying decisions but engagement and loyalty judgements too. The search box is the best way to connect users with content and brand attributes , through exceptional and unique shopping experiences. And that’s why we need to measure search performance beyond just sales figures. Site visitors using search are proven to spend five minutes more per session than those that don’t, and consequently, they view four more product pages per session. That not only multiplies the conversion possibilities but, crucially, increases the customer engagement within the site. And that engagement has to do with refinements as well. Search refinements and filters, from within a digital analytics perspective, were initially perceived as a negative indicator. The more filters and options the longer and more painful the apparent search experience. However, we now know that not to be the case. The use of a filter doesn’t mean that the initial query wasn’t solved. Someone looking for “dresses” might want to see the general offering without having a concrete idea of exactly what they’re looking for. However, after seeing the general results, the user has the option to go deeper, being guided by the brand or the site flow into more specific searches like “crochet dress”. And that, of course, is a refinement but it is also demonstrates engagement and a willingness to explore , discovering new products through the site search experience.

QUERY BEHAVIOUR

As previously touched on, not everything revolves around conversion or transactions. Even if these metrics will be critical during the decision process for some stakeholders, the best outline for site search performance is through analysing queries, keywords and user behaviour within the results page . Getting down into the nitty-gritty of a search experience, the main objective is to understand customer needs through the queries typed, and facilitate the findability of products by providing useful results that lead to a click and, hopefully, an Add to Cart. Clicks from within the results page, Findability (clicks from within the first results), and Add to Cart rates are the three fundamental indicators to measure the performance of any eCommerce search. Through these factors we’re able to focus on user reactions to an eCommerce catalogue and the way it’s displayed. By analysing query performance, we can identify the effectiveness of, and the opportunities presented by, the site search performance.

DEVICE PREFERENCES

It’s also really important to analyse search performance across different devices and, of course, nowadays to always think mobile first. Although mobile tends to beat desktop in terms of the queries performed, we are still living in a desktop culture for the actual online purchase although, this is now starting to change. When analysing site search performance across several eCommerce sites by device we can also see a gradual increase on mobile purchases. This is where search functionalities, the box position and design take the lead. If site search is well implemented across the different devices, the experience will create search happiness which is easy to identify or, alternatively, improvements will be highlighted through the site search performance report.

ZERO RESULTS

Last, but not least, in order to check that we’re developing a useful search journey and to identify any gaps or issues between the queries and products we always need to analyse the zero results rate and terms. Zero results terms can be one of the most important indicators to evaluate search performance and results should be checked individually to take corrective actions if needed to offer an overview of the most frequent queries that don’t produce results, as seen in the visualization below. This helps retailers to receive a detailed and informed product view, understand customer demand and expectations while also identifying potential opportunities .

The eCommerce search experience has definitely been transformed in recent years. Almost gone are the days of frustration and disappointment as we now look towards a future of search happiness. However, in order to do this, retailers need to recognise not only the importance of the site search but the key factors they need to consider to analyse the search performance of their site. Which in turn offers incredibly valuable insight into how customers are interacting with the product catalogue and how products are performing within the search sessions.

The metrics also clearly show the value produced from search sessions and the commitment demonstrated by these users to uncover the importance therefore of the search box, its prominence, design and integration within the site.  A good search experience is fundamental in establishing a real conversation between a site’s users, its products and ultimately establishing the brand’s attributes.