Report • 06.09.2021

The gateway to the online store: Optimizing the search in e-commerce

9 steps towards a user-friendly webshop search

Consumers who type search terms into the appropriate field on websites or in online stores are often interested in specific products and ready to make a purchase. This is a potential that you should not leave unused. That's why optimizing the search function in your online store or on your website is a top priority.

We have collected nine tips on how to perfectly align your webshop search with the target.

1. Empty result lists 🔍 Inspire your consumers

Of course, it happens with searches – especially very specific searches – that the results list is empty. You should not leave your customers alone on this empty page though. If you can make offers based on the current search term on how searchers can get results, you reduce the bounce rate and offer further inspiration: you can make suggestions on how the search can be expanded leading to more results. Or you can refer to current offers, product categories, new products or similar products to what is being searched for. The more you can personalize these suggestions based on search history, the better.

2. Filtering 🔍 Refine the search

Sophisticated filtering options are becoming increasingly important in e-commerce. Most consumers lack the patience to scroll through a list of results with 50 or more entries. For many of them, part of an outstanding online shopping experience is being able to search very specifically for their exact requirements.

Depending on the product category, such as electronics, furniture, food or fashion, different filters are therefore very useful. Generally speaking, in addition to rating, price, model and brand, information such as size, color, availability (both online and in-store), (no) shipping costs or special offers can also be of interest to customers.

Gallery: Filtering and sorting options in a webshop

3. Sorting 🔍 Prioritize search results

The same applies to the option of being able to sort results in the list. Sorting by price and rating are absolutely standard. But are there other sorting values that make sense for your offer? For example, fast delivery time, newest products or local proximity?

4. Scope of the results 🔍 Help consumers to orient themselves 

For those searching, it can help to see how many results their search has returned. This leads to further action options: Do I need to narrow my search further or rather broaden it? Can I get a quick overview of the results?

It may also be worthwhile to offer website users the option of how many results they would like to be displayed per page before they click to the next page in the list.

5. Mobile optimization 🔍 Consider the search on smartphones or tablets

The mobile optimization of websites, online stores and features is a topic that no site operator can avoid in the long term. Google and other search engines penalize poor usability and loading time of mobile pages. Try it out for yourself: How convenient is the navigation of the mobile search via touch? Is the layout clear on the smartphone?

Drei verschiedene Suchfelder aus Webshops
Source: Screenshots iXtenso

6. Usability 🔍 Make the search easy-peasy

The most important thing: When wanting to search in a webshop (and on the website), consumers should not have to search for the search feature. Make sure, you have an easily recognizable search field, usually placed in the top right or top center. An icon of a magnifying glass has become established as an internationally comprehensible symbol.

An absolute no-go: It is not uncommon for users to have to manually delete text suggestions in search fields that are intended to clarify the function and provide a stimulus – unnecessary and annoying. Make sure that this text suggestion disappears on its own as soon as users click in the search field.

7. Autofill/Autocomplete 🔍 Give your customers suggestions

Autofill or autocomplete features, i.e. the automatic completion of a search term with several suggestions, has three main effects: Firstly, users save time, secondly, typing errors are avoided and thirdly, retailers can use it to inspire consumers and present their product range.

Gallery: Search suggestions in web stores

8. Synonyms 🔍 Understand search intentions

Think not only about how YOU call your products, but also about what (new) customers might be looking for. For most terms and things there are synonyms or paraphrases. Make sure that your search solution is optimized for this.

Add synonyms and descriptions to your product or category pages and you might win over some people who are helplessly wandering around the World Wide Web via organic search and search engines.

9. Questions and keywords 🔍 Collect those who seek

Of course, customers mainly search for products when they search in an online store. But who hasn't accidentally or intentionally entered a keyword there, hoping to find an answer faster than by clicking through the menu? Consider whether it's worth including FAQ information or other subpages of your website in the list of results for certain keywords such as "returns" or "shipping".

The goal: Conversion, conversion, conversion

Even if not every insight can be turned into gold: Search queries and the subsequent online behavior of users can tell you a lot about your (potential) customers.

  • What products are they looking for?
  • Which products do customers have specific ideas about?
  • At what point are searches aborted?
  • Which searches lead to purchases?
  • After which search queries is the bounce rate particularly high?

Don't let this knowledge go unused and analyze the data you generate. Based on this, you can derive valuable insights for your assortment or marketing strategy. And in the best case, this will lead to a real increase in sales.

Author: Julia Pott

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