Most probably the majority of your visitors, just like for most online stores, enter your website on your home page.When the visitor already exactly knows what s/he is looking for s/he will use the search box to directly find the product. When the search box doesn’t work well enough, this will definitely cause damage to your online store. You will generate fewer sales. Especially when your assortment is too big to browse by clicking through it, a good search box is essential.
Visitors who use the search box to find a product are often purchase-focused visitors and the conversion rate is a few times higher for them than for your other visitors. It is important to provide this group with perfect search functionality.
A perfect and effective search feature meets the following criteria:
- Easy to use: clear instructions
- Fast and accurate: Especially big online stores may have problems achieving this.
- Friendly: Think what users will see when there are no results to show.
Test your search box for accuracy
Test your search box by searching with various search terms (plural, singular). When you have an online store selling furniture look for “chair” as well as “chairs”. The results shown for each should be identical.
Make your search box more intelligent
It is often actually not the case that when you are writing something in plural that you get the same results as for singular (chairs – chair).
Luckily with some e-commerce software it is possible to merge search terms (this is at least the case with Magento). So you can configure that when a customer looks for “chairs” the actual search is executed for “chair”.
Besides for singular/plural, it is possible to use this trick for misspelings and typos as well. Also search terms that are written either loose or connected may be thus configured.
It costs you about half an hour (small website) to a couple of hours for a bigger online store; but it is certainly worth it. Use Google Analytics to look for the most used search terms and start with optimizing those.
Use category search
When you have a big assortment it is wise not to always start by searching site-wide. This may bring back way too many results. By giving the visitor the choice to look only in one category you can already narrow down te results and make them more relevant.
Show the visitor what s/he was looking for
When you show the results to the visitor, don’t assume that they know exactly what they were looking for. Always show the search term they were using. Maybe they made a typo and there were no results while you actually do have the product!
Best is to leave the search term in the search box as well so s/he may easily edit it.
No results? Make suggestions!
Programmers often use technical words to indicate “errors” when there are no results. Like: “no match found”. This doesn’t come across as friendly or human. Because there is a big chance that many visitors will see this “error” it is a perfect chance to leave a good impression.
Help the visitor to get better search results by doing suggestions:
- Check your spelling
- Use only single words
- Make a less specific search command