Optimize Your Ecommerce Site’s Search Feature to Avoid Lost Conversions

Editor’s Note: This article is a guest contribution from Douglas de Santi, digital experience strategist at Corra.

Ecommerce brands devote much of their time and resources to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). After all, it’s important that your site is discoverable when consumers are searching for products you carry on Google. But many brands neglect their on-site product search and don’t properly ensure visitors can easily discover products on their website 

Just like there’s a myriad of information on SEO for Google, there’s also a lot of science behind powering an effective internal product search engine. You can read about much of this science in this article where we’ll be focusing on the conversion stage of the funnel.

On average, internal product search is responsible for 24% of a site’s revenue.

According to Corra’s proprietary data (data that’s based on our experience working with 150+ ecommerce brands), on average, internal product search is responsible for 24 percent of a site’s revenue (and up to 48 percent in some cases). 

We hope that after reading this and implementing these recommendations you’ll see a noticeable increase in your conversion rate. Here are basic, intermediate, and advanced recommendations for how to improve your on-site search.

Don’t lose customers over typos and misspellings 

Misspelled words that aren’t properly addressed by the search engine can easily drive a lot of shoppers away from your site. Many product search tools have the error tolerance feature which can be switched on and off. 

The best search engine tools (such as Klevu and InstantSearch+) also allow the administrator to define the number of characters the search should still consider. Two characters is the best practice because, sometimes with large catalogs, three characters can lead to imprecise search results for the consumer. 

This is especially crucial if you’re a merchant selling technical parts or products with foreign names, as they tend to be misspelled most often. 

For example, for Everything Wine, chardonnay is a particularly difficult word to spell for their customers. This is a recommendation Corra provided that’s soon to be implemented.

Another action you can take is manual but equally as important. Occasionally, your ecommerce team should take a look at the list of searched keywords with poor results (high exit rate or low conversion rate) and look for wrong words i.e. synonyms that aren’t returning search results. 

Once they are identified, upload the list of synonyms to the search tool that addresses these queries.

Don’t prioritize out-of-stock products in search results 

When we perform audits of ecommerce sites at Corra, we often see out of stock products taking the space of available products in the first rows of a search result. This is likely because those products were best sellers in the past.

At the very least, those items should be moved to the last positions of the listed products. Ideally, they should be stripped out, unless a “notify me when available” option can save some sales, like in B&H Electronics search results for “webcam.”

The general rule of thumb is to limit the product discovery to include only what you’re able to offer. As a shopper, if I’m looking to buy the Microsoft Bluetooth Mouse and I assume the black one is the only option (because that’s all you have in stock) but then your site’s search results also show me an out of stock white one that matches my silver notebook better, I might bounce to another site to buy it elsewhere. 

And if you’re a brand that offers clothing that comes in different sizes, for example, you can take it a step further and ask yourself: should the dress that used to be my best seller still be on the top position on a PLP (product listing page) now that the XS is the only size still available? The answer will vary depending on your ecommerce business. 

Learn from your “No Results” page 

On-site search is not a “set it and forget it” type of function. It requires constant monitoring because your customers’ search behavior changes over time due to new types of products, new technologies, trends in fashion, etc. 

Reporting on your “No Results” page can tell you a lot about new products that shoppers are looking for that you should be aware of. It can also discover common misspellings or help you identify the products you carry with a different name or synonym that should be added to cover those queries. 

Additionally, your visitors might be searching for content that’s not a product, such as “stores,” “accepted payment methods,” and so on, that should be addressed with redirects to the correct pages.

Utilize semantic search

Semantic search refers to your site’s ability to contextualize a search phrase and consider the shopper’s intent behind it rather than just detecting certain keywords.    

What happens when your shopper searches for “dresses for night out”, “red wine from Chile” or “laptop above $600”? Look for phrases within your searched keywords and you’ll find them there. 

This is a very common scenario when your visitors are using the search tool for product discovery but they don’t know the name of the product they are looking for.  

You can see what happens in the below example when the semantic search isn’t properly optimized to contextualize search phrases. In this case, a search for “dresses for a night out” resulted in recommendations for a tapestry and a dress, both of which seem to be a stretch from the original search query.



Final thoughts

If there’s one thing you should take away from this article it’s just how important on-site search is at helping consumers find what they’re looking for. If your internal product search isn’t optimized and operating effectively, visitors may not be able to find items you carry, prompting them to look elsewhere.


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