Any brand that operates within the online retail space will know only too well just how competitive it can be and, for that reason, why it is important to use all the tools at your disposal to make your business stand out from the crowd.
There is one element of an online retailer's website that is consistently underestimated in terms of the amount of impact it can have on conversions: the on-site search function. It is something that all e-commerce sites have -- or, at least, they should have -- but not all online retail brands are aware of just how instrumental search is in driving sales and conversions.
Brands that know the importance of on-site search will invariably make it front and center of their homepage because they know its value in driving sales, but there are many others out there who are missing opportunities aplenty by not ensuring that their on-site search is maximized and properly optimized. Let's take a look at five reasons why on-site search should be a fundamental element for e-commerce stores to get right in 2016.
Signal of intent
Generally around 30 percent of users will be using your site search on an e-commerce store and, according to research from Econsultancy, conversion rates through site search can be up to 50 percent higher than the average. Essentially what this means is that when consumers use the search functionality on your e-commerce store, they are signaling their intent to make a purchase -- so it's imperative that the search tools that you implement are geared towards providing accurate results.
Up-selling and cross-selling to consumers
The functionality of on-site search tools is improving all the time, and e-commerce stores need to ensure that the modules that they deploy deliver results that provide alternatives if the exact product isn't available. There should never be an instance where an e-commerce store delivers a "no results found" page, as this is a massive missed opportunity to sell an alternative product to the consumer.
On-site search is becoming intuitive
Such is the importance of search in the e-commerce environment that more and more companies, such as Finnish startup Klevu, are creating search programs from online retailers that are genuinely intuitive and understand the consumer, what they are looking for, and learn in real time to provide a much greater level of customer satisfaction. Retailers this year are likely to invest in such search functionality because it is abundantly clear how much of a role it can play in facilitating conversions and driving sales.
Consumers want a streamlined online shopping experience
Simplicity is key when it comes to e-commerce, and bombarding consumers with deals, offers, and all manner of incentives is a surefire way of alienating them if not done well. However, your online site-search function remains an ever-present means of helping convert visitors to your site simply and effectively, and neglecting it or not capitalizing upon its usefulness is something that more and more online retailers are becoming aware of -- and doing something about. Providing search results that are not only accurate but provide easily customizable results -- i.e. make it easy to change color, size, style of product -- are what retail brands will be striving for over the next several months.
Customizing your results pages
As mentioned, retailers are getting much more control over their site search, and are able to customize the results provided to best suit their business needs and requirements. For example, for generic searches, it is possible to show the most popular results first, or if you've got a certain product you're looking to sell more of, you can feature it more prominently within your search result listings. The concept of personalization in e-commerce is accepted to be a feature that consumers demand and will help drive more conversions and better customer journeys.
The site search on e-commerce stores is somewhat of an omnipresence, but it is surprising to note the number of retailers who aren't fully capitalizing on its considerable capabilities in helping to drive sales and act as a catalyst for conversion. The tide is definitely turning on this, however, as an ever-growing number of technology companies are improving the functionality of on-site search and more brands begin to understand its critical importance on the e-commerce landscape.