Sleek design, professional photos, and a seamless checkout process certainly make a great ecommerce experience, but it isn’t everything.

If you’ve neglected to make sure your site’s search feature is relevant and intelligent, you could be forgoing some easy revenue for your business. Here’s why optimizing your internal site search is key to a profitable ecommerce business, and what you can do about it. There could be a significant revenue bump in it for you!

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While many ecommerce sites are well designed and visually pleasing, it’s worth taking some cues from the giants in the space. Amazon, eBay and AliExpress are all examples of concentrating on your customer’s search experience first, by connecting their intent to the right product. Amazon’s search feature is so good that it’s even replaced Google as the go-to search engine for products.

It’s much more difficult to browse these mega-retailers by category, partly because of the breadth of products, but also because Amazon, eBay and AliExpress know one thing better than most online retailers — visitors who can find what they want quickly by searching are more likely to convert.

Average conversion rates for ecommerce sites are about 2.8%, but for users who search that number jumps dramatically to 4.6%. Having great site search is key to converting your audience into customers.

Visitors who can find what they want quickly by searching are more likely to convert.

The browsers and the searchers

UX researchers have identified two types of ecommerce customers: browsers, and searchers. Further research from Nielsen Norman Group concluded that most ecommerce customers are searchers, going directly to a site’s search tool to find products, and it’s not hard to see why.

Browsers are a bit like the online equivalent of window shoppers. They might not have a particular product in mind, or they might not be able to express exactly what they want. They might even be one of those people who add hundreds of dollars worth of products to their cart without any intention of ever buying them. There’s plenty you can do to better accommodate this type of user, but it’s the searchers you should really be interested in for quick revenue wins.

Some people find it fun and relaxing to look at things they can’t afford or have no intention of buying. Photo by Anna Utochkina on Unsplash.

Searchers are intentional. They know exactly what product they’re looking for, or at least the kind of product they’re looking for. Instead of going through multiple layers of navigation, they want to find the product they want immediately, and they’re more likely to be ready to purchase it. If your site search can’t help this customer find the product that they want, they’re likely to leave, and go elsewhere — even if they know that your website stocks the product.

So what’s the cost of this?

Looking for a product on a website with bad site search feels about as frustrating as Arnold Schwarzenegger looking for Turbo-Man on Christmas Eve, 1996.

We already know the conversion rates for all users (2.8%) and users who search (4.6%). Here’s a couple more basic studies that we’ll use to run some back-of-the-napkin maths:

eCommerce search by the numbers

To demonstrate, let’s take these numbers and apply them to an example ecommerce business. We’ll call our business Fast Fashionan online retailer of women’s clothing and accessories.

Fast Fashion receives about 20,000 visitors per month, with an average order value of $100.

We know that 70% of their visitors (14,000) will convert at 2.8% (392), producing $39,200 in revenue.

We also know the other 30% of visitors (6,000) will have performed a search, meaning they convert at 4.6% (276), producing $27,600 in revenue.

Adding these two results together gives a total monthly revenue of $66,800.

For those 6,000 people above that performed a search, we know 31% (1860) won’t find what they’re looking for, and most of them will exit after that.

Not everyone who searches for a product will find what they’re looking for — and sometimes it’s not your fault.

Now let’s imagine that you’re using site search that can produce better results (maybe one like ours).

A simple thing you can do to improve search accuracy and results would be to set synonyms for certain search terms, like “runners” = “trainers” for people who are searching for footwear. This helps in case people aren’t using the search terms you would like them to use for our products.

You could also put some time into making sure that all your website data is complete, including things like titles, descriptions, and canonicals. This helps all search technology enormously (we can give you a free report on your site’s search health, too).

A product like Sajari also utilizes machine learning to constantly optimize the order of results based on user bahviour, so that’s going to help as well.

Let’s say that our new site search and the work we put it on fixing content now cuts that rate to 10% of people who search and can’t find what they’re looking for — not bad, considering you’re never going to be able to find what everyone wants.

Now only 600 people can’t find the product they want, not 1,860.

Let’s assume that Fast Fashion will then convert those extra 1,260 people at the same 4.6% rate. This produces an extra $5800 in sales per month, or $69,600 more per year.

That’s almost 10% annual growth — from just a couple of simple steps.

While Amazon AU couldn’t find anything that was exactly what I searched for, it still showed me items similar to my search terms— and they’re pretty close to the mark.

Stop substandard site search with Sajari

There are plenty more optimizations you can make to your site or ecommerce search to both streamline your customer experience and maximise your revenue.

For example, customers who can easily find the information they’re looking for cost you less in customer support. Similarly, when you can easily discover which search terms aren’t returning any useful information, you can create better content around those terms to serve your customers.

At Sajari, we’re working on products that help solve these problems, and make searching all kinds of information easier. Right now you can sign up for a free 14 day trial of Sajari-powered Site Search, with no credit card required. Visit our website to get started, and experience the difference.

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