The spring of 2020 has seen an increasing number of businesses embrace ecommerce as a way to keep serving customers in these challenging times.
Building long-term success with an ecommerce venture is however not a fire and forget type of action where simply going live with a site suddenly yields all the benefits of ecommerce. Finding sustainable success requires embracing a culture and mindset of continuous improvement, where your online channels are never truly finished in the pursuit of providing the best possible customer experience.
In the spirit of finding areas of continuous improvement, this time we’ll take a look at an often overlooked aspect of ecommerce: site search, and the overall search experience. Site search might lack the wow factor of other, flashier features, but functionally site search is a critical element that helps potential customers find the product they are looking for, convert and bring in revenue.
Why search UX matters
The impact of the search user experience, search UX for short, is two-fold. First, there is the matter of first impressions. While your existing customers might understand even your more arcane search setups, new customers will swiftly opt for a competitor if your search experience is not up to par, rather than spend time and effort trying to figure out your site. Once that suboptimal first impression is made, it can be challenging to convince those shoppers to give you a second chance. This issue tends to be more prominent in B2C and other sectors where options are ample for the buyer, but in discussions we have had with B2B decision-makers, ever growing customer demand for smooth buying experiences is more of a factor in B2B businesses as well. Combining these insights with customer lifetime value thinking, one comes to realize the significant revenue impact of ignoring search UX can have on your business in the long run.
The second aspect is the more immediately visible effect search has on conversion rate and average order value. As noted also by Forrester, users that interact with your site search have a higher conversion rate. The same positive impact is also reflected in a higher average order value, especially if the site is built to make use of upsell and cross selling opportunities during the search flow. Therefore, making the site search you offer more intuitive and prominent can also help with your overall conversion and AOV in the short term.
How to get started with improving search UX
Effective UX changes have their roots in customer understanding. Combine insights from your data & analytics with qualitative inputs from your customers to gain a clear view on where the most room for improvement during the search journey can be found. Look especially for drop-off points, as those often relate to a potential area of improvement.
Strive for relevance over quantity on the results page. Make sure your customer has the necessary tools at their disposal to narrow down the results in a fashion that makes sense in your setting. Customers are not impressed by your ability to drop ship 200 000 SKUs, they are more often than not looking for items that are relevant to their search, in stock and ready to ship.
Explore various options to traditional word search based solutions. How is the category-based navigation on your site functioning? Could you streamline the search flow, or introduce more visual elements to help your customers find what they are looking for? Not every user will prefer the same method for navigating your store, so try to accommodate differing preferences. Forward thinking companies are already embracing new methods, with 32 % of respondents in the US planning to make investments in visual search during 2020, according to Kantar’s global survey of planned ecommerce investment areas.
Mobile first. This really should not be news to anyone in 2020, but mobile experiences matter more than ever. Even if your customers prefer to make purchases on the desktop, mobile plays an important part especially during the research phase for most. According to Episerver’s 2020 study, 25 % of consumers use their smartphones to research a specific product or service multiple times per week, and 18 % use them to make a purchase more than once per week. Ultimately designing mobile first makes sense also for the reason that mobile first tends to result in sites that work beautifully in every format.
In a nutshell, you should embrace continuous improvement. Strive for a deeper understanding of your customers on an ongoing basis, make changes based on the insight you have gathered and analyze the results. As with any change project, take mistakes as learning opportunities and play to win rather than to not lose. This will set you on a path that will have your customers happier to interact with your site, and your top line seeing improvements as well.