The way consumers are shopping for products is rapidly changing – something that certainly comes as no surprise to readers. More and more consumers are turning their shopping habits from traditional brick and mortar stores to online, with the use of computers, tablets and their mobile devices. This shift in consumer spending patterns comes with it a long laundry list of tasks for eCommerce retailers wishing to capitalize on the trend.
Many retailers have invested millions of dollars in website redesign, with multi-platform efforts to revamp and revitalize their websites. According to CMSWire, the second most visited area on any given website is the site’s search bar. However, optimizing the site’s search bar often falls to the bottom of retailers priority list in web redesign.
With the start of the new year, we take the time to examine the best practices to optimize retailers on-site search bar in spirits of a digital makeover. Given its prominence and the impact it has on revenue and conversations, it is time to make on-site search optimization a priority for 2015. Here are five factors to consider for the new year:
1. Gather data, gather data, and when you think you’re done, gather more data.
Data drives everything you do in your eCommerce business. Without data, your on-site search is not useful. Data tells you about your website’s performance, and what can be learned from users’ search queries. This data is unique and specific to individual searches, and often not identified in other analytic reports.
In analyzing the data from your on-site search bar traffic and which search queries are most popular, you can identify the difference between what people are searching for and what results are actually presented. By matching your content to the search results, you will be providing the user with the best dynamic experience possible. The way to speak the same language that consumers are using is to LISTEN to their conversations. Data provides this – make use of these invaluable insights.
2. Size and placement of search bar
Examining the size and placement of on-site search bars of some of the Internet’s Top 500 retailers, provided insight into the best practices for the size and placement of your search bar. Search bars should be placed in a very prominent position, and should be labeled. They should be right where your consumer expects to find them – often at the top right hand or top center of your web page. They should be visible across your entire site, so that users can jump between pages and move around easily, regardless of what page they are on.
Additionally, search bars should be long enough to accommodate longer search terms. A usability study on the length of search queries in search bars, performed by Jakod Nielson in the Psychology of Web Design, indicated that the average search bar is 18 characters wide, however 27% of search queries were too long to fit into it. By extending the search bar to 27 characters you can accommodate 90% of queries.
3. Enrich the user’s experience with autocomplete
Consider dramatically improving the user’s experience on your website with the help of autocomplete. Autocomplete simply begins by offering suggestions when users have entered a few characters into the search bar. Autocomplete has numerous advantages: it speeds up the search process, helps avoid misspellings, and ensures that customers’ searches will return an accurate product result. Displaying a ‘No Results Found’ page can be a major, and sometimes irreversible downfall for retailers, leading to abandonment of the site altogether.
Tweaking your tool to handle misspellings saves your visitors from using the search bar again, and reduces the frustration of the user. Autocomplete shows the intelligence of your site and helps your visitors not miss out on any promotions, such as a sale, due to misspellings. It reduces a customer’s time investment, and improves the relevancy of a search, providing a large boost in search conversion rates.
4. Filtered navigation
Lastly, consider filtered navigation as a means to provide visitors with the options and information they need to make smart decisions. Allowing customers to filter based on personal preferences allows for an intuitive navigation experience. This increases an eCommerce retailer’s site purchase rate leading to a positive ROI.
In sum, do not underestimate the value of on-site search; it caters directly to visitors further along the buyer’s journey who are ready to buy.It leads to improved sales, higher conversion rates, and increased site usage to name a few reasons. By making these changes and ensuring on-site search improvement is a priority in 2015, you can effectively manage and enhance the customer experience and ensure your customers them find what they want, with less effort – faster.