Google has spoiled us with the ability to search virtually anything and get relevant results instantly. As technology gets more advanced, consumers’ patience diminishes. People expect to find what they’re looking for immediately. In fact, according to a study done by Google, 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. If consumers are frustrated with the amount of time it takes for a page to load, imagine the frustration of trying to search for something on an ecommerce site and finding no relevant results, or even worse, no results at all.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SITE SEARCH
A website’s search functionality can make or break the user experience. Search allows customers to quickly navigate and find what they’re looking for, but also provides businesses greater insight into what their customers are actually looking for. Online shoppers use site search frequently; 45% percent use it “often,” and 35% use it “always,” according to the Site Search Survey 2018. Yet, in a survey done by Digital Commerce 360, only 14% of retailers would rate their search capabilities as advanced. Those who are advanced in site search are reaping the benefits, with desktop conversion rates that are 2x higher with advanced site search vs. basic. There is a massive opportunity to win new business simply by improving site search functionality.
When it comes to B2B and B2C sites, the way customers interact on each site will differ. B2B product catalogs are typically much larger than B2C and contain a repository of SKU numbers for online stores. This works great for the B2B customer that knows the exact product name, model, or SKU number. But what if they don’t? According to Forrester, “79% of US online adults agree that it’s important for retailers to offer advanced site search features, such as the ability to refine search results by price, brand, style, or other product attributes.” Flexibility in search is critical for both B2B and B2C sites. Based on SearchNode’s data, visitors who use search can generate around 30-60% of all ecommerce site revenue. It seems silly to miss out on more revenue, higher conversion rates, and lower bounce rates all due to a mediocre search experience.
SITE SEARCH FUNCTIONALITY
Ecommerce has not only completely changed the way we shop, but it has also set the bar pretty high when it comes to buyers’ expectations. Customers expect things like relevant search results, simple website navigation, and transparent product information, and if they aren’t provided with these things, they most likely will not return to your site. It’s not enough to have an aesthetically pleasing website. The user experience has to be functional and efficient. An adequate search solution should include features far beyond the search box. Of course, you need the search box functionality, but it comes down to how well the search engine is able to understand your customers’ intent.
An ecommerce site search platform should include an abundance of features such as:
Natural Language Processing (NLP):
- The ability of a computer to process interactions with a human
- This is meant to read, decipher, understand, and make sense of different human languages
- Ex: Spellcheck, Autocomplete, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant
- The ability to understand shopper’s intent and automatically suggest relevant products through browsing history, level of interest, etc.
- Ex: If someone is on Gap’s website looking at blouses, a recommendation for cardigans would be a good complementary item to display
- The ability to “boost” different products allowing for more control over which results are displayed and which are buried
- Ex: Having sweaters displayed over t-shirts during the fall and winter months
Artificial Intelligence (AI):
- AI can learn from the user and provide recommended items if there are no results matching the shopper’s desired search
- Ex: If someone searches for “Airpods” on Best Buy’s website and they are sold out, “Bose Headphones” may show up as a recommended item instead
Data Produced From Searches:
- This is beneficial on the business end of things. Things such as customizable algorithms, actionable insights, A/B testing, and more, allow businesses to understand which products are the most popular, products being frequently bought, search frequency, keywords, conversion rates, etc.
Other site search features such as voice search (using Siri or Alexa to search) and image search (dragging an image into the search bar) exist, but are utilized less often than the ones listed above.
Before we jump into third-party site search solutions, it is important to understand native search capabilities. Native search is the functionality already provided in ecommerce platforms. Native search is great, but integrating a third-party option leaves a lot more room for versatility. Finding a third-party option gives you more flexibility in finding features and functionality that make sense for your business. From a business perspective, integrating a third-party solution can help drive higher margin sales, increase conversions, reduce bounce rates, and increase customer satisfaction.
With site search being such a vital part of an ecommerce site, there are many different solutions that you can choose from to implement into your site. We lay out some possible platforms to pick from and a few key things each platform has to offer.
BLOOMREACH EXPERIENCE PLATFORM (BRX):
Bloomreach’s experience platform is cloud-native and combines an API-first ‘headless’ experience solution with AI-driven personalization and optimization technology. It’s specifically tuned to drive revenue growth for both B2B and B2C commerce. brX allows marketers and merchandisers to become much more personal, efficient, and data-driven.
This ensures that customers find what they’re looking to buy. Semantic search helps deliver accurate search results through natural language processing, advanced attribute extraction, and past visitor behavior to show the most relevant products to your customers. Bloomreach search can also understand user preferences on a 1:1 basis and reorders product results based on user preferences.
brX provides the ability to leverage data-driven tools to curate product assortments with the help of AI. Bloomreach has intuitive merchandising tools that help merchandisers learn which products are underperforming, personalize how products are displayed, and ‘boost’ or ‘bury’ products. The ability to set up A/B testing to track products, brands and search queries is also available. Plus, customizable algorithms are possible so you can create an algorithm that is specific to your business.
Coveo’s AI-powered, cloud-native platform solution allows you to better understand your audience by cutting through the complexity of your data to help ensure that every digital interaction is meaningful.
Unified Data Indexing
Coveo allows you to gather all of the information and data from users’ digital journeys into one unified index. The simplified indexing process automatically enriches content by extracting text from images and PDFs to help identify the relationship between words and concepts. This allows you to understand every step of a user’s digital journey at every touchpoint.
Personalized User Experiences
By gathering data from every action beyond clicks and queries, you can learn a lot to understand the full user experience. Automatic user clustering groups can help establish user personas and increase the accuracy of suggestions for similar people. Coveo captures user behaviors and signals of intent in the customer journey, making for a more personalized experience.
Solr is an open-source enterprise-search platform. It runs as a standalone, full-text search server and uses the Lucene Java search library at its core for full-text indexing and search.
Queries and Facets
Solr supports multiple approaches to query parsing, making it simple to find your data. Function queries provide strong relevance tuning capabilities based on your data. Extensive filtering features allow applications to control what content is searched and when. Faceting features allow grouping and organizing your data in an abundance of different ways.
Solr supports things like clustering, spell checking, auto-complete, and more to help make it easy for users to discover relevant content. Extensible mechanisms will help users get better search results and help them better find what they are looking for.
Solr uses the power of Apache Tika built-in, making it easy to index rich content like PDFs, Microsoft Word documents, Powerpoint presentations, and more. This makes it easy to control what extracted content is indexed and how it’s indexed.
HOW DO I PICK A SITE SEARCH SOLUTION?
There’s no right or wrong answer for choosing a solution. Each one has their own unique set of tools that they can offer for your business. Here are a few things to keep in mind when weighing your options:
Is personalization an option?
Personalization has always been important, but seems to be more important than ever. Gartner predicts a 15% profit boost for those who successfully handle personalization in ecommerce for 2020. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Customers like to feel that experiences are catered to them. In fact, in a survey done by Forrester, 40% of US online adults agree that retailers should provide product recommendations based on their shopping or browsing history. Personalization helps build trust between you and your customers. We are reaching a point in time where customers expect your business to understand their wants and needs and help them find exactly what they’re looking for.
Will customers be able to find what they’re looking for without knowing the exact product name?
According to Baymard, 61% of sites require their users to search by the exact same product naming conventions the site uses, and 27% of sites won’t yield useful results if users misspell a single character. It’s extremely important that a site search solution includes natural language processing capabilities so it can make sense of jargon or spelling errors and still provide search results. As stated early, people’s patience is wearing thin, and they want relevant information quickly.
Is AI utilized?
AI is huge when it comes to site search. AI has the ability to not only learn and capitalize on the user’s search, but it can also understand the intent behind the search. AI with search is able to take data using user experience, big data, and machine learning to help rank factors to adjust results most likely to fulfill the user’s needs. AI certainly provides a leg up in terms of better understanding your customers.
These are just a few key technology capabilities to keep in mind when selecting a site search solution that works best for your business, not an exhaustive list.
Site search not only benefits your business, but it also benefits the customer and creates a positive experience for them which keeps them coming back and purchasing products from you. 88% of online customers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. By improving things like site search, you can increase your conversion rate, lower your bounce rates, and ensure you’ll gain loyal, repeat customers.