eCommerce Site Search – A Detailed Guide With Best Practices

John Ahya John Ahya June 24, 2021
11 mins read Last Updated February 07, 2023
eCommerce Search – Everything you Need to Know

I recently attended a small but niche eCommerce expo (via teleconferencing, of course) for new and upcoming entrepreneurs. I must say that the questions I got from the group were of the highest order – they mostly knew the ins and outs of running an eCommerce business.

And the enthusiastic new entrepreneurs were seeing the first waves of success and were hungry for me. They wanted the secret tips to success – and, after a bit of prompting and probing, I gave in.

When I recommended focusing more on the eCommerce site search feature while developing an eCommerce store, I knew I would be faced with utter surprise or absolute disbelief. That’s because they have only prioritized landing page optimization or dynamic pricing and neglected site search to the ‘to-do’ list.

The online store is like a thick forest; customers sometimes can’t find the right tree they are looking for among the million of trees there. This allegory generally helps drive home the point.

The solution lies in ‘findability.’ eCommerce site search is one of the essential features of an eCommerce website.

  • 60% of customers will leave your website if they can’t find what they are looking for.
  • 43% of site visitors navigate directly to the eCommerce search boxes and are 2-3 times more likely to convert.

Your visitors – and prospective customers – seek help from the eCommerce search bar either because they know exactly what they are looking for or because the page they are on isn’t showing them the right results. Your store might have the exact product they need, but if you don’t optimize your site search feature, you will not convert visitors into customers.

It is essential to stop treating eCommerce website search functionality as just another box to check. It would help if you started looking at site search optimization as a powerful weapon in your arsenal to help you achieve higher conversion rates. So let’s quickly get to the juicy parts of this discussion and learn how to optimize eCommerce site search to increase conversion rates.

What is eCommerce Site Search?

For the uninitiated, an eCommerce site search is like an internal search engine, either integrated within the store or built-in that helps visitors find the products they are looking for by matching their keywords. But a site search can – and should – be able to achieve much more than that.

A website search is the best ‘salesperson’ your store could ask for. When configured perfectly, it can turn up the correct information for your visitors, answer any of their questions, provide shopping suggestions, and guide them gently through the sales funnel.

A site search filters the keywords used by the store visitors and tries to match the input with the available product list.

However, your store’s visitors don’t always search for products the way you like them, or in ways your system can interpret. They are likely to misspell words or use utterly different product names to search. That’s why you need to implement a practical eCommerce search solution to interpret the intended search query and throw relevant suggestions.

Most shoppers using the eCommerce site search feature tend to fall into these four distinct categories, according to Baymard Institute.

  1. Exact Search: These shoppers use the actual product name in the search field. They know what product they are looking for.
  2. Product-based Search: These shoppers use a generic eCommerce product search instead of a specific model or brand.
  3. Problem-based Search: These shoppers seek solutions to problems without specifying a product or a brand.
  4. Non-Product Search: These shoppers are looking for information rather than searching for products.

Why Does Site Search Matter for eCommerce?

Andrea Polonioli, the product manager for Coveo’s eCommerce division, reports that 30 to 60% of visitors usually conduct an on-site search. These shoppers were 2 – 3 times more likely to convert than those who do not use the eCommerce search feature.

When shoppers use the eCommerce site search feature, you can be almost sure they are looking for products. However, shoppers typically use a different method to search for products on an eCommerce site than when undertaking a web search. For example, shoppers are likelier to include criteria or define the ‘search range.’

Anyway, your shoppers are visiting your eCommerce store intending to purchase products. They are seeking help from your site’s virtual ‘salesperson’ in finding a tennis racket or a red evening gown. All your internal search engine has to do is guide them to the right product.

And it shouldn’t stop with the red evening gown. Your eCommerce search should gently guide the shoppers to pick out matching accessories and more. And, perhaps, add in a good word about your store while they are at it.

Benefits of Using Site Search in Your eCommerce Store

eCommerce site search comes with a lot of benefits for your online store. Here are some crucial benefits of site search you must know.

  • Achieve Higher Conversion Rates
    When you provide a seamless and smooth path from the search box to the product list and offer customers recommendations and filtering options, the chances of increasing your conversion rate are higher.A study that looked at 21 eCommerce web stores found that user-friendly search experiences increased conversion rates. When stores used the eCommerce search feature, the conversion rate jumped from the websites’ average of 2.77% to a whopping 4.63% – a phenomenal 80% increase.
  • Offers a Memorable Shopping Experience
    On-site search is a major contributor to the overall shopping experience of customers. Most customers using the search know exactly what they want and only come to find it. Or customers who have a vague idea of their needs but require some help from the store’s end to find them. So, the eCommerce search can either make or break the sale for your store.
  • It Helps You Make Better Business Decisions
    Which eCommerce store doesn’t want to know what their customers are looking for? The on-site search is a powerful marketing tool that can give you incredible insights into your customer’s psyche, their shopping behaviors, and the keywords they use to describe the products and the most sought-after merchandise.For example, if your customers are searching for products you don’t offer, you can take the clue and start including those items in your product line.

eCommerce Site Search Best Practices with Examples

Now, let’s look at some of the best eCommerce site search practices that will yield the right results for your store.

1. Focus on the Search Box

The search box is where the customer’s journey into your store begins. So, neglecting it won’t be a wise decision.

Your site search box should be highly noticeable. Use a contrasting color from your site’s general color scheme. Keep your eCommerce site search box above the fold so that it should be easy to notice.

2. Keep the Error Correction and Auto-Complete Feature On

You shouldn’t expect your shoppers to know the exact product names or spellings. So allow for error correction and give leeway for typos.

According to the Baymard Institute reports,

  • 42% of sites don’t show accurate results for “Exact Match” searches.
  • 49% of sites don’t support abbreviations or simple symbols in the search bar.
  • 71% of sites fail to return all relevant results when users search by type or synonym.
  • And 39% of site searches don’t support non-product queries.

Don’t expect shoppers to search smart; make your site search feature intelligently auto-complete queries.

Optimize your site search so that it can interpret the query’s intended meaning and make sense of long-tail semantic searches too.

3. Don’t let the search throw up empty results pages

The customer using the site search is mostly high-intent shopper who is quite serious about making the purchase, and the last thing you want to do is send them back empty-handed (to your competitor’s site!).

Make sure that the standard search queries turn up some results. If you don’t have the exact products, bring up relevant products or provide product recommendations – anything but not empty page results.

Use natural language processing and synonyms support that can improve the effectiveness of searches so that your store doesn’t throw empty results pages.

4. Optimize Site Search For Your Customer’s Search Terms

B2B sellers may use as much industry jargon as they like if they know their customers understand it. But if your customers are using common words, you should also. You are optimizing your website search for your customers and not your competitors.

5. Draw insights from search queries

Search queries offer a wealth of crucial information on what exactly your customers are looking for, how they search for products, and how they shop. With such data, you can try to fix the gaps between customer needs and your offering.

You will also get to know if the keywords your customers are using match your website’s product pages or if you need to make any changes.

With the information from the search queries, you can segment your customers based on their keywords and use this data to further your Google page rankings.

6. Optimize for mobile search too

The number of mobile shoppers is slated to exceed 187.5 million US users by 2024, a steep increase from 166.7 million in 2020. In the second quarter of 2022 mobile devices generated 58.99% of worldwide website traffic, and this figure has been consistently registering a 50% mark since 2017.

We all know the pain of clicking on the little magnifying glass on our mobile’s tiny search box. You could try offering a drop-down list of suggestions based on the keywords entered to sort this out. Or stores could try having an automatically opening search tab. Regardless of what you choose for your store, ensure it is adequately tested before implementation.

7. Apply Machine Learning to offer Personalized Shopping Experience to Visitors

Use the information received from the eCommerce search functionality to understand customers better. Apply machine learning capabilities to gain better insights into specific customer groups’ buying behaviors. This way, you’ll be more equipped to offer personalized shopping experience and enhance your inventory.

How To Select an eCommerce Site Search Solution Provider?

There are many third-party site search providers who offer tailored services to eCommerce stores. The following points will help you make the right decision.

  • Consider selecting an in-house development team or going in for a third party for your needs.
  • You’ll also have to consider whether you want to go in for a hosted subdomain or AJAX. Most third-party search solution providers give you both options. They’ll either host a separate page on a sub-domain on your site or will integrate a page within your site via AJAX.
  • You should also decide whether you want to provide search functionality only to your products or combine more pages, such as your blogs, products, and content pages.
  • Choose whether you want custom product attributes in your site search.
  • Decide whether you want to offer your customers advanced filtering functionalities based on product attributes.
  • You can also choose to push certain products to the top of the table – like the most popular products on your product line automatically to the top of the results page.
  • Decide if you want a system that allows minor misspellings, synonyms and auto-complete options.
  • You also need to consider the vendor’s tracking and reporting functionality -one of the most important criteria when choosing the eCommerce search solution provider.

Best eCommerce Site Search Providers

Here’s a list of eCommerce site search providers you could try. Before choosing one, consider your store’s unique requirements and the benefits you are trying to gain.

  • InstantSearch: InstantSearch brings with it an AI self-learning aspect to the engine. It proclaims itself to be the best in the business with a sales boost of 55%. Look it up.
  • Algolia: Although it claims to offer a smooth conversion path, you gain access to Algolia through an API, but you might have to bring along your developer.
  • Searchspring: Searchspring prides itself in being able to integrate with any platform. It also offers a clear pricing policy.
  • Swiftype: This could well be the solution you are looking for if all its claims are valid. Swiftype provides solutions to both app and site search with affordable pricing plans.
  • Searchanise: Learn more about Searchanise with their free trial and a demo to know its robust analytics and full-text search capabilities.
  • Doofinder: Doofinder can help you improve eCommerce sales by up to 20% as it learns from your customers’ search behavior. The 30-day trial period of Doofinder is free and easy to install.
  • Mazereon: It uses advanced natural language processing and machine learning to understand customers’ search behavior. You can also fine-tune generated queries and results through enhanced autocomplete, spelling correction, synonyms, and keyword replacement features.

How To Set Up an eCommerce Site Search Efficiently?

Now that we know why it’s crucial to optimize the eCommerce search functionality, and have also almost chosen the tool, here are a few tested-and-tried best practices.

A site search feature depends mainly on the tool or platform you choose. However, you can follow these general steps to efficiently set up a site search feature.

  • Research, ask for a trial, or seek help from experts before choosing the best eCommerce search tool for your store.
  • Brainstorm to know precisely where you want your search bar to be and how it has to look.
  • Give the search bar some space – make sure it is distinctly different from the rest of the page.
  • Make the search bar easily recognizable. Use the universal symbol – the magnifying glass – to signify the presence of search functionality.
  • Keep it simple – ensure visitors don’t have to look for the search bar.
  • Create a strong error tolerance – accept typos, spelling errors, and long-tail keywords.
  • Make sure there is a search bar on every page.
  • Don’t let the search queries lead only to the product page – link it to blog posts, category pages, gift guides, and more.
  • Keep a filtering option on the search results page.
  • Adjust the search bar size to accommodate longer keywords
  • Make use of auto-complete or type-ahead suggestions.
  • Test, tweak, and try out if the new search bar offers you the desired results. There’s always room for improvement.

eCommerce Site Search Reporting

eCommerce site search optimization is not a one-off process where you ‘set and forget.’ It needs constant upkeep to run smoothly. Use it to its full potential to know more about your customer’s buying preferences.

If you are doing it right, you can gain many insights into the following:

  • The products your customers are searching for
  • The keywords they are using
  • The number of people using the search feature
  • The conversion rate
  • The filters that are most popularly used
  • A peek into your strongest keywords and improve the ones that aren’t working well.

Wrapping Up

This comprehensive guide to eCommerce site search will give you everything you’ll need to ramp up your store’s search conversion rates. The site search tool tells you a lot about your customers and their shopping journey through your web store.

The information given in this article should be enough to get you started on your search optimization journey. Now, you know what to do to get your desired conversion rate and the tools you need.

You can contact us if you still have any doubts about the eCommerce search feature or any other queries.

We are an experienced eCommerce development company that can help you choose the suitable eCommerce site search solution and implement it efficiently in your online store.

John Ahya
John Ahya

John is the President and Co-Founder of WebDesk Solution, LLC. Living the digital agency life for over 10 years, he explores an extensive eCommerce world. He has immense experience in all major e-commerce platforms. Being a nature lover, he likes to breathe the fresh air on the hill stations during vacations.

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