It’s a common sight for all online retailers: users not completing a purchase after making a query and browsing around for a while. Though there can be many reasons for that, the most important one is poor search functionality. While it’s always good to see some online stores making the most from their within-site search – the most notable examples are Walmart and Amazon – it’s disappointing to see many others having a sub-standard search functionality. Surprisingly, some even don’t care to provide a search bar to their customers.
Let’s first understand what we mean by poor search functionality. This term not only includes an incompetent search bar but also a good search bar that can’t charm users who don’t know how to search. And let’s face it: most online users suck at using search. (A usability research revealed that 36% of the time users’ initial search is not successful.)
Now we all want a stellar search bar – one that acknowledges that users have poor search skills, understands their intent, gives them relevant, useful suggestions and at times breaks away from its typical behavior to give them exactly what they want.
How to go About it?
Place Your Search Bar Where Users Like to See it:
Positioning the search bar right is important as hell, and it’s really useless if it can’t be found by your users. What you must understand here is that online shoppers are not accustomed to scrolling down a bit and then finding a search option. They like it there at the top center or top right. Studies after studies have proven that and almost all the top players have embraced this golden rule – Apple, ebay, Walmart, Dell, Samsung, Flipkart, Sony and counting.
Don’t Forget the Basics:
There are certain things that have been out there for long but are unfortunately offended by some online retailers:
- Use search box default help text.
- Avoid the practice of not making that default text disappear as soon as shoppers click it.
- Make sure your users can search using the enter key as well.
- Don’t let your search bar get lost in the navigation, so your users can easily find it. You could also change its color or embrace an ecommerce design that highlights it.
- Though many of your users will never use advanced search, it should be provided.
Make it Easy and Interactive:
A typing error while searching is very common: we all make it. But despite making one, we still expect relevant results – unfair, but that’s how we all have become, thanks to search engines like Google with automatic spell check feature. Our expectations are same from within-site search as well. So it’s always a great idea to zero in on “did you mean this” than “no results found”, isn’t it? And if users don’t realize their typing error they can also end up thinking that.
Also, search suggestions help your users find what they want without doing much typing. It saves their time and makes their life easier. To make things more interactive, include pricing and thumbernails in your drop down search suggestions.
Deviate From the Conventions Sometimes:
SERPs and search suggestions are not always helpful. Break away from them and redirect your users to the category page when their query matches the category. For example, if a user has searched for smartphones, then instead of SERPs they probably want to see all the brands or all the categories of smartphones, so that they can choose easily – give them that! Jakob Nielsen calls this strategy converting search into navigation.
Use Search to Launch a New Product:
Monitoring what your users search on your website can bring forth keywords that you never knew existed. This is both refreshing and constructive for your business. If many of your users are searching for something, then they are probably expecting that from you. You could launch that product if it suits your business type and can possibly reap good benefits from it.
All in all, search is fundamental to giving a top-notch experience to online shoppers. Focusing on search – and things around it – means you care about your site’s usability and most importantly your customers. It means you want to help your customers find exactly what they want – faster, before they run away to your competitors.