With online shoppers increasingly spoiled for choice, it’s essential that online business owners optimize their websites so as to ensure the best customer experience. Indeed, a better experience is equivalent to better customer service, as you reduce the gap between what customers want and how quickly they can get it.
Site search, in particular, is crucial to the customer experience because it’s the main gateway into everything your website has to offer. Thus, it makes sense to ensure that the site search engine you’re using is equipped to streamline the customer journey as much as possible.
Let’s start by diving deeper into why site search is so important, and the kinds of features your site search should have to make your customers happy.
Why site search is a crucial part of the customer experience
Site search is an essential part of the customer experience, as it helps customers find what they need quickly and easily. Without good site search, customers are likely to abandon their shopping carts or give up on their searches altogether. Higher abandonment rates, in turn, mean lower conversion rates for businesses.
Site search also provides customers with self-service options that allow them to find answers to their queries without having to contact customer service. This can help reduce the workload of customer service teams and make the overall customer experience smoother.
A significant proportion (43%) of online shoppers head straight for the search bar when they visit a new store. But these people are probably just trying out your store for the first time, and aren’t repeat visitors. This means that the kind of search experience you provide will have a huge impact on the impression they form about your brand.
A good search experience ensures that visitors don’t leave your site disappointed, but that they stay on instead, and keep looking for the things they’re interested in. This greatly improves the odds of them converting, becoming repeat customers, and promoting your store through word of mouth.
In addition, a robust search experience can also be used to encourage customer self-service, which can reduce your customer support costs.
Tips to delight customers with your site search
1. Make sure your site search engine has the right kinds of data
Start with the basics: make sure every product page on your site contains a relevant title, detailed descriptions, high-fidelity images and well-thought-out metadata. Then, ensure that all of your pages have been properly indexed, and that freshly added products get indexed right away (i.e. try to implement real-time indexing).
Lastly, aim to use a search engine that can handle various kinds of imperfect and ambiguous data that users might throw at it, such as typos, symbols, abbreviations and unexpected query structures. A site search engine based on artificial intelligence (AI) can easily handle such issues, along with many others.
Taking these steps will allow your search engine to better determine which products are relevant results for a given query, thus leading to a more satisfactory user experience.
2. Provide a responsive search UI
Nearly 60% of global website traffic comes from mobile phones. With more and more people shopping on their phones, it’s essential that your site search interface be properly adapted for all kinds of screens. This is as true for your website as for your mobile app, if you have one.
A search interface that’s responsive should be quickly accessible and easy to use, regardless of the screen size. Drop-down suggestion menus should also be designed in such a way that their contents are always easily visible.
3. Implement searchandising
Get your site search engine to do the hard work of putting high-converting products in front of people who are more likely to purchase them. Marrying the two elements – search with merchandising – allows companies to integrate their business goals and inventory levels with search performance. This is largely what ‘searchandising’ includes.
Many modern search engines can automatically “boost” certain results on the basis of criteria laid down by the business as well as user data such as location, past searches and past purchases.
This allows companies to dynamically re-rank products based on customer behavior, providing each shopper with a personalized experience.
Machine learning is key to making searchandising work. By analyzing customer data, machine learning can identify patterns and trends that allow for accurate predictions about what a shopper is looking for.
4. Display results from your physical store as well
If your brand also sells products in a physical store, then chances are that you use different databases to handle each of them. While such a separation might be useful in certain ways, it can also be a good idea to ensure that searchers are also shown results from your physical store’s inventory. After all, if the inventory earmarked for your online store doesn’t have a certain product but your physical store does, then it makes sense to show it to a searcher who’s looking for it.
A standard way to integrate such different databases into a single search interface is through the use of something called federated search.
5. Provide easy access to non-product pages
In addition to searching for products, your store visitors might also want to look for other kinds of important information, such as your store policies (returns, refunds, replacements, shipping, privacy, etc.), your contact information, your social media handles, and so on. While most such information can be found within some menu or in the footer, site visitors might still expect to be able to get it directly from the search bar, by typing in something like ‘returns’ or ‘support’.
Thus, you should configure your site search engine in such a way as to enable quick access to important non-product pages as well.
Site search: don’t overlook this key customer service tool!
All businesses, whether online or not, ultimately rely on customer goodwill to keep going, so it’s imperative that you take advantage of every tool that lets you serve your customers better. As we’ve seen above, the right site search engine will allow you to provide immense value to your store visitors, and in more ways than one. So make sure you pick a site search engine that’s not just fast and accurate, but also supports your business' goals.
AI-driven search and discovery platforms like Zevi leverage powerful technologies like neural search and natural language processing to offer an intelligent search experience. Zevi decodes user intent and ensures the user sees the most relevant and personalized search result every time they use your site search functionality. To explore more of intelligent search features, book a demo with Zevi today.