Think of this as a poor man’s BuzzFeed Quiz: Quick! Name the top three initiatives for e-commerce retailers in 2016.
I’ll go out on a limb and say mobile, omnichannel and quicker delivery all came up more than a few times.
And why not?
They’re all important; all things that retailers have been working on for years. But every now and then something comes along to remind us of how important some overlooked aspect of selling online is.
Take site search, that digital commerce feature represented by a small piece of real estate on Web sites, mobile sites and apps.
The importance of site search hit me square on today when I searched my favorite newspaper’s site for a story I had seen in its print edition this morning.
I didn’t even come close and have yet to find the story in digital form. It’s the sort of experience laid out in a recent Forrester Research study examining the importance of site search in the online world.
Consumers Expect Brilliant Site Search
Unfortunately, the consultancy’s full report is behind a $499 paywall.
But what you really need to know about site search is contained in the report’s title and abstract.
The summary says that the paper, “Google-ize Your Site-Search Experience,” tells the story of consumers who expect top-notch search capabilities on websites, but who regularly encounter websites that haven’t made top-notch site search a priority.
Key takeaways are:
Consumers expect e-commerce sites to offer search that's as relevant and helpful as that provided by Google and other search engines.
E-commerce sites are coming up way short in giving consumers the kind of site search they expect.
High-quality site search is a key to provding a good mobile experience and offering meaningful personalization.
Consumers who use site search are your best and most valuable customers: the 15 percent of customers who use site search account for 45 percent of e-commerce revenue.
Google and other search engines have conditioned shoppers to expect relevant search results that anticipate what they’re looking for and consider the context in which they are shopping.
You don’t need Forrester to tell you that. Consumers have said so repeatedly.
A Bloomreach survey, for instance, found that by a 2-to-1 margin, consumers wondered why their favorite retail sites don’t provide the same satisfying search experience that the big search engines do.
Another 26 percent will leave after 15 minutes. That’s half your traffic.
The finding reflects cognitive psychologist and search expert Andy Edmonds’ take on the best way, if not most practical way, to determine the quality of site search.
You ask somebody after they did something, how long they thought it took, and if they overestimate, it was hard and painful and if they underestimate, it was easy and fun. Time flies when you’re having fun.
A more scalable measure, Edmonds says, is to track the time to reach an item.
In other words, chart the amount of time from the consumer’s first search until they actually reach the item they were seeking to discover.
Given that not everyone ultimately finds what he or she is looking for, you also need to view the time-to-item metric against the backdrop of the percentage of searches that fail.
How ever you slice it, time is a strong indicator of customer satisfaction. Consider that Bloomreach’s survey found that 34 percent of consumers believed that personalization should help them find things faster.
What better way to find things than to search for them on a site with superior search capabilities, right? The Baymard Institute’s work on the top-grossing websites found that nearly a third of searches ended in failure .
And it pointed out that shoppers who leave disappointed are unlikely to return. In fact, Bloomreach data shows that consumers are 45 percent less likely to return to a site within 20 days if they conduct a search and end up not clicking on any of the search results.
And so it’s pretty clear that it’s time to take site search seriously, whether it seems the sexy thing to do or not. A few keys to better site search:
Think of site search as the backbone of your digital commerce strategy. Better site search includes personalization and it makes it easier for mobile-empowered consumers to convert from their mobile devices.
Start building that backbone by surveying the internal resources you can commit to site search or by exploring the range of technology solutions available to upgrade the search experience that you’re providing for your customers.
Understand that high-quality site search requires vigilance. Track your progress and be ready to tweak your technology, or how you’re using it, to keep moving in the right direction.
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Mike has defined the voice for fast-growing businesses establishing new markets in ways that elevate their brands and attract buyers at every stage of the buying experience.
He also has written stories about the rapid evolution of e-commerce, the power of machine learning and the fastinating challenges that face enterprises today.