How to Improve Customer Experience with eCommerce Site Search Solutions

Tessa Roberts
Tessa Roberts

Watsco Inc. is the largest distributor of air conditioning, heating and refrigeration equipment and related parts and supplies (HVAC/R) in the HVAC/R distribution industry.

To defend its leading position, the distributor wanted to strengthen its relationship with its customers by improving and simplifying the buyer journey.

With this goal in mind, Watsco decided site search was an essential tool to help customers find products faster.

To hear Watsco’s own Paul McCluskey, Director of E-commerce, speak about this topic in more detail, head straight to the webinar.


Understanding the Customer Experience

Watsco focuses on the needs of its customers when considering any new technology or change in strategy.

From the beginning, the company understood its target market has an incredibly deep knowledge on the product they’re buying before visiting the website.

The distributor also realized its customers are extremely motivated to a buy a particular product at a specific time and disinterested in browsing around the site or engaging in the category tree.

Watsco B2B customer

To summarise, Watsco’s customers are driven to buy a particular product as quickly as possible, and therefore naturally gravitate towards the search bar.

 Our customers are really engaged to buy a particular product and buy it as quickly as possible. Often, because of that, we’re seeing them go right up to that search dialog.

Paul McCluskey, Director of E-commerce, Watsco

To maximize on this customer behavior, Watsco threw itself into making the search bar, on its 18 decentralized e-commerce sites, as effective as possible. From data collected it became clear that, while some generic search terms were occasionally typed by customers, common search queries included product numbers.

“Really often we’re seeing particular product numbers, or portions of product numbers, that the customer is typing directly into the search.”


The Quest for the Perfect Site Search

watsco site search wishlist

Watsco was looking for a tool that would be able to understand the meaning of search terms, so that elements like product numbers and measurements could be recognized, rather than equated to generic keywords.

Another crucial, desired feature was a self-learning search that would leverage AI in order to learn from the data it received and react to it.

This would mean a whole team of “searchandisers” responsible for monitoring and optimizing site search would not be necessary. Finally, Watsco had realized the speed of the search results loading had a big impact on visitors engaging on its site.

watsco site search results

By implementing a new search tool, Watsco not only saw improvements in conversion, average order value and number of sessions using search, but also received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from their customers who were pleased with the relevance of search results.

What’s more, the merchandising team at Watsco only occasionally tweaks the site search, while the search continuously improves  itself with integrated machine learning.

 A lot of customers said ‘Thank you for fixing search!’ I think it’s really important that you can still tie it back to that customer experience.

watsco machine learning


Why B2B Distributors are Investing in Site Search

In addition to companies like Watsco, we’ve seen other B2B businesses shifting towards site search to improve the customer experience.

In this section, we’ll take a look at the B2B market as a whole and the opportunities site search can offer for various industries.


The B2B Climate

We’ve heard for a long time that the customer experience applies not only to consumers, but also to relationships with businesses.

There is a general trend of B2B sales moving towards e-commerce as buyers get younger and the demand for self-service rises.

What’s more, through B2C, customers have become reliant on the perks of digital 24/7 availability, simplified shopping, access to a full catalog of products, up-to-date product information, and transparent pricing.

Overall, businesses are discovering that online research is often faster and easier than talking to a sales representative, and in B2B – where time is at a premium – the cost of providing a less-than-enjoyable consumer experience can be high.


The Movement towards Site Search

Like Watsco’s customers, it’s not uncommon for B2B clients to know, before entering the site, what they’re looking for. It could be a repeat purchase or the fact that there really is only one tool for the job.

Whatever the reason, this behavior indicates businesses need to be ready for these customers and offer them the right product with minimal effort to find it.

A common hurdle for B2B businesses, which have customers intent on finding a particular product, is that these customers don’t just type generic keywords in the search bar, but often use part numbers, the product measurements or other technical specifications.

The key to overcoming this obstacle is an intelligent search bar with features such as semantic search, autosuggest, and more.


Features of an Enterprise Site Search

  • Semantic Search

b2b semantic search

Instead of recognizing the whole search phrase as a single entity, semantic search breaks the phrase apart and understands each element for its individual meaning.

With this information, the customer can find more relevant results and specify attributes, like measurements and materials, with the guarantee of finding their desired product the first time.


  • Autosuggest Search

b2b autosuggest search

Because there are so many ways for a customer to search for the same product, autosuggest search can help by suggesting terms that your website can deliver quality results on.

Not only does this mean customers can find products faster, but it also “trains” customers to search in that way in the future.

 We’ve seen results of up to 18% lift in conversion because of properly implemented autosuggest.

Richard Isaac, President & CEO, RealDecoy


  • Self-learning Mechanism

Search data from your customers is collected and analyzed to provide more relevant results. With the help of AI technologies, the search tool can improve using this data without humans having to lift a finger, which will in turn drive your revenue.


  • Search Page Speed

 When someone types in a search, they want those results as close to instantly as possible.”

Paul McCluskey, Director of E-commerce, Watsco

We all know the importance of page load times in regard to website pages, and the same applies to search, especially when it is so highly used in the B2B world.

A slow site search will negatively impact your conversion rate and customer loyalty, as visitors waste time waiting for a single search query to load.


Site Search Is Not Just for Customers

b2b site search marketers

Although site search can have a huge positive impact on your customers’ experiences, that’s not the only improvement it offers.

The data site search collects can be used in marketing and sales to understand your customers’ behavior. With it, the marketing team can produce content on, personalize their website according to, or boost products that align with customer searches.

In sales, the team can understand which products certain buyer personas are likely to search for and use this as a technique to upsell or cross-sell products that perhaps at first glance would seem unrelated.


Choosing a Site Search Solution

For a deeper look into selecting a site search product; ways to convince leadership site search is a worthy investment; and how to transition from an old to a new site search product, check out the webinar: How Watsco Got Personal & Transformed Their Site Search into an AI-Driven Revenue Machine.


Tessa Roberts

Content & Communications Manager

Tessa is a content marketer specializing in digital marketing, content strategy, social media strategy.             

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