If a customer were to visit a retail store, it would be off-putting and foolish for a sales rep to start bombarding the shopper with info about specials right away. The best way to convert the shopper into a buyer is to place them at ease by creating a buying environment. This is done when the sales person asks the shopper what they’re looking for, and if they (the sales person) can be of assistance.
The same holds true with online shopping, although, the shopper is at a bit of a disadvantage because of the lack of a helpful sales person. That’s why many online retailers experience issues such as shopping cart abandonment and high on-page bounce rates. But fortunately for e-retailers, there’s a page element that functions as the helpful sales person – it’s the search filter bar.
The search filter bar is usually located in the upper right corner of most retailer’s display pages. For online retailers, having a wide selection is important for meeting the needs of a diverse global marketplace. For consumers looking for a particular size, brand, style or color, the retailer with the widest selection (and reasonable prices) is where they are going to shop first. However, having a large selection of products can be problematic if people can’t easily find what they are looking for on the site.
This is where proper filtering comes into play. A system that makes it easy for people to sort through thousands of items to find the ones they should consider can have a positive effect on a site’s conversion rate. Recent research suggests that a poor filtering system could be costing retailers a lot of potential revenue. According to the researchers, only 16 percent of the major e-commerce websites they examined provided users with a reasonably good filtering experience.
Here are 5 ways you can use search filters to boost ecommerce sales of your site:
Focus On Search Bar
The search bar itself is the start of the journey, and an often neglected piece of the conversion puzzle. Offsetting it in a different color from your site’s color scheme is one method of drawing attention to it. Putting text inside the box, such as “Enter keyword,” lets visitors know at a glance what is expected. Top it off with a button that reads “Search” or “Find” and include some stylized arrows (indicating motion), and you’re off to a great start.
Notice how the results page of a search segments each product into its own individual cell, along with its name, price, and ratings. Sorting options appear on the left for further refinement. This method is ideal for displaying ecommerce products but could be improved even further by allowing the user to view a close-up of the product (or different product angles) without having to click.
Using analytics, you are able to identify underperforming search terms and act accordingly. Look for ways to make your site search stand out from your color scheme. Follow best practices to ensure that the search box and button make it push-button simple to conduct a search and get results.
Filtering Results Page
The search results page is at the heart of whether a user clicks or leaves. And with a good site search engine, you can customize it a great deal, depending on what your target audience is looking for. Filtering options offer your visitor a chance to narrow down what they’re looking for. Whether by checking off boxes or using a variety of dropdown menus, a good site search tool allows your potential customer to pick specific parameters for the results of their search.
For additional parameters, a quality site search tool offers even more advanced options. Advanced options range from the highly specific, such as filtering by manufacturing material type, to parameters that aren’t even related to the product itself, such as filtering by promotions or sales. Sorting is how your site search tool displays the search results. If you’ve got a particularly vast product catalog, your visitor’s search is likely to turn up a whole lot of results.
You also want to decide which is the default setting for sorting results. Running analytics on your site (such as A/B testing) gives you insight and data into which default setting results in the most conversions. People expect their product searches to return filterable options, so allowing them to sort by size/color/style is no longer enough. Look for ways to raise the bar by allowing shoppers to optionally include (or exclude) sale/clearance items, new items, and other popular categories.
Long Tail Searches
Long tail semantic searches push a search engine further by making it understand the intent behind the user’s search. For example, someone searching for “women’s sleeveless blue tee size L” is much more likely to convert than someone just browsing “women’s tees.” According to a study in Retail Integration Online, sites with a semantic-based search engine have a low 2% rate in shopping cart abandonment, compared to as much as 40% on sites with plain text search.
Shoppers are demanding improved search results; and, when it comes to relevancy, a semantic-friendly site search will beat plain text competitors every time. Your visitors use your site search tool because they know what they want, but they don’t know how to get there. One of the most ironic and counterintuitive things you could do then is to hide the search bar from them. Yet many websites put their search bars in unconventional areas of the page and leave it to the user to figure out where it is.
To remove any confusion for your visitor, you’ll want to stick to the established standards for a search bar. The bar mostly appears in the upper right hand corner of the website. A magnifying glass is a recognizable symbol that the text box in that location is indeed the search bar. And if you want to make it even easier, you can pre-insert greyed out text that reads “keywords” or puts the names of products already into the bar, showing exactly where your visitor is supposed to enter their query.
Autocomplete is another great site search time saver for shoppers, and it’s getting smarter. In addition, customers who land on an autocomplete page suggestion are six times more likely to convert than those who don’t. Autocomplete for site searches to help customers find what they want visually is especially worth considering if you have numerous products or multiple products under the same brand. And including product photos and pricing is icing on the cake!
Once your visitor has found what they’re looking for, it’s best not to distract them. While at checkout, it’s okay to omit your site search tool from the proceedings. Allow your customer their full concentration on executing a purchase. Consumers aren’t always predictable. Sometimes they won’t just be looking for products, but also other aspects of your site or company. They may type in “help” or “customer service” or “return policy” into your search bar.
A good site search tool knows what to turn up when these queries are entered in. Whether redirecting to another page on the site or linking directly to an email address, visitors have a better experience when they get answers to their queries. The little bar with the magnifying glass looks minor, but there’s a lot more effort that goes into it. And the numbers prove that the search bar is an important part to an e-commerce website. If you want to satisfy your website visitors with a coherent, enjoyable experience.
Few things are more irritating than a site search that displays unhelpful breadcrumbs, such as Home > Search > Your Search Result. Allowing people to filter their results via breadcrumbs lets them pick and choose which features they want, without clearing their search entirely and starting over from the beginning. Automatically update your search results based on checkboxes the user clicks in the sidebar. And it goes a step further by also letting them take away options by clicking on the breadcrumbs, so they get more precise results without voiding their entire search.
Don’t force users into a tunnel of limited search results. Let them check, uncheck, clear, and refine their results for a more perfect (and thus higher converting) search. Currently, there are only a handful of semantic search providers that license their technology out to site owners (to incorporate into their site). However, with users demanding more from their search engine results, it’s easy to see that the smarter search will easily become a top conversion booster, and thereby worthy of more attention in the near future.