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Here’s How to Incorporate Site Search into Your E-Commerce Store (The Right Way)

  • Conversion Rate Optimization

E-commerce shoppers can be broken down into two main categories—browsers and searchers.

The former is simply exploring your site, perusing through products and aren’t 100 percent sure what they’re looking for. This group is the online equivalent of brick-and-mortar window shoppers.

The latter has a clear idea of what they want. They’re looking for a particular type of product or at the very least a broad category of products. Some may even go so far as to have a stock-keeping unit (SKU) when arriving on your e-commerce site.

What’s the key difference between these two types of shoppers?

Intent.

Searchers are laser-focused on finding a certain product and are looking for the path of least resistance to get to it. As a result, they’re far more likely to convert than browsers.

“On-site searchers are 216 percent more likely to convert than regular users,” explains Neil Patel. And on top of that, the average revenue from site search is considerably higher than from browsers.

So as you might imagine, you’ll want to do everything within your power to provide a positive experience for searchers, which is what this post is all about.

In it, I’ll discuss some key information you need to know about site search and offer advice on how to correctly incorporate this feature into your e-commerce site.

So let’s jump right in.

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Why Does Site Search Work So Well?

Site search is pretty amazing if you really stop and think about it. Rather than arduously sifting through mountains of product pages, shoppers can quickly find what they’re looking for by typing in relevant keywords.

And this is a luxury your modern Internet user has grown very accustomed to.

Sites like Google and Amazon have spoiled us with the simplicity and fluidity of their search features.

eBay even allows shoppers to search directly from Google without having to actually arrive on their site.

The ubiquity of site search means many people are now pre-conditioned to look for a search box and often expect it.

That’s why up to 70 percent of shoppers will use site search to find what they need.

How Big of an Impact Does Site Search Have on Conversions?

As I just mentioned, searchers demonstrate a clear intent when shopping on an e-commerce site—much more so than browsers.

So it should come as no surprise that offering a user-friendly site search experience can boost conversions.

But by exactly how much?

One particular study involving 21 e-commerce websites found that it bumped conversions up from 2.77 percent to 4.63 percent, indicating that site search was 1.8 times more effective.

The study also found that site search contributed 13.8 percent of the revenues—pretty impressive.

Editor’s Note

Did you know that you can trigger on-site messages by search query using Sleeknote? Suppose you sell products from multiple brands and want to show new arrivals from a brand a visitor looks for. More, you ONLY want to show it to visitors searching for that particular brand.

One way to do that would be to create a brand-specific campaign. Here’s how:

First, create a Guide Your Visitors campaign. Here’s an example of a campaign promoting new arrivals from Nike.

SleekBox Example

Then, choose “Specific Query” in “Conditions.”

Sleeknote Search Query Condition

Finally, add the query, for example, “q=[brand]”.

Sleeknote Search Query Condition Example

Here’s an example from ASOS:

ASOS URL

Now, when visitors search for a brand, they’ll see a campaign promoting that brand’s new arrivals, thus, increasing the likelihood they’ll spend more on your site.

Is There Room for Improvement in Site Search?

But there’s something I need to point out. Simply having site search doesn’t guarantee success.

The data shows that many brands aren’t fully hitting the mark, with 20 percent of users going on to refine their searches (performing another search) and 21 percent leaving the site from the search results.

So there’s definitely room for improvement.

Even with the conversion potential, many e-commerce brands are still slacking on site search.

“Forty-two percent flat out admit that no one is responsible for site search, and another 42 percent have it added to their list of responsibilities,” Neil Patel says.

To pull it off, it’s vital that you follow best practices and address the smaller details to ensure a rock solid customer experience.

Here’s how to do that.

1. Start with Size and Positioning for Enhanced E-Commerce Site Search

Although there’s no definitive advice as to how your search box should be designed and positioned, there is some excellent data that suggests best practices.

Research from Site Search 360 found that a search box should be wide enough to contain at least 26 characters, which will cover 95 percent of all queries. This translates into the average search box being 234 pixels wide and 34 pixels high.

In terms of positioning, a separate study by A. Dawn Shaikh and Keisi Lenz found that the top right corner is the location most shoppers expect to find a search box, followed by the top left corner.

This graph breaks it down by exact percentages.

Using the top right corner is a common theme you’ll see with a lot of successful e-commerce brands like luxury tech accessory company, Native Union, for example.

Therefore, that’s what I generally recommend. If the majority of people naturally look for a search box in that area, that’s what you’ll want to roll with.

2. Use a Magnifying Glass Icon for E-Commerce Site Search

The magnifying glass is the universally recognized symbol for search. So it’s wise to use it.

Whether it’s just a magnifying glass icon like the one I just mentioned from Native Union or a combination of the word “search” with a magnifying glass like this one from Save Khaki United, you can reduce friction and prevent unnecessary confusion from shoppers.

3. Give Your Site Search Box Some Space

It’s also important that your search box it’s visible and doesn’t get jumbled up with other text or graphics. So you’ll want to include ample negative space for shoppers to instantly find your site search at a glance.

Modern leather goods brand, Fitzy pulls this off perfectly.

Ideally, you’ll use a contrasting color from the background as well.

4. Use Auto-Complete for Site Search Ease

Google has made it so you hardly ever have to type in a full search query. Its robust auto-complete feature finishes it for you, saving time and making the search process highly efficient.

With Google having over 92 percent of the global search engine market share as of March 2019, it’s safe to say that auto-complete is a feature that most people are now familiar with.

And this has spilled over to e-commerce with many brands incorporating auto-complete into their site search.

Amazon, for instance, is really on the ball with it and provides you with a full list of ideas based on a partially typed query.

So this is a feature I highly recommend implementing. It’s huge for accelerating the site search process and gets shoppers where they need to go without a lot of fuss.

5. Anticipate Misspellings

No matter how intelligent or on top of their game shoppers may be, misspellings and typos will happen from time to time. It’s inevitable.

Part of having a quality customer experience is ensuring there are no disruptions when a shopper misspells something.

But here’s the crazy thing.

The Baymard Institute found, 34 percent of the top 60 e-commerce sites “don’t return useful results when users search for a model number or misspell just a single character in a product title.”

That’s definitely not good for business and could create some serious frustration.

So it’s crucial that you anticipate misspellings and have your site search equipped to deal with them. After all, the higher your tolerance for typos is, the better the user experience should be.

One e-commerce brand that does this well is Mulberry, a luxury clothing and accessories store.

Here’s what happened when I typed in “pnats” rather than “pants” in the search box.

It was still able to figure out what I was searching for and provided me with the exact same results as if I searched without any typos.

6. Offer Filtering Options

This is helpful for most e-commerce sites, but it’s especially important if you carry a high volume of products.

Once a shopper enters a search query, they still may have some work to do before they find exactly what they’re looking for.

Having filtering options lets them narrow it down further without a lot of hassle.

Mulberry also does this well and allows shoppers to filter through products with their “Sort By,” “Style,” “Color,” “Price,” “Family,” and “Material” options.

This helps move things along and gives shoppers a variety of different options to streamline their search.

But there’s one caveat. You don’t want to go overboard with filtering options to the point that you’re overwhelming your customers, as this defeats the purpose.

There is no definitive number of filters, but I generally recommend using no more than seven max. That should be sufficient for narrowing it down without overwhelming anyone.

7. Display the Number of Results

I also suggest letting shoppers know exactly how many products they have to look through after entering their search criteria.

For instance, Mulberry includes the number of results in the top right corner.

This is helpful because shoppers can quickly decide if they want to browse through the given product selection or if they need to use additional filters to narrow down the selection a bit more.

Browsing through 32 results like there are in this example probably wouldn’t take very long.

However, if there were a few hundred results, it could take quite a while. In this case, a customer would likely want to throw in some more search criteria.

8. Ditch the “No Results” Page

One of the biggest buzzkills for e-commerce shoppers is landing on the dreaded “no results” page like this one.

Maybe they misspelled a word. Maybe the product is out of stock. Or maybe they just used the wrong search phrase.

Whatever the reason, this can lead to instant frustration, and many shoppers will simply look elsewhere with a competitor. And this obviously isn’t going to do your conversions any favors.

A better approach is to offer a list of alternative products that your average shopper will be interested in. Best-sellers, for instance, can be a good choice.

This is something environmentally conscious oral care provider Goodwell Co. does well on their site.

Here’s what I got after entering some random gibberish into their search box.

It’s three of their top bundle packs. So rather than potentially turning would-be customers away, they simply redirect them to products they may be interested in.

9. Use the Right Product Layout

Product listing pages typically fall into one of two categories—grid or list view.

The one on the left is a grid view, and the one on the right is a list view.

Choosing the correct option basically just boils down to how much product information you need to include.

If it’s only basic information and shoppers can instantly get a feel for a product with just a glance, then a grid view is the way to go. In fact, the majority of e-commerce stores use this type of layout—especially those who want to emphasize crisp visuals.

Indoor plant company, The Sill is a great example of a brand who pulls this off flawlessly.

But if your products need a bit more explanation than a photo and brief description can provide, then a list view is usually the better option.

That’s the route computer parts store Newegg takes when displaying its laptops.

It doesn’t offer quite the same level of visual splendor and involves more scrolling. But it’s certainly practical and fills shoppers in on the details they need to know in order to make an informed decision.

And a third option that I’ve seen a few e-commerce sites using is allowing shoppers to choose between grid and list view. That’s actually what Newegg does.

Shoppers simply click on one of the two icons in the top right corner to shift between the different layouts.

This isn’t necessary for all e-commerce stores, but it’s definitely something to consider.

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Want More Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies?

We’ve put together an exhaustive list of 100+ conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies our fastest-growing e-commerce customers are using to turn more website visitors into buyers (organized for your convenience.)

Simplifying the Site Search Process

Succeeding with site search is all about delivering a user-friendly, friction-free experience. You’re looking to cater strictly to searchers (rather than browsers) and facilitate a smooth search with as little effort as possible.

When it’s all said and done, shoppers should be able to land on your site and find the specific product they’re looking for in just a few simple steps.

These techniques focus on the fundamentals of effective site search and should help you cover all of the bases.

Implementing them should help you capitalize on a larger percentage of your leads, keep them on your site longer and maximize conversions and revenue.

What’s the biggest frustration you experience with site search on e-commerce stores?

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