eCommerce Site Search is a Game Changer

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If you run an eCommerce website with over 100 products, this article may help you dramatically improve your eCommerce conversion rate. A number of studies have shown that website visitors using effective internal site search engines on large eCommerce sites convert at a materially higher rate than those using category navigation. Anecdotally this makes sense considering the fact that algorithm-driven search engines are today’s tool of choice for research online.

Each website visitor has their own unique way to describe the characteristics of the product(s) he or she is looking for. Rather than forcing users to scan crowded pre-defined categories, often becoming overwhelmed, distracted and confused, internal site search allows users to immediately segment products by limitless characteristics. The faster a user is able to find their desired product, the less likely he or she is to abandon a potential transaction due to distraction, confusion and/or frustration.

If you have a hunch or analytics that proves that your website has a higher conversion rate for users utilizing internal site search, your website’s overall conversion rate can be raised by increasing the percentage of visitors that use it. For instance, let’s assume that currently 20% of your users use internal site search and convert at 3.5%, while 80% of your users use category navigation and convert at 2%. This gives your website an overall eCommerce conversion rate of 2.3%. If you were able to raise the proportion of users using internal site search from 20% to 40%, your overall conversion rate would increase from 2.3% to 2.6%.

Increasing the proportion of visitors that utilize internal site search may require only a minimal amount of effort. A Marketing Sherpa case study shows how Black Forest Décor, was able to increase their sales conversion rate by 34% by merely moving their internal site search from the upper right-hand corner to the center of the page. Further, the site search was emphasized more by bolding the word search, changing the button text from ‘go’ to ‘find’ and by creating a thick border around the field.

black forest decor site search

An even further increase in site search usage can be achieved by highly de-emphasizing category navigation. For instance, Zappos has two highly emphasized internal site search bars in two of the most prominent spots on the website. Zappos places their textual category navigation in the lower right-hand column of the website; the area that is characterized by Marketing Sherpa as a place where “visitors often fail to see things.” Another powerful method used by Zappos that causes users to utilize internal site search more frequently is to automatically place the cursor inside the search bar once the website has loaded. Zappos is known in the Internet marketing community as a company that rigorously tests every characteristic of their website. One can assume that the placement of internal site search on has been tested and proven optimal.

Zappos site search takes the cake though for having the most prominent internal site search bar. Marvel at this.

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