If you own a Shopify store, you’re probably sick of hearing about conversion rates. However, this is rarely spoken about in terms of search functionalities. It may not be as exciting as designing a landing page but, as you’ll see below, what it does behind the scenes can be extraordinary for matching your products to your customer’s needs.
How does ecommerce search functionality work?
You are about to get one serious notch in your customer conversion bow after reading this article. Search functionalities vary a lot in 2018. There are still hidden search icons that exist which effectively give your leads a reason to move on to your competitor's’ site. Poor search functionalities are everywhere.
For example, imagine you're shopping for a ‘car mat under $25’ and the website you're on offers no results because it couldn’t find an exact match. Another common and irritating snag is when the search function separates the long-tail keyword and delivers results which are tagged with any, instead of all of the individual terms. This will deliver results that are tagged with “car”, “mat”, “under” and “$25” and will include far too many irrelevant products.
Internal search engines are quite complex, but the trick is to make it look effortless from the viewpoint of your customers. Although trying different layouts and standing out is great for building your brand identity, your search bar is one area where you should probably forego experimentation. Make it stand out, perhaps by offsetting the box in a different colour, but make it instantly recognisable. The quicker you can get your traffic off the landing page and into actually viewing your products the better.
Neil Patel has a great infographic I’ve inserted below that breaks down what customers prefer when navigating a website. What you can take from this is that although most people like to use on-page navigation, there is still a sizeable amount of users on your website who will prefer to type in long-tail keywords into your search bar.
Another great point that we can glean from this is that practically everyone connected to the internet considers themselves competent in online shopping. That means if they can’t find what they’re looking for, your site will probably be deemed under-invested by your potential customer.
What is the difference between keyword-based and semantic search?
At the beginning of eCommerce, searches were based on keyword-driven algorithms. Now, sites are much more focused on natural language processing. It’s much more sophisticated as it interprets the meaning behind the word. The customer finds what they want so much faster because they don’t have to fiddle around with the specific keywords and synonyms to suit the search engine. A straightforward example of this would be if you went to buy a couch online and you typed 'sofa' into the search box - a decent search functionality should be able to pick up your intent and recognise that these are synonyms.
So, it’s time to take an honest look at your own search functionalities. Are they up to scratch? Does your customer glide through the process and find exactly what he/she needs in the first page of results?
How does the standard search functionality work?
Shopify’s basic features can be clunky for consumers to navigate. Any misspelt keywords will often yield no results. It’s not terrible per se, but there are better third-party extensions that we’ll discuss below. These give you more search functionalities that are more powerful and user-friendly. The problem with having a basic search function is that consumers want different experiences and you need to be able to cater for them all. Shopify’s built-in version doesn’t currently have the capabilities to do this for your site.
What are search tools and why use them?
Search tools are also crucial in keeping up with an online shopping trend that is here to stay: smartphone browsing. Ecommerce sites don’t have a lot of space to show their wares on these screens, and so their site’s navigation needs to be crisp, user-friendly and effective.
Why is it beneficial to use a third party search application?
Apps for Shopify are excellent methods of creating an impressive ecommerce business. Machine Learning is an excellent addition to the services and it only gets better the more you use it. With ML, the more your search functionalities are used by customers, the more accurate they will become at adapting and enhancing each customer’s experience on your site.
The vastness of choice can be overwhelming, so we’ve handpicked our two favourite customisable search extensions that will streamline and improve your site’s navigation (see the end of this article). There are very few Shopify stores that won't benefit, at the very least, from utilising semantic search options. However, the more advanced features, such as rich drop down navigation, may not be necessary for businesses only selling a few product lines.
Keep in mind that customers seeking to use advanced search features are generally high converters and know what they are looking for, so don’t let these leads slip through the cracks of shoddy search elements.
What type of data do search tools analyse to provide better results?
45% of users leave a site after the first search. If they cannot find what they want after one keyword search term, then it’s highly likely they won’t convert on your site. It is an unforgivably fast paced environment. Search tools can help track and collect data on what people have previously bought, their gender, age, and spending habits.
I don't need to tell an online store owner the importance of obtaining and utilising customer data. This real-time tracking also encourages you to play around with what works and how to match up with your customers’ searching habits.
What features do search tools offer to increase conversions?
- Autocomplete & Recommended Products: inspires product discovery and helps to narrow product searches by category.
- Rich search dropdown
- Avoid zero results pages: as we discussed, this cul-de-sac causes a lot of people to move onto another website. Search tools also provide suggested words when there are misspellings on the customer’s behalf.
- Promote/Demote: analyse keywords and their conversion success to determine where they should appear in the results listing.
- Extensive filtering options: not only is this a sleek way to organise products but it helps your customers refine their search and find what they need even faster
- Sorting options: price, date added, average review rating. These are all used to streamline the buying process.
What search tools do we recommend for Shopify?
As you’re probably already aware, the Shopify platform offers a basic search functionality. However, we always recommend that you install a third party application to keep up with customers’ expectations.
Algolia is super for building search functionalities into the infrastructure of mobile sites. It also one of the most easily customisable search engines on the market, although they state that their default ranking system is effective for 90% of companies’ needs. Their tools, such as A/B testing and query suggestions, provide instant search experiences.
Findify is another impressive third party for your Shopify store and its USP (unique selling proposition) is that it brings AI to the table. Their machine learning algorithms filter through millions of consumer data touch points, such as their browsing behaviour and recent purchases. It transforms this information to optimise search rankings within your site for individual customers.
Need help selecting a search integration?
Need help choosing the right search tool for your eCommerce store? We can help. No third party app is going to be exactly the same - different apps are suited to different types of businesses. If you'd like some guidance, get in touch with us!