The handful of E-commerce Merchandisers in my network share many of the same characteristics. They’re meticulous planners, they’re detail oriented, they’re numbers driven, they’ve got aesthetic eyes, etc. Such characteristics come as no surprise considering their responsibilities and the tasks they perform. What is surprising, though, is how they’ll bend over backwards to fulfill these tasks, only to have them undone by digital functionalities and/or frameworks that don’t support their efforts.
As the most direct path for matching a customer with his or her interest, internal search tools offer great value when used correctly. In fact, altima° has demonstrated to a client that only 9% of their customers engage internal search, but customer journeys involving the functionality (at any point) account for 22% of the site’s overall sales. So long as the E-Merchandiser has shined the right light on a product, these shoppers demonstrating intent-to-purchase should make for an easy sale.
Unfortunately, search can also act as a barrier to product discovery – stopping a customer before they’ve had the opportunity to consider expertly merchandised offerings.
If determined to use search, Need Supply’s customers can seek out the tool easily enough. However, its subtle depiction doesn’t necessarily relay that search is a valued functionality and encourage engagement. Need Supply’s customers with specific purchase-intent are more likely to skip search in favor of navigation by category, rendering them susceptible to distraction and removing control from the retailer.
Dick’s Sporting Goods recognizes that search is the most direct path for connecting a customer with an item they’re explicitly interested in buying. They’ve prominently displayed their search tool in a manner that encourages engagement:
Shoppers are fickle and competition is fierce, so even the simplest measures should be considered to ensure a positive experience. The search recommendations provided by Crate&Barrel accomplish a number of feats, but one of the greater benefits is demonstrating alternate possibilities for a search query. Perhaps this shopper is actually in the market for a sleeper sofa but doesn’t know what terminology to use. Should they search for “pull out”, “couch bed”, “sofa with bed”? They play it safe with “sofa”, and notice that their specific need is listed in the dropdown. By selecting “Sleeper Sofa”, they’ll be directed to relevant products and effectively skip steps along their path to purchase.
Old Navy is missing out on the opportunity to guide customers’ journeys. Typing “jeans” could prompt recommendations that narrow down search results to “slim fit jeans”, “relaxed fit jeans”, or even just “men’s jeans”. Instead, an unguided query for “jeans” offers 371 options, with children’s clothing as the top result. This is a category that, for the time being, I’m certainly not shopping for:
It goes without saying that a customer’s search results should match his or her query. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. I searched for a “red jacket” on Gander Mountain’s website and 4 of the top 8 jackets displayed weren’t red (2 are life-preservers, but that’s more fitting for the previous topic). It’s a shame because all 4 of the off-color jackets come in red, as demonstrated below by selecting appropriate color swatches. The benefits of such a display don’t need to be explained. It’s better off mentioning how easily this functionality can be executed. With the right implementation, 3rd party internal search tools like Algolia can often overcome even the most restrictive CMS systems. Considering that it only takes 120 seconds for 73% of shoppers to stop seeking a product, it’s worth exploring.
I’m not very smart or familiar with the products at RiteAid, so I searched for “gasoline” and spelled it wrong. The ideal improvement for this page would be to recognize that “gasoleen” means “gasoline” and source related items (like starting fluid). At the very least, the drugstore should not waste this opportunity to connect customers with featured products. It’s likely that RiteAid’s E-merchandising team has placed special consideration into seasonal products and best sellers. Why not take cue from Ulta and throw misguided shoppers a few recommendations anyways? Ulta doesn’t sell “gasoleen”, so they recommended investigating sales and brands via hyperlink, but also served up a few top selling products:
E-merchandisers, internal search is but one of the many ways a website can be optimized to complement your tireless efforts. Please contact email@example.com if you’re interested in discussing more tactics to better position yourself for success!