how to optimize site search b2b and b2c

Posted by Mark

When it comes to converting ecommerce visitors into revenue generators, ecommerce site search plays a key role. The ease and accuracy with which a site visitor can find what they search for is a critical factor in whether or not they convert. Considering that the average cost of a retail ecommerce lead is $29 between SEO, online advertising and social outreach, losing potential revenue because of a site search failure is like pouring money down the drain.

Ecommerce site search is a science unto itself, and although some rules can be applied across use cases, it is uniquely tied to the store’s products – which are inherently diverse and ever-changing. So, your search methodology and technology must be adequately tuned on a regular basis; It’s not a one and done effort.

Search marries technology and psychology, attempting to scientifically capture how a diverse group of potential buyers may think and behave and then ‘matches’ that to the content and products that make the most sense. The inconsistency of search terms is a challenge for site owners and site visitors alike. Consider the diversity of search terms like sofa versus couch, blouse versus shirt, sneakers versus running shoes – and then add parameters such as spelling, language and regional differences, to name a few – and you’ll get a sense of the complexity.

As important as search is, surprisingly, 18 percent of ecommerce sites cannot handle phonetic misspellings, 70 percent require users to search by exact language without support for synonyms, 60 percent can’t perform thematic search and 84 percent don’t handle subjective qualifiers like “cheap”. Any one of these failures can turn site visitors off – and on to a competitor with a better ecommerce experience. Following are five tips for optimizing search for ecommerce sales.

  1. Bring relevancy to the top.

Your site visitors are on a mission when they input a search term, so be sure to display best sellers or those items most likely to match their preferences at the top of your results. This should not be a laundry list of items that “broadly” meet online search criteria, but rather products that are most likely to meet the need or goal of the customer – whether it’s color, size or brand. You should perform regular relevancy tunings to ferret out search problems before they impact bottom-line revenue. This is especially true if your inventory is constantly changing. This can include the use of A/B testing and algorithm analytics. You can also gather search feedback from merchants and customers, either by crowdsourcing or via direct evaluation.

  1. Optimize for mobile (especially for B2C ecommerce).

Never assume that your site visitors are searching on a desktop device. Even though conversions from mobile are typically lower than desktop (especially for B2B), potential customers are researching on their phones. With today’s consumers trending toward mobile, be sure your website design is optimized for mobile search. Include guided navigation with tap targets for ease of mobile interaction. Use buttons instead of checkboxes. Adjust your type-ahead settings and dropdown menus for mobile ease. Mobile users are more likely to use search to find what they’re looking for, so be sure your site is ready to satisfy this demand.

  1. Prepare for the visual search future.

The next big search trend is visual. Visual search enables users to find information based on a picture. Google Lens is one example that uses photos as search criteria instead of typed search terms. Amazon Visual Search is another example. Be sure your site is ready to support this emerging technology by removing irrelevant or inferior product photos, opting instead for clear images most likely to match a photo that a visitor is likely to scan or upload.

  1. Return what you find – fast.

There’s a direct correlation between conversion and the speed of ecommerce site search. Improving latency by a mere half a second can result in a revenue boost. Sites that can load in 5 seconds versus 19 seconds can see as much as a 25 percent view lift as well as 70 percent longer sessions and 35 percent lower bounce rates, all of which can translate into more ecommerce site search sales.

  1. Align UI with expectations.

A consumer searching for a short-sleeved T-shirt is less likely to navigate UI complexity than an engineer searching for electronic components with detailed specifications. B2B versus B2C audiences have different levels of tolerance and requirements for navigation and search. Ensure your user interface is aligned correctly; simplifying the process for consumers while offering deeper levels of criteria for technical searches.

If you’re one of the many digital marketers struggling to optimize site search, you’re not alone. Five hundred digital marketers and web professionals surveyed report that only 15 percent have a dedicated resource to perform this task while 42 percent are ignoring it. Companies of all sizes can see ROI from even small improvements in site search. In some cases, successful site search can deliver five to six times more conversions than non-search visitors. For instance, Cirrus10 worked with to significantly improve search relevancy just by unifying search and navigation across all content and product repositories.

Although this doesn’t cover all the complexities of search, turning a critical eye to how your customers engage (or disengage) as it relates to search can indicate areas that need improvement. Poor search performance is one of the quickest ways to lose customers, erode brand equity and drive up customer acquisition costs.

Questions? Want to learn more? Contact Cirrus10 for best-in-class relevancy tuning that improves your ecommerce site search for better user experiences and stronger online sales.

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