How to Improve User Experience with On-Site Search this Cyber Weekend

How to Improve User Experience with On-Site Search this Cyber Weekend

The two most revenue-generating days in ecommerce are quickly approaching, and retailers should be doing everything in their power to ensure that their website will provide visitors with an exceptional user experience this Black Friday, Cyber Monday.

That might sound intimidating and complex, given all the possibilities, but it really isn’t.

Instead, today we’re going to examine how to target shoppers who know exactly what they want to make their experience as smooth as possible with an often-overlooked feature of your website …

On-Site Search: An Undervalued Tool

Search is a critical element of all websites. Unfortunately, it’s also often undervalued and overlooked. For a big-picture examination of the topic, check out Ecommerce Site Search: Best Practices and What to Look For in a Solution.

It’s definitely not the sexiest of tools, but on-site search can do amazing things if properly utilized.

Consider these on-site search statistics:

  • 80% of consumers will abandon a site after a poor search experience.
  • 8 second or less is all the time you have to help someone find what they want
  • Consumers expect internal search engines to know what they’re looking for; however, 85% of searches don’t return what the user sought

Also, consider some benefits of properly utilizing on-site search:

  • People who search are more likely to purchase because they are shopping with intent, compared to those who use standard navigation
  • People who perform a site search are twice as likely to convert

This tool is perfect because it draws the people who are looking for a specific item in mind and are ready to make a purchase. All you have to do is show them where it is, and get out of the way. You can’t afford to neglect it.

Don’t stop here …

Keep reading to find out about how to improve on-site search this holiday.

But, if you want to go even deeper, we’ve built the ultimate Black Friday, Cyber Monday Toolbox. Everything you need to unwrap the magic of the Shopify Plus platform and make this holiday season your most profitable ever.

Check out the BFCM Toolbox

Visitors Communicate through On-Site Search

Think of this scenario: a person walks into a retail store looking for a specific TV and they ask the salesperson where to find the TV in the store. The salesperson doesn’t know where that TV is so they respond, “Sorry, but we don’t carry that product,” or, “Sorry, I don’t know where that product is.”

Chances are, the person will walk out of the store and go to another store that carries TVs and the sale is lost. Not to mention, you’d fire that salesperson on the spot.

A search bar is a communication tool — the equivalent to a salesperson in a retail store taking the visitor to the product they want to see. Often, shoppers use the search bar to help them find items they’re looking for quickly, instead of wasting time scrolling through dozens of category pages browsing.

If you wouldn’t put up with a salesperson who doesn’t know where the TV is for one customer who comes in and asks …

Then you can imagine how important the onsite search bar is in the shopper’s journey on your website. Just like in a retail store, a website must provide the shopper with the information they are looking for, in a timely, and accurate manner.

On-Site Search Tip 1: Enhanced Autocomplete

When you type a word into the Google search bar, chances are the results displayed are very accurate. Almost too accurate. These types of search conglomerates (i.e., Amazon, Walmart, Target, and eBay) have spoiled today’s online shoppers, as people expect the same experience and accuracy with every search bar.

Because they’re conditioned to such snappy responses and results, online shoppers leave quickly if the website does not provide them with the product they type into the search bar within a couple of attempts.

Chances are you don’t have a huge team of developers (or as many resources as Google) that can create a perfect search on your website. But don’t worry, there are tools out there, like enhanced autocomplete, that can provide your website with the type of search experience shoppers expect … without breaking the bank.

Enhanced autocomplete refers to a powerful machine learning algorithm that learns from and adapts to a shopper’s search behavior over time. When a group of products have equal relevance in a shopper’s search results, the “best performing” product (the product that gets clicked most often by everyone else) will be promoted to the top of the search results.

Nextopia has been pioneering on-site search and enhanced autocomplete since 1999. Our powerful on-site search platform has been built on the real-time feedback given to us from our 2,000+ ecommerce customers.

I am a partner marketing coordinator at Nextopia, and work alongside our team of ecommerce experts, customer success, and developers, in creating relevant content that retailers will find useful for their online stores. Enhanced autocomplete is a powerful tool that has many possibilities that retailers may not know about, and we’re here to help them find it.

(1) Enhanced Autocomplete to Promote Popular Products

When you type “whey” into Tiger Fitness’s search bar, their most popular “whey” product is displayed. The algorithm displayed this product because, over time, it learned through user behavior that this product converts the most.

Retailers can further enhance their UX through enhanced autocomplete, by giving site visitors additional avenues to consider. For example, including popular category pages, popular searches, thumbnail photos, and product matches (like Tiger Fitness did) will provide meaningful information to shoppers.

(2) Enhanced Autocomplete for Similar SKUs

Enhanced autocomplete can work wonders for websites with similar SKUs. Jollyes, one of the largest pet food superstore chains in the UK, was having search issues as a result of their large catalog.

When site visitors typed “dog food” into the search bar, thousands of products would be displayed in the results, but would not necessarily be associated with the exact keyword.

The search plug-in that they were using had just the basic autocomplete functionalities and would bring up all products that had “dog” in it, and separate products that had “food” in it. The visitor would get frustrated seeing “fish food” in the results.

After implementing an enhanced autocomplete solution, Jollyes saw great results. Their revenue increased by 60 percent and their conversions through search increased 39 percent.

“Since implementing Nextopia (the enhanced autocomplete provider), we have received no complaints regarding the search results, something which was all too frequent prior to the implementation.”

 Gavin Trimble, Jollyes’ Ecommerce Manager

(3) Enhanced Autocomplete in Unconventional Ways

There are many ways retailers can use enhanced autocomplete to their advantage. Retailers can include informative content such as blogs, shipping information, how to’s, videos, recipes, promotional banners, and landing pages in the autocomplete results.

Pro Tip

Include a “Black Friday Sales” or “Cyber Monday Sales” banner in your autocomplete results. Once those eager Black Friday, Cyber Monday consumers visit your website and use the search bar, they can immediately be directed to the Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales page.

Pro Tip

If it’s too early in the holiday shopping season, and you don’t have a Black Friday - Cyber Monday sales page yet, create an option for shoppers to sign up to your email list to get notifications of your latest deals. Or create a Black Friday, Cyber Monday countdown! See Tiger Fitness’ example below.

On-Site Search Tip 2: Mobile Site Search

The 2016 holiday shopping season had a clear indication: mobile commerce isn’t slowing down.

According to Adobe, mobile commerce generated $1.07 billion (US) from Cyber Monday in 2016, a 34 percent increase year-over-year (YoY), and accounted for 47 percent of visits to retail websites. Mobile was already booming days earlier on Thanksgiving Day, with 57 percent of site visits and 40 percent of sales happening over phones and tablets.

What’s even more interesting are the 2016 Black Friday numbers: the first day to generate more than a billion dollars in online sales from mobile commerce.

According to Adobe Insights, the $1.2 billion USD spent through M-commerce was an increase of 33 percent from the year before! Even Walmart reported that mobile traffic comprised of more than 70 percent of their Black Friday shopping.

It’s apparent that an increasing amount of consumers are using their smartphones to make purchases – and that will only continue. Retailers must optimize their websites for mobile to ensure that the increasing amount of consumers using mobile devices to shop online have a seamless experience across all devices.

Today’s Consumers Value Speed & Accuracy

Since many people use their smartphone to shop because of convenience (while on public transit, waiting in line, etc.), they value speed and accuracy.

If you’ve invested in a search tool for your desktop website, make sure it’s optimized for mobile ecommerce as well. You definitely want all of the same search, navigation and merchandising tools to work especially well on smartphones, as people have less screen space (and patience) than shopping on a desktop.

Include On-Site Search on Every Page of Your Mobile Site

It’s quite annoying having to click around looking for a product on a small screen. That’s why the search bar needs to be easily accessible on every single page of your mobile site, to enhance the user’s shopping experience, and making sure that they can find what they’re looking for easily.

Pro Tip

Add your “Black Friday Sales” landing page in your mobile site’s search bar, so that consumers can quickly browse through your Black Friday sales while they are standing in line waiting for the physical store to open.

On-Site Search Tip 3: Merchandising

When you walk into a traditional brick and mortar store, products are displayed and strategically placed in order to catch the consumer’s eye. Retailers use various merchandising techniques to entice consumers to make a purchase in store.

Online merchandising is not much different than traditional merchandising – as you can use many of the same tactics on your ecommerce store. Below are our favorite techniques that can greatly enhance the UX on your ecommerce site.

(1) Redirects – Provide Other Calls to Action

If you happen to be out of an item, or you don’t carry the exact product that a consumer is searching for, rather than sending them to the “no results found” page, use it as an opportunity to provide other calls to action or promote similar products to save the sale. If you direct a consumer to a “no results found” page with no prompt to continue shopping, chances are they will leave your site right away and search somewhere else. uses this technique when consumers search for “Rolex” watches, as they don’t carry this brand. The consumer gets redirected to the “Tissot” brand page, as it is a similar product to Rolex.

Also take this opportunity to create redirect rules for popular “non-product” queries (i.e. contact information, locations, return policy, size chart, etc.). Even though this may not lead to a direct conversion, it will provide a better user experience for returning (or future) shoppers. This will help prevent your site visitors leaving to go search on a competitor’s site.

(2) Synonyms – Powerful and Last Forever

Not every person visiting your site uses the same language – especially if you sell internationally. By properly configuring synonyms into your site search, you’ll not only be able to quickly drive revenue, but you’ll also be able to ensure that your customers can always find exactly what they’re searching for, regardless of what they search.

Through advanced search tools, retailers have the ability to set up “synonym redirects”, which will automatically direct customers to products they typed into the search bar, regardless of the product name.

For example, if you run a furniture store and none of your products have the keyword “sofa” in them, you can manually set up a redirect so that every search for “sofa” goes to the results page for “couch.” If you didn’t have the redirect set up, the person that typed in “sofa” would be directed to a “no results found” page, which doesn’t provide a positive user experience (especially since your site carries the product of interest).

Synonyms are one of the easiest and most important tools to take advantage of. They’re powerful, easy to set up, and last forever.

(3) Promotional Banners

Instead of only showing your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales banner on the homepage, make the promotional banner visible throughout your entire site by adding it to every page of your website. This makes the sale page easily accessible, no matter where the consumer is on your website.

There are many tools out there that allow you to create promotional banners on the fly, and link them to any page of your website. For example, Nextopia’s intelligent site search platform provides all of the merchandising tools mentioned in this article.

Pro Tip

Include the banners in the autocomplete results as well to further enhance the user experience.

Final Thoughts

These next few weeks are going to be crucial for you to ensure that your Shopify Plus site is ready for the influx of traffic coming this November. While these onsite search tips sound simple and straightforward, implementing them to your site will make all the difference to take care of shoppers with high intent.

The shopper knows what they want to buy — and they’re giving you a shot to provide it to them. Don’t get careless now.

About the Author  

Michelle SegesMichelle Seges is a Partner Marketing Coordinator at Nextopia, a leader in ecommerce on-site search and navigation. She follows more puppies than humans on Instagram and currently resides in Toronto.

Interested in learning more about how your website can enhance the user experience?

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