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An effective site search tool is hugely important tool for ecommerce as it’s a common way for shoppers to navigate sites and find products.

In fact up to 30% of visitors will use the site search tool and these tend to be highly motivated shoppers who know exactly what they’re looking for.

The speed in which results are returned is very important, but there are also many other factors that influence the overall user experience and could be the difference between making a sale or losing a potential customer.

We’ve previously looked at best practice tips for site search in ecommerce as well as nine ways to use site search data for merchandising. 

But here are 14 ways to improve the UX of search results pages...

Consistent position of search box

In the likely event that a shopper doesn’t find exactly what they’re looking for at the first time of asking, it’s helpful to leave the search box in the same place so they know where to find it.

Many ecommerce sites already maintain a consistent design, with Amazon being a great example of how to present customers with a prominent search tool.

Keep the original text

Following on from the previous point, if shoppers don’t find what they’re looking for then they might wish to search again using a slightly modified term.

To make it easier for them, leave the initial search term in the search box so they don’t have to re-type the entire product name again.

Return mixed results

It’s now quite common for brands to publish a huge amount of content around their industry as a way of marketing their expertise, attracting customers and boosting SEO visibility.

This content is all relevant to search results as it helps to educate the customer and can help edge them towards making a purchase.

This example from pharmacist Boots shows how search results can be split out into different types of useful content, with products, prescription items and blog posts all presented separately alongside a tab showing ‘All results’.

Provide filtering options

This is a very obvious point and one that a vast majority of retailers adhere to, however some still fail to provide filtering options so it is worth flagging up.

Product filters are an essential feature for helping shoppers refine the search results and drill down to exactly what they’re looking for.

In a slightly obscure example, kilt retailer buyakilt.com saw a 26% increase in conversions and a whopping 76.1% boost in revenue after implementing a product filter which gave visitors an option to shop by kilt type and kilt pattern.

I previously written a post looking at nine ways to improve product filtering options, but basically it’s important to offer shoppers as many relevant filters as possible and allow them to apply more than one at a time.

Offer different views

Allow customers to tailor the shopping experience to their needs by offering a range of views.

Kohl’s enables customers to pick from one of three grid layouts, which is useful for people who want to view larger images.

Accuracy and relevance of results

It’s clearly important to return accurate results to users, otherwise customers won’t trust the search tool and will have to find other ways of locating the desired product.

We currently suffer from this problem on the Econsultancy site and as a result most of the content team use Google rather than our own site search tool.

With the advent of ‘not provided’ search data from Google, this means that sites with poor on-site search tools could be losing valuable user data.

But it’s also important to factor in best-selling items when programming the search algorithm, so results include relevant items that are also more likely to secure a conversion.

This can be done through Google Analytics and is a good way of actively promoting your most popular items.

Reviews

Product reviews are proven to have a massive impact on conversion rates, with a report by Reevoo showing that 88% of consumers ‘sometimes or always’ consult a review when making a purchase, while 60% are more likely to purchase from a site that has customer reviews on.

It’s very easy to display a star rating next to products within search results, which offers an element of social proof and is likely to encourage some shoppers to investigate further.

Include loyalty points information

If your company operates a loyalty scheme then it might be helpful to give customers details of the amount of points that each product is worth within the search results.

In this example from Boots, shoppers are notified exactly how many loyalty points they need in order to be able to afford each product.

Each point is obviously worth 1p so it’s not that difficult for customers to work out on their own, but adding that extra bit of information might just be enough to push them towards making a purchase.

Correct misspellings

It’s common for people to make spelling mistakes when searching for items, so site owners should compensate for this by using predictive text while the user is typing, and then showing suggested results when errors occur.

This avoids the frustration that could be caused by returning no results and forcing the user to enter the search term again.

Amazon is excellent at helping customers who have made an error. In this search for ‘playstaton 4’ it still returns results for the item that I was obviously looking for.

Multichannel results

Walmart has a useful dropdown menu at the top of its search results that enables shoppers to locate their nearest stockist just by entering their email address.

Reserve-and-collect tools are becoming increasingly important for multichannel retailers and this is a great way to simplify the process for customers.

Don’t return ‘no results’

If you don’t currently stock the product that user has just searched for then it’s best to avoid returning ‘no results’. It’s like admitting you’ve failed and telling the customer they should try one of your competitors.

Instead, offer them alternative products that may still be relevant to their search term. This shows that you’re trying to help them and also increases the chances that they’ll stay on your site.

For example, Nextflix doesn’t currently offer Avengers Assemble in the UK but there are still other films that might be of interest. That said, the first search result is laughably off-target...

Add a CTA or quick view option

If shoppers know what they’re looking for they might appreciate being able to add an item to their basket directly from the search results or quickly view the product details in an overlay without navigating to the product page.

In this example from Best Buy there are ‘Add to cart’ calls-to-action alongside each of the laser printers that came up in search results.

However the use of a CTA and quick view in search results is something that should be tested to see whether it actually increases conversions.

Allowing the customer to click through to a product page exposes them to additional product information and reviews, which might lead to higher conversion rates.

Ecommerce sites might even consider showing a CTA to returning customers only, as they might be further down the purchase journey and so require less persuading.

Present results by gender

Unless a customer is logged in or has used your site before then it may not be possible to determine if they are male or female.

To avoid clogging up the search results page with irrelevant products consider splitting the results out by gender.

A search for ‘blue shirt’ on River Island returns two different columns of products, as well as a button that leads to ‘kids results’.

Consider product information for complex products

For electronic items or high spec products it is useful to include a product summary in the search results to aid the customer’s decision making.

In this example of a search for ‘ipod’, electronics retailer Newegg lists important product information alongside the image and cost.

With so much information to sort through it would be an arduous process to navigate to the product page for each item to check the exact specification. Therefore a simple summary of the most important details reduces customer frustration. 

David Moth

Published 13 November, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

Funnily enough, I've been doing A/B testing on search results pages recently & have a crude 'satisfaction benchmark' for their performance. One site, satisfaction improved 23% just from some simple UI tweaks, and the other (slightly crude) clickstream metrics tallied.

If anyone would like to repeat the test & compare against the benchmark, do drop me a note. (for clarity: I'm not pitching for work - happy to explain what to do so that anyone can repeat the simple experiment for free)

over 2 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Dan, if you're okay to share to stats I'll happily blog them to try and get other people to try out the benchmark.

over 2 years ago

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Philip Thorman

I can can concur with your accuracy and relevancy comment for the Econsultancy search - I end up doing the same as your staff! It's a shame, because you have such a great library of relevant content, including this helpful article (currently shaping a web rebuild).

over 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi David,

Great post and surprisingly a lot of top retail sites have major gaps in their search UX.

A key one from the clients i've worked with is lack of integration of non-product content into search results pages.

I like the tab example you give of Boots so the page isn't cluttered. In Australia, Adore Beauty does a neat job too.

And not showing results is a key issue. There are many zero results searches that provide a dead-end but a company has product/content that is relevant. For example, a search for a brand (e.g. paul smith shoes) may return no results if the site doesn't stock that specific product line. However, it could well have matching products (shoes) from other related brands that it could surface. Or it could alert visitors to the other ranges it stocks from that brand (e.g. paul smith shirts). So definitely agree in minimising the appearance of having nothing relevant.

I think ecommerce teams should think like a store assistant. If a customer asked for a specific pair of shoes that weren't available, they could help point them to close matches and give advice on what other brands are stocked.

Thanks for the blog.
james

over 2 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@James, thanks for your comment. If you're ever at liberty to share any stats from the various tests you run on client sites I'd be interested to see them!

Cheers,

David

over 2 years ago

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