Look at any successful e-commerce site these days and you’re likely to see a search box located prominently on the main shopping page. I know; that’s not really big news. The obvious reason for that isn’t really a mystery, either. Everyone knows that getting customers to the right product as quickly as possible is the first step in online sales, right?
Yes and no. That basic premise is important, yes, but is it really where the process begins? Not for the majority of the top-selling online shops out there. Their site searches are critical to their business for more powerful reasons that most of their shoppers know very little about. Yes, finding products is part of the equation, but the first steps happen in the background, before the potential customer arrives.
SEO and Marketing
These aren’t the first steps, either, but they tend to be the first on your mind when you launch an online shop. You’ve got to get the word out there, and the search engines are still a major part of that process. Marketing covers a much wider scope, from promotions to landing pages, to paid advertising and more.
Would you be surprised to know that a website search can be an integral part of both of those aspects of your online business? It’s a “secret” that the “big guns” have been taking advantage of for years.
What you offer for sale and how you display those offerings is also critical to your Internet sales. In a brick-and-mortar store, you deal with visual displays, packaging, pricing, etc. In the online world, visuals and pricing also play a role, but product choices and placement tend to have greater impact than things like packaging.
The products you stock and the way you present them are extremely important to an online shop and believe it or not, your website search engine can help you to make those decisions, too
It’s all About the Data
Understanding how searches come into the picture isn’t difficult. Take a look at Google Trends as an example. Here, you can see a great visual representation of what all those users are searching for, what terms they’re using and more, all laid out neatly for you to use as you like. This is a great example of ethical use of user-generated data along with analytics.
Having that kind of capability connected to your online store is the primary reason to have a site search. The kicker is that analyzing all that data is an overwhelming process without the right tools. (You don’t think Google pays people to compile and analyze all that data, right?)
What’s an Analytic?
Analytics is a term that covers the key processes for making use of collected data – in this case, the search input from your site visitors and the actions they took after searching. In simple terms, an analytics program looks for patterns In the way your users interact with your site and the search engine.
If that sounds like a complex process, that’s because it is. The logistics involved in tracking a visitor’s progress alone are complicated and the math involved in comparing individual sessions is worse. You need the right tools, and that’s how Google helped introduce the world to the concepts with their solutions, ‘way back in 2005.
Bringing it Home
You’re probably about ready for me to get to the point here, no? Fair enough. The primary advantages to having a site search on your e-commerce website are based on having the ability to use the data collected to drive your merchandising and advertising efforts. Those advantages include.
- Knowing what products to stock
- Knowing which product to promote and when
- Knowing which products to liquidate
- Knowing which promotions are most effective
- Knowing what other products buyers may want
- Knowing at what point potential buyers make the final decision
I could go on all day, but I won’t. If you paid attention to that list, you saw that the common thread is “knowing”. With the data from your search engine, you have the ability to know much more about your customers and your business.
“But wait, there’s more!”
Sorry for quoting a tired, old slogan, but it applies very well in this case. The ideal search application will not only give you the ability to know all of these things, but will take action on many of them automatically, based on its own AI and your rules.
Here are a few specific features to expect:
- Smart auto-complete
- Smart suggestions with thumbnail images
- AI-based, self-learning algorithms
- User-customized smart navigation with filters
That functionality, coupled with analytics and automated merchandising, should give you these features:
- User-generated landing pages
- Dynamic, per-user navigation with clickable refinements
- Product recommendation based on user input
- Powerful analytics for valuable insights
- Cloud-based functions for speed and minimal server load
Frankly, there’s much more potential in a good site search than I have room to tell you about in this venue. One important item that needs to be mentioned, though is that it should be easily implemented with minimal downtime and seamless integration with your platform, whatever that may be.
What you may find most surprising is that all of what I’ve outlined here is actually possible with today’s technologies. Shouldn’t your e-commerce storefront be using a site search engine that gives your visitors a more satisfying shopping experience, while helping you maximize your profits?