Personalization is often synonymized with relevance, and relevance is delivered effectively when there is an understanding of the context of a situation. At a very granular level, context as it is related to Commerce Search is derived from understanding who the user is, what the user is communicating, and in what channel the user is communicating their message.
Take a moment and think about how you interact with your mobile device, how do you research or make purchases on your mobile phone? You’ll quickly realize that your path to purchase most often begins with a keyword search, which often is vastly different than how you navigate a dot-com site or your local brick and mortar retailer. Infact, 56% of all retail searches occur on mobile devices. Mobile access has changed the way we as consumers interact with the world and it has significantly changed the path to purchase. Mobile was once used for showrooming purposes, sending retailers into a tailspin about how to ensure shoppers didn’t browse in store and convert elsewhere. Today, our challenge is different, mobile devices and behaviors have evolved, they’re more intelligent and more capable to handle a complete shopping journey. While showrooming and browsing behaviors still occur, the completion of the purchase on the mobile device is accounting for more and more of a retailer’s revenue. According to Internet Retailer, mobile commerce is growing at 3 times the rate of US ecommerce overall, accounting for more than $104 billion in 2015.
Today’s challenge is focused on how retailers ensure that customers are finding what they’re looking for on mobile devices so that they ultimately convert. This begs the question, how well is your site search performing? Are your customers finding what they seek? Is your site search delivering a customer centric and mobile considerate experience? What metrics are you using to determine it’s success or failure?
The traditional and dated way of measuring site performance (and commerce search within) by Revenue Per Session (RPS) and conversion were valid when ecommerce was simply just a dot-com site, which is not the case for today’s world. Today, it is essential to measure the performance of each individual feature that leads to a purchase/conversion. In the case of site search, success is defined by the relevance of the results delivered by a search engine to an individual user.
Search is innately unique in the respect that it is the single place in digital shopping journeys where users communicate with technology in their own words and expect a comprehensive response or set of responses. By default, search demands 1:1 communication, and is one of the most impactful places to influence and enhance the customer experience. Search is often a retailer’s first impression, especially on mobile, it is a critical opportunity to succeed by providing relevant and individualized results. Commerce Search accelerates product discovery and drives consumer conversion by delivering the most relevant results for each unique search query. The accuracy of the responses delivered by search is measured by what is known as “Findability”.
Findability a term first coined by Professor Michael Hendron, whose research indicates that nearly a third of e-commerce shoppers use site search, and 90% of buyers will probably use it. Yet these same sought after buyers only find what they seek in half of all site searches.
Since when did the retail industry accept a success rate of just 50%?
Given that search is a feature most often chosen by a determined and informed consumer who knows exactly what he/she wants, especially in ecommerce, it is essential to measure how successful the actual search experience is for that individual. This is why Findability must be a focal point of consideration when analyzing the performance of site search. Findability tells merchants whether consumers find what they are looking for and if they are ultimately pleased with those items. The conversion of these shoppers can only come if they have in fact located the items they desire. It is a cause and effect relationship, and a relationship that if treated right will thrive. When consumers trust that their searches will yield results they’re satisfied with, their search frequency and dependency simultaneously increases.
Are you measuring your site search properly? Are your customers finding what they’re looking for? Perhaps the metrics you’re currently using to determine performance are not providing you with the whole story. To get deeper insight into how to enhance your site search performance and learn more about Findability please visit http://www.richrelevance.com/relevance-cloud/find/ to stay in the know about our newest product launch Find™, the next generation of personalized search for an omnichannel world.
Shoppers with intent to buy only find what they are looking for half the time. That’s not good enough.
Amazon has one. So does Saks and Michael Kors. The search box—nestled at the top of the home page or hidden in the upper right corner—is an essential feature of retailers across the Internet Retailer 100, 500 and 1000.
Spend a little time with on-site search on a retail site, and you’ll quickly realize that it hasn’t evolved much since Endeca hit the scene in 1999. Seventeen years of search technology and e-commerce advances have not led to meaningful innovation. Instead, shoppers attuned to Pinterest and Pokemon Go are stuck in a digital time warp of unfriendly text boxes and unhelpful results.
Site search is broken, and for retailers, the consequences are worse than you may realize.
The outward problem is what Brigham Young University professor Michael Hendron calls “findability.” Drawing from multiple sources, Hendron notes that 30% of e-commerce visitors use site search, and highly coveted buyers are 90% more likely to use site search. However, buyers only find what they’re looking for in 50% of all site searches.
When did we, as an industry, deem a 50% failure rate acceptable?
Until recently, selling something online was a challenge unto itself. Engineers designed user experiences around technical requirements, not the emotional needs of human beings. “Does this work?” was their driving question. In design, means took a backseat to ends. In the process, the most important questions took a backseat too. How do I feel when I visit this site? What is it like to shop here? How easy is it to find and buy things I want?
Failed design is certainly not unique to search. In Seth Godin’s famous TED Talk, “This is broken,” the marketing guru examines comically poor design and ponders why it happens. His seven reasons have a common denominator: a lack of empathy.
Empathy, by definition, requires understanding. But an overwhelming majority of search boxes don’t understand what people want, as a 2014 study by the Baymard Institute illustrates. Of the 50 top-grossing U.S. e-commerce websites, 70% required you to search in the website’s jargon (“blow dryer” can’t replace “hair dryer”), more than half couldn’t support thematic searches (“beach” or “cold weather”), and although 82% offered auto-suggestions, 36% of the implementations did “more harm than good.”
If you told a retail associate, “Hi, I need a hoodie for cold weather sports,” she wouldn’t say, “Sports? Never heard of them.” Likewise, the associate wouldn’t say, “Well, we only sell ‘hooded sweatshirts.’ Bye.” These situations happen on web and mobile—and nowhere else.
Shoppers today can purchase almost anything online; credit cards and free shipping and returns have removed the magic from online shopping. Therefore, the ease, simplicity, and quality of the process matter more than ever to attract, win and retain customers. The customer experience is the biggest differentiation.
To become unbroken, site search has to strike a balance between technical requirements and empathy. Three principles can help it get there:
1. Prioritize Findability. Many e-commerce sites look at shopper conversion rates without examining the effort it took to make that purchase. Running 32 searches to buy one pair of jeans does not qualify as easy or effective for anyone but the most devoted shopper.
Examine what does and does not happen on your website. Did the buyer search “shoes” and stay on the results page? Did she scroll, browse, or search by category? How many queries did she run? Using what words? What abbreviations, synonyms, and themes lead to dead ends on your website? Identify where findability falls apart and use these insights to better serve your customers.
2. Entice. Make it easy to find goods, but do not rush shoppers to the finale. Inside the actual search results, give people the freedom to explore, play, and learn before they commit to a purchase. The best way to do this: Replace static lists and grids with gorgeous visuals, dynamic movement, and interactivity.
For example, why not let shoppers digitally mix and match bikini tops and bottoms? Why not rearrange images as the search term takes shape to create a dynamic experience that improves on Pinterest and Instagram? Just like in-store visitors, online shoppers need the inspiration, space and guidance to validate their decision. Search can create or kill that space.
3. Personalize. Just as the best associate knows the style of her regular customers, the search bar should know a shopper’s demonstrated preferences. It should be able to suggest search results based on past purchases, searches, browsing patterns, social media activity, and other unique criteria.
To be clear, personalization is different from bare-bones autocomplete or autosuggest, which offer results based on generic parameters. With personalization in play, no two shoppers have an identical search experience.
Site search is fixable and ripe for disruption. Now that engineers have the leeway to think logically and psychologically, e-commerce will find a balance between function and findability. Site search is broken, but not for long.