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GUEST COMMENT Improve and enhance site search to boost conversions and customer satisfaction

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When your ecommerce website is user-friendly for shoppers, it positively impacts the success of your business. These days, a key element of user-friendliness is making it easy for smartphone and tablet users to browse for information and shop for products. In other words, both your mobile and desktop websites need to welcome visitors, no matter how or where they’re doing their shopping.

The challenge, however, is that developing an engaging, easy-to-understand search experience will demand time and energy from website owners. The good news is that search data provides a wealth of information to help you improve the search experience. For example, you can identify your customers’ favourite products as well as the terms they use in your search box, and see how they respond to special offers. To achieve these benefits, you might consider outsourcing management of site search to a specialist or full-service provider. They can work closely with you to maximise performance and suggest improvements as you build out your site.

Here are some best practices for optimising your site search to keep customers coming back again and again, and online orders flowing in.

Use the same language your customers use.

Popular products come and go, as do the different ways that shoppers describe what they want to buy. To stay on top of these changes, you can monitor search reports that show the keyword terms your visitors use, and which products they look at or buy. You can then add these newly discovered search terms to your product descriptions.

Optimise site search for multiple devices. As mobile device makers increase screen size, and wireless providers offer faster connections, it’s becoming ever easier to actually shop – and not just do research – while on the go. Mobile shoppers are spending more time looking at mobile sites even while in stores, reading price comparisons and looking up product reviews and special promotions.

For the online retailer, this makes your job more difficult, since you need to make sure your site accommodates many different devices and platforms – such as iPhones, Androids, iPads and Kindle Fires. And every device has unique requirements for usability and navigation, with features always changing and being updated.

Conduct and monitor A/B tests. Thorough testing allows you to understand if site search is performing well, and whether certain features are being used by your customers. A/B testing reduces the chance that you’ll incorporate search enhancements that don’t drive conversions. You can test many options, including design changes to search algorithms, page formats (grid view vs. list view), and refinements. Once you determine the impact of these various options on your conversion rate, you can decide which ones to implement and which ones to drop.

Step up merchandising. By adding merchandising to search pages, you can showcase special offers or products. However, this should be done carefully: if you manually tune search results to promote specific products, or if you create keyword-specific banners, make sure to map the right terms to the right products (for example, “notebook” could be a computer or a pad of paper). By monitoring the performance of your search on a regular basis, you’ll find out if your products match the right search terms and vice versa. You’ll also discover if you need to index synonyms for commonly searched-for products.

This is also true for the development of SEO-related landing pages and banners. For instance, if you create landing pages and banners that are designed for visitors who come to your site from Google or Bing, the products and information promoted in the banners should relevant to the search – if not, visitors will probably abandon your site.

Managing site search can be a complex task – but when done correctly, and on an ongoing schedule, the rewards can be worth the time invested.

Marcus Law is UK marketing manager at SLI Systems.

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