SEEK & FIND: The Importance of a Search Feature on your online store

SEEK & FIND: The Importance of a Search Feature on your online store

Search feature

There  is no confirmed percentage, but most e-commerce experts will agree that customers browsing a particular online marketplace have a general idea of what they are looking for.  If it’s not a particular item, it’s in a definable realm of products.  The beauty of online shopping is that within moments of realizing that you want something, you can be browsing virtual shelves displaying the exact product you seek.  There’s no having to take a shower, or having to change clothes, or dealing with traffic, or parking, or annoying crowds.

If a customer enters your virtual store, then they most likely understand that you are carrying, or potentially may carry, the item they desire.  But how easily is it for them to find that item?  Is your site easy to navigate? Are your products placed in clear and concise categories? Can they find that velvet turtleneck within three or four clicks?  Of course they can. You did your due diligence, and you understand that to get that item in your customer’s cart, they have to find it first. Your practical and logical navigation features are simply perfect.  So we’re good there.

But not every customer browses online stores the same way. There are people that shop with a precise efficiency and determination. These shoppers take a different approach, and they know exactly what they want. They do their research, and they want to give you their money.  The only catch: they want to use the search tool, and if yours is hard to find or tucked away in a corner they will be a “gone pecan.”  (Southern phrase that translates to something having to do with leaving.)

All online stores should include a search feature.  The feature allows a customer to bypass the stroll down the aisles and go directly to the product or item they are seeking to find.  Your site needs the search tool just as I need my walkman playing Darius Rucker in order to fall asleep at night.  But how obvious is your search tool?  Is it placed in an obvious spot?  Are you using an icon that is easily recognizable?  Will it lead a customer to the right item?

The search feature can sometimes be an eyesore in an otherwise beautifully designed landing page.  Its mundane and common appearance gives it an unoriginal quality that just bothers you.  Too bad, this isn’t about you.  It’s about your customers, and customers will use it, so you have to have it.  An intelligent and creative designer can make it fit.  Regardless of your feelings about the search bar, consider the following three questions when incorporating it into your sight.

Consider the following 3 questions:

# 1 Is it in plain sight or can it be found within a second or two?

The search feature is an integral way for your customers to find the goods that fill up their carts.  This fact should make you drop any qualms you previously held against the “search.”  You should view the feature not as a hindrance but rather a feature as important as the navigation menus you’ve worked so hard on.  Placing it where it can be easily spotted near the top or close to your menu bar will ensure that the customers that intend to use this feature don’t click away because they can’t find it.

#2 Is there text already sitting in the search box?

Some search boxes already have a word or phrase sitting in the box.  The purpose I’m sure is to inform the page visitor that this is where they type what they are searching for.  Although useful, online shopping and surfing the web in general have now become routine activities for most of us.  Don’t waste your customers’ time by forcing them to erase pre-existing text in the search box.  Customers should be able to click in the box and begin typing immediately.  Having to delete words that they did not fill in is annoying, and although it’s trivial, in the big scheme of the shopping process, why allow yourself to be the one store behind the curve?  No major online marketplace does it, so why should you?  “So for now, for your customer’s sake, for your daughter’s sake,” (Chris Farley, Tommy Boy) you should avoid it.

#3 How can customers use your search feature?

This can quickly become a time consuming and drawn out process because it may require adding additional descriptions to your inventory. But because every sale matters, you’ll decide to do it. Some customers may search by SKU number, some by product descriptions, some by obscure references that don’t relate. How have you identified and tagged each product? You’ll want to be sure that no matter how a customer tries to search an item, it finds its way onto the search results. One of the best ways to handle this is to examine a competitor’s site and perform a search for a product using a variety of references. Then do the same to your site. What differences do you encounter? This will not only allow you to analyze a competitor but will also show you some better tags to use for your products or give you other additional ideas.

It is undisputed that a search feature is necessary for all online stores. The only question to ask yourself is which category of online store you fall in: stores utilizing their search feature for their customers’ benefit (and ultimately to boost sales) or online stores that are allowing it to sit under-utilized.



Write Good Copy, Don’t Copy Good Writing.

Originality isn’t something you can find in a Google search. It isn’t something that can be learned by reading Top Ten lists or 7 Habits of successful writers. Originality, in how it pertains to writing copy, comes from knowing every minute detail of your product and figuring out how to relay that information in a way that will make people just as excited about it as you are. It means writing in a way that is true to yourself, your brand, and your overall mission. It means understanding your customer and knowing how to talk to them. It does not mean stuffing a bunch of fluffy words into paragraph-long sentences just to cover more space on the page. And it most definitely doesn’t mean finding a really cool site and copying what you see. If you are trying to copy someone else’s originality, it will never sound as good as the original. It’s like buying the Honey O’s bag of cereal instead of Honey Nut Cheerios. They’ll always get too soggy in the milk, and your kids will hate you.

Copywriting on the web used to be mostly focused on stuffing as many keywords as possible into your writing without being detected by Google for keyword stuffing. The end result was writing that sounded like a jumbled mess. Today, with more sophisticated SEO and more savvy online shoppers, copy must be focused on building relationships with customers rather than tricking a search engine. It’s about building relationships and trust between your brand and your customers. You want your copy to convey your passion for your product so the company sees it through your eyes. If you have a passion for quilts made from ugly holiday sweaters, your copy needs to convey that to potential customers. You want people to read about your ugly sweater quilts, talk about them, share them on social media, and eventually buy them. It’s all about generating interest and buzz.

Kelton Reid, of Copyblogger, wrote a great guide to writing good copy. In it, he likens writing good copy to writing good advertising. He references the well-known ad man David Ogilvy, who said that good advertising should sell the product without drawing attention to itself. Kelton argues the exact same tenant applies to copywriting. The content doesn’t need to be flashy and stylish; it just needs to communicate to the customer and convey your message clearly.

Mr. Reid not only has great tips, but also references great writers throughout history from William Shakespeare to E.B. White. I encourage you to read his article in full, whether you are writing copy, writing essays for school, or just want to become a better writer, but here is a short summary (in my own words) of some of his points to give you a sneak peek.

Writing Good Copy

# 1 Make your Headline pop

It’s the first thing that draws attention to your work. If it sucks, you lose your audience from the start.

# 2 Don’t use cutesy spelling

It’s just as easy to write “tonight” as “tonite”. Don’t use short-hand or Twitter lingo in your copy. Save the OMGs LOLs WTFs and SMHs for texting.

# 3 Put down the thesaurus

Don’t try to incorporate big words just to have them in your copy. Write in ordinary language that clearly conveys your point.

# 4 Know your audience and put them first

The word “you” is very powerful. Use it.

# 5 Use clear & concise language.

Don’t add unnecessary words. Don’t make exaggerated claims. Use nouns and verbs, and keep the adjectives to a minimum.

# 6 Plan and Edit

This means using an outline or any other method to organize your thoughts. Once you write, revise, revise, revise. No one’s first draft is perfect. Don’t be afraid to edit and improve.