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.