Finding the Best eCommerce Onsite Search Solution

Finding the Best Onsite Search Solution

In the 21st Century we are still hunters and gatherers, looking for anything and everything online. The search for…well, pretty much anything, is part of daily life online.

We see eCommerce websites with 10-40% (or more!) of visitors using the onsite search. General browsers use the navigation, but savvy users who know what they want, will go straight to the onsite search.

Therefore it is very important to get onsite search right. From a user experience perspective, search can make or break your site. In this article, we address the features and functionality that make your online search a great experience for your customers.

11 Ways to Optimise eCommerce Onsite Search

Ironically, finding the best onsite search for your eCommerce Website can be quite a challenge. There are plenty of options and the budget ranges from cost free to over $100,000 per month.

Recently, Hitworks investigated the various onsite search plug-ins / modules for Magento. We found a number of different options and ended up recommending a service that suited the client, their product range and their customer.

Here is what we discovered:

1. Is Your Search Easy to Find?

Don’t be a bad joke! None of your customers will find it funny if they can’t find your search bar. Adding clicks to make it visible may give you more space but at what cost? It all adds time to the journey and gives the customer an opportunity to lose interest or become distracted.

With so many of your customers looking to use the search bar, you want to put it in a place that is intuitive and easy to spot. We usually recommend the middle of the header on desktop. Make sure you allow enough space to type in typical queries. On the mobile we usually recommend under the header. Make sure there is plenty of space for fat fingers to inaccurately touch to bring up the keyboard.

We recommend split testing all crucial conversion items, and search is up the top of that list. You will want to measure the visits with search and the conversion rate. Compare the value of having the search bar up front, compared with a promo spot or navigation. AB testing or Multi-variant Testing (MVT) will establish what best suits your brand and customer.

2. The Need for Speed

The response time for onsite search is vital to a good user experience (UX). Conversion optimisation studies show that site speed is directly related to conversion rate.

Distractions are a fact of life in this world of instant streaming and multiple medias competing for our attention. Show a spinning icon for a few moments and your customer is gone. They’ll be onto Facebook, watching Netflix or checking the fridge!

Using the search bar on your site should be quick and easy. Your search must be able to provide close to instant results so the process is productive and satisfying. Cut the response time to be as low as possible, optimise your caching and keep pushing your team for more speed!

3. Accuracy of Search Results

The quality of your on site search results will be pivotal to a good user experience. If I search for a purple shirt, it won’t inspire confidence to show a variety of different coloured clothes.

Many sites have product lines that are multi colour or have one stronger colour. In this case if may benefit the searcher to show multi coloured items with a touch of purple.

Your site may benefit from a search algorithm that learns from customer searches. You may use this learning algorithm to optimise results, ordering, site menus and content blocks.

More information about products on the results page can also assist buyers. You may want to show which items are in stock. Or how many are left. Consider adding ‘buy it now’ buttons in the search for an even faster experience.

Landing pages also need to be accurate. If the customer types in an exact match, one click should get them to that specific product page. Or a category landing page.

4. Relevance To Your Customer

The search bar is like being served by an assistant in store. The items you show in your search results must be relevant to your customer.

Your customer wants to see products that suit them or that they need. Relevance is directly related to a better user journey.

The larger your product catalogue, the more your search results will need to be relevant to your customer.

You may want to show different results to different locations. Australia has many different climates. So if a customer in Cairns searches “winter clothes”, you may want to show different results to a customer in Tasmania.

A customer may be on your site to buy a specific range of products. If they own a Mazda car then the search results may need to reflect their make and model.

Using what you know about the customer can be very powerful, such as pages or categories they have visited and what they have bought. You may find that a little (or a lot) of extra functionality not only converts at a higher rate, but brings your customers back for more.

5. Filtering Your Search Results

Customers will search in many different ways. Some type in long sentences, some are very general. If a search brings many results, then filtering will help your customers find what they want.

Product facets or attributes can help a customer narrow a search to be very specific. Being able to tick multiple boxes on a left hand side menu can help the user find things by way of suggestions.

The way these are laid out can help or hinder. Some sites will need to have expandable sections to fit in many product attributes. Other brands may benefit by having just a price and size. Sliders, tick boxes or drop downs may be used here. What ever is considered easiest to use by your customers.

6. Never Have Nothing

Imagine if you asked a shop assistant for a product and they look blankly at you and said, “No, sorry we don’t have that.” You would turn around and walk out.

Showing zero results from a search will have the same result. Be helpful! How you phrase this page can be crucial. “0 results” doesn’t inspire you to keep looking. Why not say “Did you mean…” and show them a range of products. Some sites return every product so customers can begin filtering or are prompted to refine.

It is important to make the user journey intuitive. Prompt them towards the next step. Never put up a roadblock like “Sorry, we can’t help with that.”

7. Remember Your Content Pages, Blogs & Social

Remember to include your content pages and blog content in your search results. You may use tabs to focus on product first, followed by content. Or use a content block on the right hand side of the page.

Customers may use your search bar as a help section. An example of this would be typing “returns” to find out how they can get their money back or exchange a product.

People may arrive at your site having been referred from social sites and want to find out more about a competition they saw on Facebook or Instagram. Make it easy to find whatever your customers are looking for and you will win friends and influence.

8. Auto Complete or Type Ahead

Fast auto complete can be very helpful for people who are unsure of their search. It reduces the work required to find a product and speeds up the journey.

The more intelligent this feature is, the more use it will be to your customers. Relevant or popular items want to be at the top of the suggestion list.

Rich features in the drop down can also help speed up a search. Price, offers, images and more may be shown in the drop down box. Images can be especially powerful here, inspiring the customer to click directly through to the page.

9. Misspellings and Synonyms

An up to date list of misspellings and synonyms are a key part of any on site search as they help the customer and eliminate extra steps in the customer journey.

Update your list of synonyms with insights from studying the way your customers search. You may find that your customers misspell a brand name. It’s vital to learn what these terms are and have the ability to add new spellings to your list. Better yet, automate this function.

You may need a thesaurus to guide people to similar products. This will link similar products so they both show in results and therefore providing a great way to upsell.

Your thesaurus may benefit from having the option of being one or two way. For example, if someone searches for sparkling wine, you may want to show them Champagne. Whereas a customer searching for champagne may not want to see cheaper options.

10. The Ordering of the Results

Ordering can take many forms; Price High to Low; Low to High; Most popular; On sale at the top; full price to the bottom; In stock at the top. Sorting can make it much easier to find the product that you want.

You may also need to override these sorts and keep some products at the top every time. An example of this would be where you wanted to highlight a particular offer.

The way that this is handled in the back end can help your online merchandising staff. It may be easier to drag and drop products, or you may want to number them. Make sure you consider these points when implementing site search.

11. Analytics

Learning how your customers interact with your site is essential in any eCommerce department. The best place to start is by looking at your data.

The ‘site search’ menu in the ‘behaviour’ section of Google Analytics should contain a wealth of information for you to help devise strategy.

Measuring the difference in conversion rate, session times and revenue between visits with and without search, will help you optimise your site. Google can help you formulate and test your hypotheses, understand more about your requirements and provide ammunition for budget requests to improve your site.

Share with us

Are there any site search tips you would like to share? We’d love to hear your questions or comments. Simply email us at or comment below.

The team at Hitworks is here to make your life easier and provide the information you need to make vital business decisions