Want More Buyers? 1.8X More $ales Come From Site Search

Click to enlarge this example of site search from Walmart.com.

Site search? Snore. But no—site searchers are 1.8 times more likely to buy than the average e-commerce site visitor, says Graham Charlton, Econsultancy editor in chief.
While site visitors only use onsite search 5.75 percent of the time, these searchers convert at a much higher rate—4.63 percent vs. 2.77 percent for the average visitor, Charlton writes on Aug. 19.

“Consequently, visitors using search contributed 13.8 percent of the revenues,” according to Screen Pages, the U.K.-based e-commerce marketing services provider that conducted this research for Econsultancy. “That said, there is room for improvement: 20 percent of people who used search went on to refine their searches (submit another search) and 21 percent exited the website from the search results.”

Ergo, e-commerce marketers may want to optimize site search to improve the experience for these determined buyers. Charlton explains why these searchers are more determined than the average surfer:

  • They intend to buy, they’re demonstrating that they know what they want and they’re trying hard to find it. “You need to get out of their way,” he writes. “Keep all the distractions off to one side.”
  • They’re “in late-stage buying mode.” Show them prices, whether the products are in stock and shipping prices.
  • They may also be loyal customers who have the site bookmarked and just want to take the path of least resistance.
  • Or, congratulations! A campaign worked. Now the searchers want to find something specific.

Charlton, Screen Pages and San Jose, Calif.-based SEM software provider SLI Systems provide site search optimization tips:

  1. Add Site Search. Charlton says some e-commerce marketers don’t even provide the option.
  2. Correct Misspellings. Charlton says 18 percent of sites “returned no results when a single character was wrong in a product’s name.”
  3. It’s “Cheesy Poofs.” Deal With It. Allow for alternative product terms, Charlton says, because “70 percent of sites require users to search by the exact jargon for the product type that the website uses.”
  4. Provide Site Search on results pages and provide drill-down options, Charlton writes.
  5. Show Popular Products and Searches “explicitly, with links to the relevant pages: This will reduce exit rates” among one in five visitors, Screen Pages finds.
  6. Add Keywords. Check site analytics and determine which keywords site searchers are using that aren’t on the SEO and PPC lists, then add them, SLI Systems advises. Improve navigation around those terms, Screen Pages adds. For instance, if searchers are trying to find product types, but navigation collections are based on brand, change that, Screen Pages suggests.
  7. Consider Automation. SLI Systems says there are tools that can add keywords to company lists as a response to searches.

What site search marketing questions remain?

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

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