E-Commerce Design Trends: Making Search an Experience

When it comes to on-site search, many ecommerce companies treat it like the black sheep of website functionality. They’ll utilize the default searching capabilities of their shopping cart or perhaps drop-in a Google search form. We’ve evolved our thinking on the role of on-site search plays and have found it to be a hugely under-utilized opportunity for merchants to increase conversion.

Users that have entered a website knowing exactly what they’re looking for have a higher likelihood to purchase than someone who is casually browsing. By not catering to this ‘purchase-ready’ user, we’re basically throwing away money.

Luckily, upgrading your client’s on-site search functionality can be fairly straight-forward, as a number of third-party platforms have emerged offering it off-the-shelf. A few examples include Nextopia, Swiftype, and Algolia. Naturally, there are differences between these platforms, but the core features are fairly consistent. The features that have us and our clients most excited are Real-Time Search Results, Search Filtering, Featured Search Results, and Search Analytics.

Real-Time Search Results are becoming increasingly common on major retail websites. It’s where a list of results appear underneath the search bar just as the user is typing out their query. Those results might be purely text or include entire summaries of product information.

Search Filtering allows users to filter through the results they see after submitting a query to help narrow-down the list of options. By default, many ecommerce platforms will show any content (product or otherwise) as part of the results with minimal differentiation or relevancy. One of these third-party tools provides additional filtering capabilities that allows the user to personalize the results they see.

Featured Search Results allows merchants to customize how they’d like search results to function on a per-query basis. This allows merchants to ensure certain products are always promoted, useful when trying to liquidate inventory, highlight a sale, or test new product offerings. In addition, merchants can customize the results for any search terms that might lead to the dreaded ‘no results found’ message. Rather than leading your user to a dead-end, provide a useful ‘other suggestions’ list of results for common searches.

Finally, Search Analytics provides merchants with in-depth information on what users are searching for and their behavior within those search results. They shed light on products customers might be looking for that aren’t in stock, terms used to describe products that might not be included in product descriptions and much more. These analytics can serve as a major source of insight for exactly what your client’s customers want and tailor future marketing or design decisions.

This article is part of an E-Commerce Design Trends series with the Shopify Partners Blog.

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