Picture this: you’re on a website shopping for a waterproof camera but can’t work out the right search terms to find it. “Waterproof camera” isn’t turning up the product you had in mind, but maybe “underwater camera” will. How about “action camera” or “ruggedized camera”? The list goes on, and your frustration rises.
Now imagine this is what customers go through on your website. In an online space with seemingly infinite options, potential purchasers are more likely to try another site with a more clued-in search function than waste time playing “guess the search term” on your site.
In 2019, over 3.5 billion eCommerce searches led to $2.3 trillion in revenue for online stores. With eCommerce sites continuing to boom, a well-informed onsite search system can mean big business for your brand.
A quality eCommerce experience not only uses high-quality product data to match a variety of search terms but offers an array of smart ways for users to find what they’re looking for – and maybe some unexpected treats along the way.
This is the world of product discovery. It differs from a simple product search in that it provides contextual results, offering related items and personalized recommendations. By showing users your business understands their needs, you can use search and discovery to build a trusting and ongoing relationship with them.
Automated search is the customer assistant of the future, and just as customers expect a certain degree of quality assurance in a VoIP service, they demand a quality experience when shopping online.
Read on for five ways to improve the product discovery process on your eCommerce site.
1. Personalize Search Results
Personalization is one of the big marketing trends of 2022. It ensures customers feel seen and heard by tailoring their shopping experience to them. A personalized customer experience can reach across channels, offering bespoke messaging via email marketing, onsite offers, and retargeting via social media and paid ads.
Data suggests two-thirds of customers stay loyal and make frequent purchases from brands that personalize their buyer journey. This is because personalized messages, offers, and recommendations make shopping easier, ensuring the right products are found quickly.
To benefit from this loyalty, start with detailed product catalogs, including accurate and optimized metadata. This is a perfect time to revisit your product tags from your oldest to newest product pages and enable a dynamic personalization experience.
Fashion retailer Madison Island implements this strategy by using information on how long shoppers have spent browsing different product pages to order their search results in favor of the items most similar to those already viewed.
With AI tools in your pocket, you can automate this process and see data updates in real-time based on ongoing buyer behavior. This means updating a customer’s suggested products as they shop based on their browsing or purchase history.
2. Use Intuitive Autocomplete
An eCommerce store’s search bar is a key point in the product discovery process. It’s the place customers gravitate to whether they know exactly what they want and need it quickly or have a vague idea and want to see options.
As with much of marketing, brands are taking their cues here from Google – and rightly so. The relationship between SEO and user experience runs deep and never more so than when it comes to suggested search.
You know the drill: you begin to type a question, and the dropdown field automatically updates with autofill suggestions and popular related searches. This not only gets the customers who know what they want to the right product more quickly but offers those who are just browsing a launch point for the product discovery process.
Thanks to AI and algorithmic search, your onsite search engine can also look at the real searches being conducted on your website and discover what’s common and/or trending. They can then suggest different trending keywords relevant to the characters entered, offering shoppers something that will catch their attention.
This can boost sales and conversions by as much as 24 percent, with customers being guided down the sales funnel toward the relevant product detail page and also exploring products they may not normally find on the site.
For example, alternative lifestyle retailer Killstar combines text and visual elements in their autocomplete suggestions, showing thumbnail images of potential matches alongside a list of likely search terms.
3. Reduce and Optimize Null Result Pages
Not every search result is going to yield a trove of products. Occasionally, customers’ poorly worded or misspelled search queries will result in a null results page.
In 45 percent of cases, this is the end of their journey. They assume the store has nothing to offer them and move on to another retailer. However, an optimized null results page is only the beginning, offering related searches and personalized recommendations to get shoppers back on track.
Firstly, analyze your historical search data for common spelling errors, and map these as standardized meta tags. This means the next shopper to make the same mistake will be shown the content they were searching for rather than an error page.
In some cases, a shopper will search for a product that simply isn’t in the catalog. In this scenario, take the opportunity to promote products or categories related to the search terms used. For example, a search for purple dungarees may not yield any exact matches, but showing the shopper dungarees in other colors or jeans in their chosen color, could extend their customer journey.
For the GAP, null results caused by misspelling of keywords still end up showing potential results of the possible typo!
4. Use Product Sorting and Filtering
Another common discovery point for shoppers is browsing. For example, someone searching for a black backless size 10 dress may first click on the “womenswear” category, then “dresses,” then filter the products to show the style, size, and color they want.
Done right, this quickly filters out products that won’t fulfill the shopper’s needs and guides them instead toward a small selection of items they can choose from.
For small businesses getting started in eCommerce, this becomes a critical building block in the buyer experience. By creating accurate meta tags for each item as it’s entered into the shop, marketers can create a bespoke browsing experience from the ground up and showcase the right products to the right people.
Nonetheless, 38 percent of webshops don’t use filters, missing out on the chance to empower users to create their own bespoke listings. This leads to bounce and cart abandonment, as shoppers may be unable to find the right color in the right size or the right style at the right price.
Again, the benefit of this approach is twofold, as the rich data from customers’ filter choices can feedback into marketing decisions. For example, if people are commonly filtering for both tablet computers and wireless headphones, you can see these items are often bought together and design product recommendations and even limited-time offers based on this information.
Fashion retailer Mavi goes one step further, offering detailed sizing filters such as waist, length, fit, style, and color. This gives shoppers a sense of creating a bespoke product for themselves as they filter through the available options.
5. Use Product Finders
A knowledgeable in-store assistant can make all the difference when it comes to shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. Recreate this experience on your eCommerce site with a product recommendation engine.
These guided selling tools ask shoppers simple questions to identify their needs. Based on their answers, a product finder can narrow down data from your entire store and “handpick” suggestions that fit the bill.
Data gleaned from customers’ answers then feeds back into the system, helping your business to optimize products, marketing, and on-site search based on the most common customer requirements.
While this process closely mirrors the browse function of an eCommerce site, in which customers use filters to narrow down their options, its natural dialogue-based format helps customers feel looked after and gently guides them toward a decision.
The best product finders use lots of visuals – for example, asking shoppers to pick their favorite color scheme from a series of swatches or a mood from a set of artistic images. They ask easy and intuitive questions that shoppers can answer without too much deliberation and take the chance to educate buyers where needed.
Digital service provider CopyHackers achieves this with a slide-in scroll box on the landing page, which helps users find the right service by asking a few questions about themselves. This customizes the user journey from the beginning, quickly converting traffic.
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Boost Your Product Discovery Process
The world of eCommerce is ever-changing. From the latest POS software to the newest marketing hacks, successful brands must always be on the lookout for the next big thing in online sales.
By utilizing personal search results and intuitive autocomplete, you can boost customer satisfaction off the charts. Add to that a creative means of optimizing null result pages, strategic product sorting and filtering, and clever product finders, and your business is on its way to gaining and retaining a loyal customer base.
The world of search is changing, too, with visual and voice-driven search already causing waves across desktop and mobile devices. These advances are sure to affect the way shoppers use onsite search, but the core principles remain the same.
Strong data management, rich metadata, and specific product tags form the bedrock of today’s user journey, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Get ahead of the game now by revisiting your product data and building a scaffold of strong tags that help guide buyers to the products that suit them best.
Written by our guest writer John Allen, Director of SEO at 8×8, a VoIP service
John Allen is a driven marketing professional with over 14 years of experience, an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across SEM, SEO, paid media, mobile, social, and email, with an eye to new customer acquisition and increasing revenue