How to Make Site Search a Conversion Tool

Shoppers have little patience for browsing when they’re looking for something specific. Yes, mindlessly scrolling around to pass time while waiting in line at the coffee shop is a trait many people share. However, when they’re looking for something in particular, they want to find it fast and when they do, they usually buy.

Here’s how to make site search a conversion tool.

1. Include it

If you don’t have a search function on your e-commerce site, you’ve been turning customers away every day. Studies have shown some 30 percent of online shoppers use search and they do so using specific product names or model numbers. Comparison shoppers in particular are more likely to use a search function because they already know what they’re looking for and are simply trying to find the best deal. In other words, these are people who have already decided to buy. They’re just trying to find out if they should buy from you.

2. Make it Easy to Find

While there are many stylized ways to blend search functions into the design of a site, the best way is to put it at the top of the page, label it “Search” and make it readily discernible. Those small magnifying glass icons are cute, but they’re easy to miss. You want your search function to stand out. Let’s say you open a furniture store online. Think of the search function as your salesperson on the floor that takes a shopper by the hand and leads them directly to the sofa they’re looking to buy. Why make your customer hunt this person down?

3. Make it Fast

Remember, visitors to your site are accustomed to using Google, which can find any fact on the web in a fraction of a second. If you’re expecting people to wait patiently while your site grinds away for several seconds looking for an item, you’re going to see a lot of bounces out of your site. Whatever you have to do to make your search function run faster is worth doing. Spend the money; you’ll make it back and then some.

4. Make it Read Minds

Auto-completion algorithms save a lot of keystrokes, which can help your shoppers find products much faster than typing out the entire name of an item. This can also be useful for suggestive selling, as the resulting list might contain other goods in which the shopper has an interest, as well as the original product. With auto-completion, your customer can select an item’s name, go straight to its landing page, click buy and make the purchase—completely bypassing a results page.

5. Make it Find Pictures Too

When searches do generate a results page, show images of the products along with the names, model numbers and descriptions. Human beings are visual creatures. Often a picture of the item will register in a shopper’s mind before a name does. Including pictures your customers find items more quickly and go to the landing pages where they can make purchases.

6. Make it Keep Track

If you listen, your shoppers will always tell you exactly what they’re looking for. If your search function keeps stats, you’ll learn what products are being searched for most commonly, you’ll see how that information compares to sales and you’ll be better positioned to ensure your customers find what they’re looking for when they visit your store.

While its potential is often overlooked, site search can be a powerful conversion tool when used wisely.

James is a freelance writer, blogger and an all-round computer geek. He loves to write on tech and data management.