People search eCommerce sites in a variety of ways. The words they use and how they string them together are influenced by a variety of things including what motivates each search, how much information they already have, their own language patterns and preferences, etc. How do you ready your eCommerce site to display the most accurate result(s) despite these variations?
By studying and deconstructing the search habits of consumers, eCommerce usability expert Baynard Institute has determined the top ways users search, including search structure, search types and what drives a search. eCommerce implementors are using this kind of insight to reverse-engineer the way search engines and inventory catalog content can be improved to produce a better search outcome, improve ROI and increase conversion rates. This is what they found:
To begin, there are three basic constructs of any search:
- The query spectrum forms the base of a search and defines range. A user can set a query spectrum that is wide (for example “patio furniture”) or one that is more specific or narrow (Agio Heritage Chaise Lounge).
- A query qualifier sets boundaries or certain conditions the query must meet.
- The query structure determines how it should be interpreted by the search engine and includes the syntax and context of the query.
Within the query spectrum, consumers often perform one of these four common searches: an exact search, a product type search, a symptom search or a non-product search.
Using patio furniture again as our example, Agio Heritage Chaise Lounge is an exact search. By product type, a user might query patio furniture. An example of a symptom-driven search (though this is more relevant to sites selling medical and/or beauty products) could be need extra seating for outdoor event.
In addition to acknowledging these search types, there are other consumer behaviors to consider that can impact search performance and influence what query qualifiers are used. These include the fact that:
- Some consumers know exactly what they want, others are driven by more general search expectations
- Consumers don’t always spell things the right way
- Consumers sometimes use slang or symbols
- Some consumers tend to use subjective language in their searches
The 8 most common search qualifiers are:
By exact name: Razor scooter
Phonetic spelling: Rot iron plant stand (vs the correct spelling, wrought”)
By color: Orange laptop case
By theme: Fall kitchen accessories
Using generalized terms or synonyms: Laptop vs MacBook
Using abbreviations, slang and symbols: Xmas stockings
Using subjective language: Sturdy coffee table
Though these patterns of behavior may seem obvious to us as humans, even major eCommerce companies have work to do in terms of meeting consumer search experience expectations. According to the usability study:
- 22% of the sites don’t support search queries for a color variation
- 60% don’t support thematic search queries such as “spring jacket” or “office chair.”
- 84% don’t handle queries that specify a subjective qualifier, such as “cheap” or “high quality.”
What do consumers think about eCommerce companies when the site search they formulate returns results that don’t line up with their search expectations?
- The company doesn’t carry the product or a similar option.
- The company doesn’t understand what I am looking for.
- The company doesn’t care.
- The company isn’t “in the know” or relevant.
- The company lacks the resources to provide a competitive search experience.
The most optimal eCommerce search experiences are provided by sites whose search processes (including search engine capabilities and how it interacts with inventory) can intelligently respond to what we already know about consumer search behavior. These search experiences take into consideration things like:
- What is motivating the search?
- Is the consumer looking for an exact item or is there a certain problem he/she is looking to solve?
- How much knowledge do they have of the product?
- Are they searching using exact words or more generalized terms?
- Are the words they use objective or subjective or both?
By learning the most common ways people formulate eCommerce search queries and the reasons behind them, you can proactively improve your site’s search capabilities, ensure each user feels understood and bring them one step closer to conversion.
Find out how STRANDS Retail can leverage your product recommendations to maximize conversions.