Online shoppers who can easily find what they want tend to spend more money. According to a recent WebLinc study, nearly 30% of online shoppers start each visit with a site search; if they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll quickly leave the site. The study also found that shoppers using internal site search deliver a 216% higher conversion rate and 21% higher average order value compared to customers that simply browse.
With so much riding on search, generating ‘no results’ pages can be disastrous to conversions. One of the best things you can do for your shoppers is to make it unlikely they’ll ever see this. Smarter search technology can help, but there are other steps you can take regardless of the type of search you’re deploying.
Find Searches That Are Returning Zero Results
The first thing to do is find out what searches are causing “no results” pages to display. There isn’t a report inside of Google Analytics by default, but there are ways to configure it to track this. Your search provider or shopping cart platform may also have a way for you to find this information. Are any of these searches happening in high volumes? If so, they need to be taken care of immediately.
Site visitors often use varied language to look for the same item – for example, pants and trousers; gowns and dresses; tee shirts and tshirts. You’ll want to program common synonyms into your search and/or shopping cart console.
Create Custom Results Pages for Common Misspellings
Online shoppers often make spelling mistakes (especially when using mobile search), and most sites can’t afford to lose out on sales or conversion opportunities due to the frequency of human error. According to a recent eBay analysis, among the most common misspellings are “shear” for sheer; “elegent” for elegant; “corderoy” for corduroy and “stripped” for striped. For common misspellings like these, organizations can create landing pages with a curated set of products and set up redirects. So for instance, any search for “corderoy pants” will get automatically redirected to a curated list of “corduroy pants” results.
For curated listings such as this, it’s generally a good idea to place products with the highest conversion rates on the top. Some organizations may want to experiment with alternate sorting rules, such as placing house brands or high margin products at the top. This strategy can be very helpful for not just avoiding “no results” pages, but also for displaying search results in a strategic profit-driving manner.
Of course, it’s not possible to cover for every possible search that will happen on your site, making a certain number of “no results” searches inevitable. To address these searches, you’ll want to adopt some search user interface (UI) best practices, all designed to make the UI as clear, informative and helpful as possible.
Confirm the Search
If a shopper made some sort of error when entering his or her query, they should be made aware of it so they don’t subconsciously place the blame on your ecommerce site. It can be a good idea to confirm and remind them of what they searched for, beneath the search bar in large font.
Provide Search Term Suggestions
Whenever possible, relevant search term suggestions should appear on this page. Also, explain to the user how they can improve their search query – by checking for typos, trying different or fewer keywords.
Display Related or Similar Products: The goal of the UI on the “no results” page should be to keep the user shopping. Displaying related or similar products, even though they may not be a perfect match (for example, a red blouse if the searched for blue blouse is unavailable), can be key to making this work. Third-party search solutions are generally required to make this work as machine learning algorithms are used to generate these suggestions.
Depending on the scope of products an online store sells, it might be helpful to suggest browsing popular categories. For example, a store specializing in t-shirts might have success displaying categories such as novelty, or undershirts.
If your search engine isn’t intelligent enough to pick up on certain keywords, it’s possible the contextual ads will do a better job at finding products that match the user’s search query.
When shoppers search for a product on your store, they are often far along in the buyer’s journey. While there are many different types of queries, a good portion of these visitors are ready to make a purchase if they can find the right product. It is incumbent upon eCommerce organizations to take steps to make locating desired items as easy, quick and convenient as possible. Those tips described above are a strong start and organizations should never stop trying and experimenting – you may be surprised at what works for your visitors.
Trevor Legwinski is Chief Strategy Officer for SearchSpring