Use Site Search to Improve the Mobile Experience

May 20, 2013 2:21 PM  By

cell-4Consumers equipped with mobile devices are discovering the convenience of browsing and shopping while on-the-go – searching for products they want, reading reviews, and comparing prices, all from their smartphone or tablets. While mobile commerce used to be all about researching products, more and more consumers are now using their devices to make purchases. In fact, eMarketer estimates that U.S. mobile commerce sales will reach $17.2 billion in 2013, up from $3.5 billion recorded in 2010, and by 2015 those numbers will nearly double to $31 billion.

Consumers are obviously embracing mcommerce – however, poorly designed mobile experiences may discourage them from going beyond your mobile homepage. A recent survey conducted by EpiServer indicates that 37% of consumers think most mobile sites are difficult to navigate, and 38% said they’d abandon a mobile site if it’s hard to use. Site search can play a lead role in creating a satisfying experience for the mobile shopper – since screens are smaller and bandwidth may be inconsistent, search is the tool that helps shoppers get from the home page to the checkout screen in the least amount of time. Here are some tips to help you create a search experience that enhances your mobile storefront.

Make results relevant: If they can’t find it, they can’t buy it. If you think shoppers are impatient on your standard website, just imagine their short attention spans when they’re mobile. Presenting customers with relevant site search results will mean they’re more likely to click on products.

List popular items first: As a merchant, you know which products and categories are most important to your customers – and if you look at search keyword data regularly (as you should), you’ve seen which products are clicked on most for various search terms. Your mobile customers, like all your customers, are likely looking for products that other people have searched for previously. Push the most popular products to the top of mobile search results so that the shopper can spend less time scrolling or going to the next page.

Mobile0Put the search box in an easy-to-see spot: Given the limitations of mobile shopping, it makes sense to give the most useful tools a prominent place on your mobile site. The search box should be one of the first things shoppers see when they arrive at the mobile homepage – so placing the search box at the top of the page, and making the box large enough to see easily, are both good practices. GotApparel.com, an online clothing retailer, takes this approach with its mobile search box:

Mobile1Add Auto Complete: Auto Complete is an essential on mobile sites, as it greatly reduces the number of clicks and keystrokes visitors need to make, which also reduces the number of spelling or clicking errors. Auto Complete offers suggestions once visitors start typing keywords into the search box – a hugely helpful tool for the shopper who’s short on time. Keurig, a retailer of single-cup coffee brewers, uses Auto Complete to show the most popular search terms just below the search box. Note that the search suggestions are carefully spaced out so that when mobile shoppers click on selections, they won’t inadvertently hit the wrong choice.

Space out or size up links and buttons: Speaking of the space issue, you’ve no doubt felt the frustration of “fat finger” clicks on your mobile devices, when you’ve accidently clicked on a mobile website item you didn’t want. Avoid this nuisance on your own mobile site by making buttons big enough to click on without triggering some other action. Also, leave enough space between the links for your visitors to click on without mistakenly navigating to the wrong page.

Turning browsers into buyers is always a challenge for online retailers, but even more so in the m-commerce market. Pay close attention to ways to improve the search function on your mobile site and you’ll likely see an uptick in mobile sales and conversions.

Space out or size up links and buttons: Speaking of the space issue, you’ve no doubt felt the frustration of “fat finger” clicks on your mobile devices, when you’ve accidentally clicked on a mobile website item you didn’t want. Avoid this nuisance on your own mobile site by making buttons big enough to click on without triggering some other action. Also, leave enough space between the links for your visitors to click on without mistakenly navigating to the wrong page.