Personalization is now considered merchants’ best opportunity to differentiate their brands and compete against the Amazon juggernaut by offering their customers an enhanced customer experience. When prioritizing how best to implement personalization technologies, however, many sellers overlook a crucial component of the shopping experience: on-site search.
Shoppers increasingly expect merchants to deliver contextually-relevant experiences that take into account their past interactions with the brand. For example, our recent Holiday Consumer Trends Report showed personalization features were three of the top five improvements shoppers sought during the recent holiday season, from on-point gift picks to loyalty reward tie-ins based on past purchases. Additionally, two-thirds of consumers said they were willing to share data with brands to receive relevant discounts and loyalty perks, with 11% saying they wanted “totally personalized experiences,” according to a study by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Council.
In response, most merchants have prioritized a personalization strategy with rich, immersive experiences in mind. Using dynamic recommendations and content personalization from the home page onwards, merchants are tailoring the browsing experience to surface serendipitous finds, as well as precisely-attuned picks that address shoppers’ immediate needs. As important as it is to entice browsers with personalized experiences, merchants must also cater to so-called “spear fishers” — shoppers who arrive at the eCommerce site knowing what they want, and who are apt to use on-site search to locate it. A 2016 Forrester survey found that fully 80% of online consumers say they know, in general, what they’re looking for when they search for products online, and when these searchers are well-served by ecommerce site offerings, they reward merchants with orders.
For that reason, leveraging the powers of real-time personalization and on-site search is a crucial priority for merchants as they move past product-based cross-sells toward truly individualized shopping. To effectively do so, merchants should consider the following factors to ensure an enhanced on-site search experience:
Help long-tail shoppers connect with their intended products
Shoppers on the hunt for specific items can benefit from the machine learning today’s real-time personalization technologies employ. Enhancing product discoverability by optimizing category page results based on location, segment, and inferred preferences allows merchants’ search features to surface relevant picks more quickly.
Help B2B buyers stay on budget
Business buyers who order items for their company online are often working within far narrower constraints than shoppers casting about for various items such as gifts. Procurement requirements may include compatibility with existing office equipment or a defined set of brands, as well as an upper limit on the price tag — which means connecting business buyers with products that match their parameters is of utmost importance. Merchants can offer personalized account permissions to show special pricing and purchase history so that buyers see only those products they’re authorized to consider. Tailoring the B2B buying experience helps organizational buyers quickly find what they’re looking for, shielding them from unnecessary and often time-consuming searches.
Boost the relevance of top results on small screens
Mobile commerce is booming, and merchants are enhancing the mobile shopping experience accordingly. For example, half of the sellers in a 2017 Forrester survey are investing in mobile browsing and research features and functionality on smartphones. Given the primacy of on-site search for mobile shoppers reluctant to page through multiple screens to reach their intended target, it’s crucial to optimize the limited screen real estate to deliver the most relevant experience.
Show on-the-go shoppers products that are in-stock nearby
Merchants already integrate store inventory visibility with on-site search, typically by allowing shoppers to explicitly filter results based on local availability. For shoppers whose past interactions indicate a preference for in-store fulfillment, merchants can streamline the process and automatically prioritize products that are available at nearby outlets.
Eliminate the “no results” page – or at least make it engaging
Misspellings happen — but they don’t need to lead to a search dead-end. By tapping into big data and adjusting search configuration, merchants’ on-site search functionality can suggest keyword terms that will bear fruit and even return results for inexact matches based on how others searched previously. Should a query trigger the “no results found” page, displaying an assortment of product and content based on shoppers’ preferences increase the chance they’ll stay engaged and eventually find the right item.
Position merchants for voice-driven search
Usage of digital personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home is on the rise. While most interactions are informational queries (about the weather, for example), many retailers are partnering with these platforms to facilitate a voice activated search and buying experience. As such, merchants now have the ability to provide curated and recommended items based on past interactions via voice. Merchants who hone their on-site search capabilities will now be in a better position to compete when the time comes to optimize for this emerging shopping channel.
When executed correctly, personalization and on-site search can be a true differentiator to a shopper’s overall customer experience. By incorporating key elements such as voice optimized product listings, real-time inventory visibility and mobile-friendly technology, merchants can offer their customers an experience that is a step above Amazon.
Danielle Roberts is Senior Product Manager at Kibo