With the holidays practically upon us, consumers will be flooding apparel brands hunting for seasonal deals. Fashion brands and retailers selling online represent an enormous and booming market, particularly as stores shuttered during the pandemic.
More than ever, you need to be on top of your digital presence, as the demand for online apparel is constantly increasing. While some brands and retailers can find success just by having fashionable items available, creating a high-quality digital journey is something that often goes underappreciated.
Several factors contribute to a successful conversion for fashion retailers: A clean web design, crawlable site architecture and relevant product listings are just some of the success factors. But site search is one of the most important but most underutilized ecommerce tools.
Consumers don’t want to sift through pages of product listings; in fact, most aren’t looking to scroll past page two of the search results. Fashion brands and retailers that are best equipped for a fast-paced consumer are those who have enabled high-quality site search.
A good site search allows shoppers to easily browse products with a few simple keywords (brand, category, size, color, style, gender, etc.). On-site search typically leads to 2x/3x more conversions and 13% more revenue.
About 43% of site visitors will rely on a site search bar to find exactly what they’re looking for, according to Forrester. A person looking for a blue, XL North Face quarter zip for the colder months on a massive fashion retailer, for example, can easily narrow their search with just a few simple keywords or filters (e.g., fleece, ¼, blue, zip, size.)
While incredibly useful, site search can be tricky and sometimes difficult to get right. There are long lists of search rules needed for it to be efficient, and even the most experienced marketing teams can have a difficult time managing the complexity. Fashion brands and retailers can take immediate action today to boost their on site search functionality:
One of the easiest ways a site manager can ensure that a customer can find a product is to make sure the SKUs are always up to date and organized with the proper tags and groupings. An improperly tagged item can find its way into the wrong taxonomy, making it less likely to show up in a query.
Once upon a time, there were entire systems for product recommendations and personalization. Turns out, search companies have the data and ability to personalize both recommendations and search results based on past user behavior (searches, pages or products viewed, purchases, etc.).
Plan for User Error
Nearly 20%-30% of search queries contain misspellings as people rely heavily on autocorrect and predictive text to complete their written thoughts. That’s why a site’s search functionality should account for misspellings and typos with features like “did you mean” pages and autocomplete.
For those interested in a more forward-thinking approach to improving site search, look to artificial intelligence. Features that were once hard to configure — from spell correction to autocomplete — are now available to retailers of all sizes.
AI improves site search in two core ways:
Search relevance: Buyers expect the most relevant search results when using your search engine. If they search for playing cards, they expect to see a deck and not birthday cards, gift cards or greeting cards. Traditionally, ecommerce website designers would have to write complex rules in order to deliver the most relevant search results. But thanks to AI, search engines are able to improve relevance without manual labor.
Search ranking optimization: AI models can be used to optimize ranking, too. True artificial intelligence that employs deep learning uses customer behavior (clicks, signups, conversions, etc.) to determine how certain search results should be ranked. Higher converting results are re-ranked and boosted to improve site performance. This eliminates the guesswork of ranking and can lead to increased revenue.
While using predictive AI models to influence a customer’s purchase decision can have a great impact on revenue, it’s important to know that there will always be a human element at play, too. Ecommerce site managers are still responsible for overseeing the platforms, merchandising and design of high-impact sites.
Online fashion retail is an evergreen industry driven by the wants and needs of the customers. If you want to remain relevant and retain customers, you need to keep up with the search speed and strength of Amazon and Google. Thanks to AI, fashion brands and retailers of all sizes can stay competitive with industry leaders.
Hamish Ogilvy is the CEO and co-founder of Sajari