4 Ways to Make Search Results Page More Engaging

The number of online shoppers who prefer searching rather than merely browsing is rising, as search allows them to more easily home in on what they want. But providing accurate search results, although fundamentally important, is not good enough to fully engage your visitors.

Given this preference towards search, e-retailers are discovering the important value that search results pages deliver, as they strongly contribute to the overall user experience and keep more visitors engaged.

The key is to build in features that present more products in a visually appealing way, and allow visitors to see enticing product details without having to click through to a product page. Such enhancements to your search results pages can dramatically improve your chances of turning a browser into a buyer.

Here are four ideas for adding ease-of-use features to your site search results pages:

Quick view windows satisfy curious shoppers
For many shoppers, conducting a site search is not just a way to get lists of links to products – it’s a way to take a closer look at your products without actually touching them or trying them on. Quick view or quick look windows work by showing buttons that hover over product images in search or category pages, or simply appear just below a product image.

When customers click on the button, they’ll see a window with some basic product info, such as a larger picture (which they can zoom in on if they choose), a short description, and sometimes even product ratings and “add to cart” buttons. It’s almost like a mini-product page.

To go back to the search results page customers simply close the window rather than click a series of back arrows. Harry and David does this, letting quick view users buy a product and even add it to their favorites list without separately going to the product page.

Product status updates prevent disappointment
No one wants a customer to get excited about a product, put it into the shopping cart and hit the checkout button, only to discover that the item is out of stock. This is a problem that we still see on several brand name retail sites with homegrown or built-in search. A better approach is to shift stock information to the beginning of the search, so that your customers have a chance to look at similar products that might be more readily available.

For example, if you add stock updates to search listings, you can instruct your site search to only display in-stock items, or rank in-stock items higher than out-of-stock items. You can also add a refinement to search that lets shoppers choose whether they want to see out-of-stock products. And for any out-of-stock products, be sure to include information about whether it will be in stock again soon or if it’s permanently unavailable.

Consider also how you’ll display stock information and how to make it easier for customers to recognize an out-of-stock situation. Hair-care retailer Folica does this by placing stock status next to its “buy now” button. But when a product is out of stock, the retailer changes the button to read “out of stock,” and changes the button color to gray – a good visual cue for shoppers scanning search results.

Hybrid search/category pages woo brand lovers
If your product mix includes some high-profile brands, a hybrid search/category page can display more products for (and create more sales from) shoppers who search by brand names.

These pages look somewhat like a store within a store, and can include elements that you would usually find on a category page, such as a large graphic, copy that relates to the brand or the category, special promos, and feature articles. Here you can see Sports Unlimited’s search/category page for the Under Armour brand of athletic clothing.

Anyone searching for “Under Armour” sees this page and will know instantly that they’re in the right place. They can also start shopping straight away within categories such as men’s or women’s clothing, or by clothing item. If customers don’t see the product or category they want right off the bat, they can view some of the most popular products under that brand name. They can also still use the usual search refinements, as seen on the left – for instance, they can filter their search by sport or price.

One of the most popular uses of search category pages is for gift guides. You can pull together a group of products (such as items under $25, or items relating to Father’s Day), and group them under a special header with seasonal graphics.

Infinite scrolling helps shoppers see more search results
You’ve probably used infinite scrolling when you’ve been on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. When you scroll down to view posts and get to the end of visible results, you automatically get more posts to view – you don’t have to click on a page number or “next” link to see more.

By using infinite scrolling, you make it easier for shoppers to view more search results without the need to click – which hopefully gets them browsing and buying faster. Shoppers in a hurry may not bother to click through to the second page of results, since they assume that if the product isn’t on the first page, it’s probably not there at all. Infinite scrolling makes it easier to have search results merely show up on the screen, which means customers are more likely to keep looking.

Terry Costais vice president of marketing at SLI Systems.

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