Innovators in E-Commerce: How Retail is Progressing in the Site Search Maturity Model
Now, more than ever, retailers are realizing that search functionality is a critical component to success with an e-commerce website. In the recent 2018 Internet Retailer KPIs & Site Search Survey, 103 e-commerce companies were asked how their organization’s search functions impact their key performance indicators (KPIs).
The report highlights that although retailers are starting to take a different approach to search, many are still struggling to get the most out of their site search tools. Some of the biggest obstacles retailers face are search speed, relevancy of results and findability of intended products. The survey also highlights a disconnect between the urgency of understanding users’ search behavior and investment in related technologies. Over 40 percent of companies, including those with revenue more than $100 million, are at risk of losing revenue due to lack of budget they're able to devote to advancing their search capabilities.
So what exactly are these e-commerce companies working with? There are three approaches to search and discovery technology that vary based on the maturity of a company's strategy.
The first, and the most basic, is “Search in the Box.” This function is solely used as a transaction for users to find only exactly what they search for, often restricting the amount of relevant results that could result in a purchase. Because of its limitations, Search in the Box is now considered outdated and inefficient by search experts.
Improving upon that, “Search Beyond the Box” powers both search and discovery, including recommendations and personalization. This includes browsing, navigation and advanced faceting capabilities that result in product suggestions based on what the retailer knows about a consumer’s preferences and on-site history.
The most advanced, “Search Without the Box,” is able to predict and incite user needs. This function turns visitor intent into content. It uses textual relevance, business relevance and personalization to provide the user with a fluid search experience, and is often called conversational search due to its interactive nature and utilization of voice search. Although it's the most useful, less than 4 percent of survey respondents are currently offering this for their customers.
The Kooples, a popular European clothing brand, implemented “Search Without the Box,” to provide its users with an efficient search method. The retailer's search is an “as you type” experience, which means that its customers will see results before completing their search. Additionally, The Kooples have used facets to filter the results. This prevents the “no result” screen from appearing, which often causes users to leave the page entirely.
Although over 83 percent of respondents say that advancing their product search and discovery is a priority, 64 percent are still using Search in the Box. Lack of budget and user-friendly options continue to hold retailers back from pushing their search forward. Because of this, companies are starting to adopt new services and technologies rather than building them in-house. Although this would appear to be a given for many retailers interested in improving search, over 38 percent of respondents aren't using third-party search providers.
In order for retailers to be successful in the current market, they must innovate on their search functionality to improve the customer experience. Many trends are moving in conjunction with voice-activated devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo becoming more popular, meaning e-commerce companies need to catch up quickly in order to keep pace with consumer expectations. As these devices transform, so do user actions. This change is comparable to the transition from desktop to mobile, so as customers are acclimating to using their voice to connect to technology, companies must innovate to stay relevant.
Matthieu Blandineau is a product marketing manager at Algolia, a search and discovery API for website and mobile apps.
Matthieu Blandineau is a product marketing manager at Algolia, the leading search and discovery API for website and mobile apps. In this role he focuses on marketing and strategy for Algolia's retail solutions. Matthieu is passionate about packaging advanced technologies to help retailers achiever their goals and offer their customers the best user experience.