For years, companies like Amazon.com and Google have been redefining customer expectations for shopping online, offering instant, personalized products tailored to their customers' wants and needs. The State of Search and Discovery report shows that strategically investing in search is not only vital for satisfying e-commerce customers, it's also pivotal for nontechnical users like product managers, brand owners and internal teams looking to evolve the search experience without relying too heavily on developers and IT.
The report surveyed 500 site search-knowledgeable leaders across various industries to sketch out best practices for e-commerce companies seeking to deploy search in innovative, effective and efficient ways. From investing in features to cross-team integration and budgeting, many of the insights point to the same big idea: strategically investing in search is better for your bottom dollar than a handful of flashy features. Here are some of the key findings:
1. Teams create better search experiences together.
If you want to create the best search experience out there, start by thinking outside the IT box. Cross-functional teams — not technical experts alone — create the most user-friendly and financially successful search programs, for both internal and external users. It makes sense: bringing together everyone who cares about or uses the product is bound to be more effective, and removes friction between IT and business teams. Furthermore, diffusing responsibility for search optimization frees up precious IT/developer team time to work on core technical issues.
2. A quality site search experience serves both end users and internal teams.
We tend to think of search tools in terms of customer experience, but quality search options are just as critical for the marketers, digital strategists, merchandisers, content editors and product managers behind an e-commerce company's products or content. When these employee users have a say in search experience development, the process is improved for everyone involved.
3. Browsing is the new search.
Search is key to helping customers find the products they know they need. However, discovery tools — i.e., browsing, filters and facets, personalization and recommending related products — help the customer find more of what they want. In fact, companies that utilize their discovery features are 2.2 times more likely to realize success from their site search. However, discovery is even more effective when paired with other frequently used features, like mobile-optimized search and search analytics.
4. Be strategic when it comes to new features.
When you see the success of search optimization, it's tempting to add on lots of bells and whistles. But Algolia's report emphasizes quality search functions, not quantity of features. Investing in third-party search tools is the best bet for your money, since they boast a high correlation between search functionality and success. In-house tools don't fare nearly as well, failing to increase financial returns after the first three to four features. Regardless of the type of tool, growing features should be done carefully, with a focus on search quality.
After a year when people relied on e-commerce more than ever to meet their shopping needs, businesses will be keener than ever to bring their digitization plans up to speed. According to the report, one of the best ways a company can plan for success is to invest in successful site search and growth. These best practices will create a better search experience for everyone, from the teams that create and market your products to the customers who enjoy them.
Matthieu Blandineau is a product marketing manager at Algolia, the leading search and discovery API for websites and mobile apps.
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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.