When Evaluating Site Design and UX, Don’t Neglect Search
With social commerce on the rise — estimates have sales through social platforms growing from $27 billion in 2020 to nearly $80 billion by 2025 — consumer expectations of online shopping experiences are changing, particularly with respect to website design and user experience.
However, as brands adapt their sites to this changing behavior, one key feature is often overlooked: search. By optimizing how search functions and getting creative with how search is presented, brands can see a major lift in conversion and consumer satisfaction.
Building a more beautiful, functional search interface gives consumers more opportunity to find exactly what they’re looking for in less time — and discover products, information and experiences they didn’t know they were looking for in the first place.
The Growing Importance of Search
One of the main effects of a rise in social commerce is increased consumer exposure to specific products and services. Instead of simply recognizing a brand based on generalized advertisements, modern consumers see the exact products they want directly in their social feeds every day.
This new development is excellent for brands: High-intent shoppers are being funneled to a brand’s website with a clear mission of finding the product that sparked their motivation to buy. However, this path to purchase is also flawed in a specific way, and we’ve all been there: you’ve seen a product you’re interested in, you remember the brand enough to visit its website, but now you’re forced to search for a specific product armed with only a few descriptors.
Most site searches aren’t equipped to deliver accurate results based on a collection of descriptors, which means potential conversions are left on the table. By investing in a more intelligent search platform, brands are able to turn those valuable impressions into real dollars.
What Brands Get Wrong About Search (and How to Fix it)
One of the main problems with site search is that brands bury it. And it makes sense why: If a brand has determined that its search isn’t effective at leading to conversions, it’s only logical that it would deprioritize where it’s presented on its website. It’s a main reason why many websites conceal their search function in a tiny magnifying glass somewhere in the header.
But when you factor in that 43 percent of site visitors immediately go to a site search, and searchers are responsible for 2.6x the revenue of non-searchers, it makes the imperative of improving search that much more apparent. Brands that don’t invest in search are missing out on potential conversions, full stop. In fact, estimates put the amount lost annually to search abandonment at nearly $333 billion.
When a brand has invested in search and is confident that it can deliver the results customers are looking for, however, it opens up a whole universe of design possibilities.
Be Bold in Your Approach to Search
The goal of site search should be to get consumers to engage with it. Which is why search should be front and center on a website. Think of Google as the North Star there. What’s more, site search should help guide customers toward optimal results. Having a search bar with animated fill-ins that displays ideal searches can drive customers to what they’re looking for.
This approach to search also helps if a search function is based on natural language. Natural language solves the problem of a consumer seeing a product and only knowing brief descriptions. Being able to search for “green sweater with star design” and then getting exactly the right product is a powerful experience for a customer.
Search Should Go Beyond Product
Building a better search functionality is key for enabling customers to find the products they’re looking for, and discovering similar products and services in the process. However, search goes beyond product discovery — in fact, some 34 percent of search queries on e-commerce sites are non-product related.
For existing customers, the search function may be the only way to navigate a website in looking for instructional or informational content. Investing in a better search engine that can deliver accurate product results in addition to post-sales supporting content can be a major driver for customer loyalty and retention; not to mention the burden it pulls off of customer support staff.
As social commerce continues to push innovation in site design and UX, it’s important to remember how vital site search is as a differentiation point for brands. It’s never too late to improve search to drive findability and discoverability, increase conversions, and build lifetime customers.
Derick Jaros is the head of industry, commerce at Yext, whose Answers Platform collects and organizes content into a Knowledge Graph, then leverages a complementary set of products — including listings, pages, reviews and search — to deliver relevant, actionable answers wherever customers, employees and partners look for information.