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How to Increase E-commerce Conversion with Site Search

The Five Stages of E-commerce Search Maturity - Find Out Where You Rank.

Iain Fletcher
Iain Fletcher

Effective e-commerce site search directly and measurably supports sales revenue. On the high street, sales staff can guide prospects to similar or complementary products. But online, your on-site search box and search-driven navigations play the role of your sales team. After all, your online customers can only purchase the products they find on your website. So the larger your product inventory, the more critical it is to excel at e-commerce search. 

According to a recent e-commerce search experience report by the Baymard Institute, 34% of searches on the top 50 e-commerce sites don’t produce useful results, and 70% of those search engines can’t produce relevant results for product synonyms. Whether you’re a small e-commerce start-up or an established name in the market, consistently enhancing your site search usability will lead to a better user experience and higher conversion. So how is your company doing? Check out the five stages of e-commerce search maturity, which can serve as a guideline for your short- and long-term search enhancements.


E-commerce search maturity model


Stage 1: Just Starting Out

  • You use an out-of-the-box e-commerce search solution, embedded in your content management system or as a stand-alone product.
  • No significant efforts have been made to configure search to better suit your inventory and your customers’ needs, probably due to a lack of technical expertise on advanced search features.
  • Search speed may be sub-optimal, frequently taking a few seconds to deliver results.


Stage 2: Working on the Foundations

  • You recognize the importance of guided navigation and have done some work to organize product metadata. You are providing basic navigation options to your customers, such as price, color, size, and brand name.
  • You’ve been working on refining search result display and providing alternative sorting options. 
  • You monitor and care about search speed, and try to ensure consistently fast delivery of search results.


Stage 3: Getting Strategic

  • You’ve implemented a number of query processing techniques, such as using a spell checker, and a customized vocabulary of synonyms and abbreviations that are automatically added to the query to improve recall.
  • Further work has been done to normalize existing product metadata and to derive new metadata that enables additional navigation options.
  • You’ve done some basic relevancy tuning, using the tools provided by your e-commerce search engine.
  • You’ve started a “best bets” program to promote certain products against specific queries.
  • You regularly review query logs and have strategies in place to address search issues, such as identifying and addressing “zero results” occurrences.
  • Near real-time indexing provides accurate stock level information to your customers.
  • You use the flexibility provided by your e-commerce search engine as an integral part of your search marketing strategy (for example, to dynamically create category pages for Google to index).


Stage 4: Keeping Up with the Big Guys

  • Your query processing has become sophisticated. You think in terms of implementing realistic processes to ensure continual improvement. Query-side capabilities such as category snapping, phrasing, and statistical mapping to index fields have been implemented.
  • A flexible content processing system, such as Aspire, has been implemented to ensure rigorous content normalization and enrichment, prior to indexing.
  • You’ve developed search engine scoring methods to measure, monitor, and continually improve search results quality. Your use of query logs is now systematic, and delivering consistently high relevance is a key goal.
  • You continuously work on technical architectures to make sure that no query takes more than half of a second to deliver results.
  • Supplementary content, such as summaries of product reviews, is available in the index, and can be served contextually to compliment search results and support purchasing decisions.


Stage 5: Leading with Search and Big Data Analytics

  • You have an effective approach in place for measuring the impact of great search on your e-commerce business. You use these metrics to ensure ongoing commitment to investment in search excellence.
  • Your merchandisers have a wide range of search and analytics tools to work with, including relevancy adjustments based on product margins and stock levels.
  • You recognize the need for utilizing search quality analytics for achieving search excellence, on both desktops and mobile devices. Monitoring and improvement processes for search engine relevancy scoring are an established part of your day-to-day operations. 
  • You are adopting big data analytics techniques as a foundation for even more sophisticated search result personalization, recommendations, and product promotion.
  • Your search system is also being used as an analysis platform, providing both real-time information and trend insights to your management and merchandisers. And you are using this search-led intelligence to help guide your business decisions and e-commerce personalization for online shoppers.


How Did You Score?

Did one of the stages along the e-commerce search maturity path look familiar to you? Maybe you’re still just getting started or already looking to move on to the next level? Share your challenges and success stories with us!

-- Iain Fletcher, Marketing Director, Europe