So, you’ve joined the ranks of Internet Entrepreneurs. You’ve got a shiny, new, e-commerce site with a while bunch of trendy products and you’ve spent hours of your time and money promoting it and the traffic is coming in! Unfortunately, the sales aren’t.
That scenario isn’t as unusual as you may think. In fact, depending on what studies you choose to read, the estimated rate of failure of online retail businesses in the first year falls somewhere between 70% and 90%. That’s a lot of wasted effort by a lot of would-be business people. The big question, of course, is why there’s such astronomical gap between success and failure in this type of enterprise.
There’s no single answer, but going back the that first paragraph, if you’ve established the site and have good traffic coming in, the number of probable reasons becomes much smaller. In fact, most of them are fairly closely related and I’m about to tell you how a custom site search can help solve most of them. Let’s look at some of the most common problems:
The Wrong Products
Internet buying trends ebb and flow and fluctuate. Today’s hot item may be tomorrow’s candidate for the trash heap. Not only are Internet shoppers fickle, but access to resources like Consumer Reports can change public opinion about a brand or product in a heartbeat. If you’re not aware of the changes in trends, you’re likely to end up with a whole lot of inventory and not a lot of profits.
Hot Products Can’t be Found
If you’re keeping up with the buying habits of the shoppers out there, but your products aren’t selling, it’s very likely that your visitors aren’t finding them. That opens up a whole new set of reasons, such as:
- Your site doesn’t have a search engine
- There’s a site search, but it isn’t working correctly
- There’s no auto-suggest mechanism
- Customers can’t filter search results
- There are no visual clues
to name only a few. It doesn’t do any good to have the hottest products unless people see them.
Finding Something Takes Too Long
One of the most important things to know as an online seller is that Internet shoppers are always in a hurry. They’re spoiled to the convenience of entering a keyword or two, locating what they want and buying. If finding what they’re looking for takes too long on your site, there are probably plenty of other sites that have it and they will simply move on to the next one in line.
To be fair, those three items above may be oversimplified and they’re not the only possible reasons people don’t buy from an e-commerce site. All are serious problems, however and at the very least will reduce the number of sales you’re going to make. More importantly, those problems and many more can be resolved with the right site search engine.
The Features of a Good Site Search
Now, it’s important to note that I mentioned “the right” search engine. There are an incredible number of them out there, from built-in searches on platforms like Magento to expensive, bulky add-ons for the other popular e-commerce programs that come with an instruction manual for installation and use. Some are more complete than others, but very few offer what I consider to be a complete solution. Here’s what they should include:
Lightweight, easy implementation: A website search package shouldn’t require you to reprogram half of your e-commerce solution to implement it. Downtime should be minimal.
Seamless integration: The search and all its functions should look like they belong to your site, not like visitors are being handed off to somewhere else.
Smart suggestions: When your visitors start typing in the search window, suggestions should begin to appear within a few keystrokes, based on popular searches and other criteria you specify.
Visual cues: Both the suggestions and search results should contain images that help customers easily spot what they’re looking for.
Customizable searching: Visitors should have access to filters and categories to quickly narrow down their search results.
FAST performance: Server load should be kept to a minimum on all functions. Cloud-based functionality is the best solution for this.
Self-learning: The core program should learn from customer trends and search results to optimize future searches.
Data collection and analytics: Data from customer searches should be collected and analyzed by the program for optimization. There should also be a back-end analytics program for the shop owner to monitor buying trends, see what customers are looking for, and direct merchandising efforts like product placement.
That’s a Lot to Ask For!
You’re right; that’s a lot to expect from a site search engine. What’s more, I’m going to throw in one more expectation: It should work with your existing platform.
All the major e-commerce platforms, such as Wix, BigCommerce and Magento, offer some sort of search feature, and for those that don’t it’s not difficult to find extensions (add-ons, plugins, etc.) to add that functionality. Their usefulness in terms of what we’ve discussed here varies.
The point is, however, that you shouldn’t have to switch platforms or modify the core programming to implement all of this for your customers and yourself. That applies even if you’re running your online store on a more obscure or custom-developed framework.
Wrapping it Up
When it comes to increasing sales, few things have more impact on your web store than getting your potential buyers where they want to go quickly. One of the best ways to accomplish that is with a website search that provides that functionality for your visitors. The bonus is that with the right search application, you’ll be able to do even more to optimize your customers’ experience.
I'm SEO specialist and certified Adwords consultant. I have been working in Search Engine Marketing for over three year. In addition working in SEO, I love writing about the subject and contributing to forum discussion in forums about various aspects of Search Engine Optimisation from link building to content development. Read more about me here