Aliya Zaidi
Aliya Zaidi 16 June 2020

The Future: Build Trust in Your Website by Making Your Site Search Smart

An effective site search strategy is crucial for driving conversions and moving consumers down the funnel. However, many website owners are still not making site search a priority. As can be seen from the trends below, optimising site search has a significant effect on building consumer trust, while neglecting its importance results in lost sales and, in some cases, greater customer churn.

Site search still playing catch-up to shifting consumer trends. 

The consumer purchase cycle has significantly evolved in the last few years, but in many ways, site search is still playing catch-up to keep up with the latest trends. 

While there has been a shift in customer behaviour, in many ways traditional site search functionality doesn’t reflect this shift, and an ineffective strategy can leave many customers’ queries unresolved. 

This is the theme of a London Research webinar carried out in partnership with Yext.  

The rise of smart devices such as Google Home, Siri, and Alexa, means that, increasingly, consumers are looking for a conversational answers to their questions. However, most experiences using the site-search function on ecommerce sites are still sub-par. According to research from the Baymard Institute, 34% of website searches end in failure.

This is because many sites do not understand nuance, and instead expect the consumer to type in the exact product name or phraseology. In fact, 70% of sites expect site visitors to use exact terminology when search for a particular product on the website. 

Neglecting site search optimisation has a tangible effect on ROI. 

Failing to prioritise site search can come at a significant cost to the business. Most consumers favour the ability to find what they are looking for independently. A recent survey by Parature highlighted that 84% of respondents wanted to solve their own problems without having to resort to contacting the company. 

Failing to optimise site search has been shown to have a tangible effect on sales, as a result of missed sales opportunities. Over two-thirds of consumers (68%) who have a bad experience with search on your website won’t return. 

Research referenced in the webinar has also highlighted that consumers who perform site search queries are more likely to convert. The 15% of customers who use site search account for 45% of ecommerce revenue. 

What does the future of site search look like?

While it’s clear that more needs to be done to refresh site search on most websites, brand owners first need to ask themselves what a forward-thinking and future-proofed site search strategy looks like. 

Firstly, drilling down into targeting and employing a more personalised approach is crucial. Site owners need their site search to mirror customer behaviour and address common queries accordingly. 

With that in mind, here are three things your site search function needs to do:

  • Education: If common queries are not easily addressed by the FAQ section on the website, site search should help the consumer to easily find the information they are looking for. Optimally, the query should result in a distinct answer, instead of making the consumer follow a bunch of links. 
  • Provide support for consideration: While the consumer is considering a purchase, site search should provide suggestions or recommendations for particular products and services. 
  • Conversion: Finally, site search should lead to clear calls to action, and increase the likelihood of customers to make a purchase or drive conversion. 

Making site search smarter is the priority. 

An effective site search strategy must mirror consumer language and behaviour and this is where NLP can prove to be effective. NLP (or natural language processing) can be used in tandem with AI and machine learning to provide a much more nuanced response to customer queries. It allows website to provide a much more naturalistic response to visitor queries. 

Search is increasingly conversational, thanks in part to the rise of smart devices, which respond to questions posed by the user. Consumers will expect websites to be able to respond to site search queries in a similar way.

This has already been seen in SEO and in particular to how Google responds to organic search queries. The same principles can also be applied to on-site search. 

While there is still a long way to go, AI has made significant leaps and bounds in recent years, and therefore, similar uses of NLP are expected to quickly become the norm on ecommerce sites in a few years. 

Site search must be tailor-made.

In recent years, consumers are using a whole host of different channels along the purchase journey. We have seen the rise of voice search, facilitated in part by the ubiquity of smart devices within the home. Other forms of search, such as Google Lens, while still very much in their infancy, are expected to gain prominence as they move forward in the adoption cycle.  

It is important for brands to think beyond simple search solutions and focus on personalisation to provide much more individualised and targeted responses.

Research has shown that 65% of consumers trust search engines. Website owners can also build a similar level of trust in their brand by making site search a priority, and enabling consumers to find timely, relevant and up-to-date answers to their on-site queries. 

When website owners prioritise site search, it’s a win-win: consumers find it easier to find the information they are looking for, resulting in higher conversions for the brand. 

For more information on how to ensure your customers are finding the answers to their questions, register for the Foundations of Search: Building Trust on Your Website Webinar, taking place on 16th June (2:00 pm BST / 3:00 pm CEST / 9:00 am EST), hosted by Digital Doughnut sister company London Research in partnership with Yext. 

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