With web technology continuing to develop at breakneck pace, the pressure is constant on ecommerce site owners to keep up with the industry’s market leaders.
As if managing supply chains, inventory, merchandising, pricing, vendor and partner relationships, increasing costs, customer service, and marketing is not enough, you’re also faced with higher expectations of the customers who come to your website.
Remember the old days of ecommerce when just having a search box was enough—a best effort, if you will? With increasing product SKUs, enhanced analytics and increased demands from customers, search is the key component in ecommerce success.
Some best practices for your ecommerce site’s search engine:
Search terms are suggested on the fly with links to relevant search terms, categories or products. In the example below, from Harry & David’s site, when a customer starts typing in the word chocolate—at the point of entering only the first four letters–-search suggestions as well as products are immediately displayed.
Additional Search Functionality
Some other key features to look for with your site’s search:
- Synonyms and plurals support
- “Did you mean?” for misspellings with links to or embedded search suggestions
- Ability from the search results to toggle among various product color swatches
- Ability to serve targeted promotional graphics based on specific searches
A customer performs a search or browses a product category on your website; do you allow them the ability—either above or below the products—to filter based on key product attributes? The more products you sell, the more difficult it is for a customer to find the one they want to buy, especially if you have a deep product line within the same category.
By creating attributes for all of your products—relevant to each product’s category—your customers will be able to slice and dice their product results with ease. This should happen seamlessly, where products not included in the selected filter simply fall away.
Let’s say you sell boots, like Danner in this example below. Check out their useful filters for Activity, Features, Climate, Color, Height, and Fit (which includes Widths as well as Gender). They also incorporate the old standby Sort By, a great tool for shoppers still, especially once they’ve filtered the products that meet their interest to a manageable bunch.
Keep in mind when implementing attribute filters: “paralysis by analysis” can come into play when you throw every conceivable option out there for the customer to select. A recent visit to Home Depot’s site for French Door Refrigerators displayed no less than 16 filters.
On the Price attribute, we’re a fan of also allowing the customer to create their own price ranges in addition to any stock ones. Adding that as a slider is a nice touch, but even as Sears allows, one can add a range that works exactly for their budget.
Large Hi-Res Product Images with Zoom
It’s a personal pet peeve that product images—whether in the search results or product pages—are simply too small. Ecommerce owners should realize that the quality and size of their site’s images make a big difference in the customers’ perception of not only the quality of the item, but also as a reflection of the site itself.
Provide an opportunity on your product pages to zoom on hover for enhanced product detail and a click to see it massive-size (with your site’s background grayed out for maximum presentation).
And while we’re on the subject of images, a friendly reminder: don’t forget the alt-text so the search engines actually know what the image represents.
A Follow-up Email After the Sale
So often, it seems that it’s just about getting the sale. One key tactic of the best ecommerce stores is to send a third transactional email post-purchase (typically 1-2 weeks after order has shipped) simply thanking the customer again, asking if there is anything your company could improve upon, and lastly, a nudge to get the customer to come back to the site to write a review of the product(s) they ordered. The tone should be customer service in nature.
Make sure to also prominently display your social media links as well as regular contact information (which Zappos does in theirs, but did not make the screenshot). Your customers—if nothing else—will appreciate the non-selling check-in, and it is often a way for you to stand out from your competition.