The search tool can be a powerhouse on any ecommerce website. Time and again, we see conversion rates increase for customers with search results in their shopping journey. The path that includes search also includes intent, and it’s your moment to capture a customer.
One simple area many retailers overlook when tuning their on-site search engines is customer service. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been trained to think about pushing people directly to products, and so we focus only on those terms. But as both the marketplace and consumer wallets tighten, it is time to remember good customer service is a differentiator.
In fact, during the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index benchmarking study of 120 retailers and brands, we came across some great examples and not-so-great execution of on-site search results.
Anytime we searched for customer support-related topics like “international shipping” on the U.S. Adidas site, we would receive this maintenance page.
On the other hand, when you search “Curbside” at Target, not only do you see various search topics related to pick-up in the recommended search fields, but the results page is focused on how their drive-up service functions. This is exactly what the customer expects.
Some retailers will include search within their Help or Customer Care sections, which is wonderful. However, it’s important that these searches index the support care articles.
When searching for information about reordering at CVS, our search results were only for products the store sells—and not only the ones eligible for subscriptions.
Overall, 88% of brands and retailers offer suggestions for empty search results, an increase from last year’s 2022, according to the Index. And 95% auto-suggest search terms. An emerging search function is auto-populating the search bar with top or trending searches, which is something 43% of brands do, according to the study.
Not sure how to get started on your website? A great starting point is to add keyword redirects to your on-site search. Don’t make your customers dig through your footer — especially difficult on sites with endless aisles — or poke through the layers of a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page or Help Desk. If a customer types “Returns” into your search box, take them directly to a page explaining the return policy.
Five of the most popular and useful searches to include redirects on are:
Including these types of informational pages from search can lead to a reduction in both chat and phone time for your customer support agents. This allows your live chat to be better used for helping to find the right item. Even better? The quicker shoppers find their answers, the quicker they get to checkout. Good customer service and easy-to-find FAQs can lead to improved conversion rates on the search journey path, too. Including customer service information on an empty search results page can help. Only 21% of retailers do this, and that’s down from 31% in 2022, according to the Index.
The redirect on searches can also drive merchandising-related questions and help support the Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS) business. Customers who live chat to ask about which items are available in a store nearby may be able to search for “at my store” and have the “In Store Pickup” filter automatically applied to the search.
Allowing customers to self-service their customer support expedites the buying journey and leads to both increased conversions and happier customers. Customer support is a small piece within overall search tuning but can yield a noteworthy impact.
Want to read the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index Executive Summary? Access the report.
Chelsea Mueller is a Senior Consultant in OSF Digital´s Strategy group. She has two decades of experience in ecommerce transformation and growth. She has extensive knowledge in ecommerce leadership, crafting loyalty strategy, building teams, constructing ideal tech stacks, expanding omnichannel offerings, and boosting customer confidence and conversion rates through payment enhancements including Buy Now Pay Later, alternative payment methods, and fraud mitigation.