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Are Your Search Filters Responsible For Lost Sales

21st Feb 2017
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When your website has a good amount of content, that content needs to be accessible to your visitors through an excellent navigation system, and also an outstanding search function.

Most website platforms come with a built-in search function, and while you don’t always need to modify the search function itself, you can optimize your content in specific ways so it can be easily found.

Standard search filters aren’t enough

General search functions provide results based on keywords, just like search engines. And this works well for blogs, but it’s not enough when you’re selling products. People need more than keywords to find what they want on your ecommerce website.

Baymard.com makes a great point in their detailed analysis of what’s wrong with standard ecommerce search functions. When people perform a search and then sort the results based on price, the irrelevant results (like accessories) move to the top because they’re often cheaper than the product itself. If customers don’t have a way to filter out accessories, they’ll get frustrated.

If your customers can’t find what they’re looking for because they can’t sort their search results based on what’s important to them, you’re losing sales by the minute. You may have exactly what they’re looking for, but they might not have the patience to look through hundreds of results to find it.

Look at how Craigslist sorts data

The way Craigslist searches work is the perfect example of how you can classify and sort content based on what’s important to your customers, filtering out what they don’t want.

For example, when you’re looking for a car on Craigslist you can filter your results by make, model, mileage, transmission, cylinders, color, title status, and even condition. For this reason, nobody has to sift through thousands of ads just to find a blue BMW with an automatic transmission and a clean title.

Adding innovative classifications

Depending on your business, you might benefit from adding special classifications to your search filters that have more to do with a customer’s mindset than the product you’re selling.

For example, Trip.com allows customers to search for hotels and sort their results based on unique characterizations like families, luxury, business, trendsters, artsy, nightlife, history, green, foodies, adventure, backpackers, students, wellness, and vegetarian.

While it’s not necessary to add extra sorting characteristics, when done correctly, it can greatly increase the usability of your website and make your customers happy.

Consider what’s important to your customers

While it’s obvious what people are looking for in a car or hotel, you may not be aware of everything your customers find important about your products.

For example, if you sell aromatherapy candles, you might be tempted to think people are only interested in the color of the candle, the essential oils used, and how it will make them feel. So you may allow people to sort their search results based on those factors. But if you offer your candles in different wax types—like soy, paraffin wax, and bees wax—those details could be the deciding factor for a sale and need to be included in the options your customers can use to filter their search results.

Maybe your “Relaxation” candles don’t come as soy candles, but your “Fame & Fortune” candles do. When you have a customer who only wants soy candles, they should be able to filter their search results to find them.

PracticalEcommerce.com offers a list of seven tips to help you improve your search filters including creating a filter for what makes a product different and theme-based filters.

Put yourself in your customers shoes and think about what they might consider important about your products. When you discover what options are important to them, you can turn those options into filters.

Don’t make it too complicated

Being able to filter search results is great, but you don’t need to make it complicated by adding too many filters. The best approach is to create filters for the most important options, paying close attention to options related to allergies, sensitivities, special needs, and product uniqueness.

Ask for feedback from your customers

Your most valuable feedback is going to come from people who can’t find what they’re looking for. If you receive emails from people looking for something you know is on your website, but they can’t seem to find it, have a quick conversation with them to find out how they searched for the content. This will help you discover any gaps in the process.

If you really want to dig deep, ask them how they might expect to find the content. Although nobody wants people to have a difficult time finding products on their website, people who have a difficult time finding what they need can be your most valuable asset in improving your search function.

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Ahmad Ben - Bengu Marketing
By Ahmad Ben
22nd Feb 2017 14:00

Great post Anna - I agree and can vouch from personal experience that ecommerce websites can vastly improve their search function. I've lost count of the amount of times i've been searching for things and have just been flicking through the accessories of the product I want, so frustrating! I think ecommerce sites can make a significant improvement in sales by implementing effective search functions on their websites.

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