The missing personalisation opportunity

9th Mar 2017

Research shows retailers drive away 32% of potential customers with poor search results.

Online retailers have seen how personalisation on websites can reduce friction and increase the speed of a shoppers’ online journey.  In particular personalised recommendations and content has become an essential part of a retailer’s site to enable them to remain relevant and create tailor-made shopping experiences.

However, there is one key area that up until now has been overlooked when it comes to personalisation.  One so crucial, it’s hard to understand why there’s been limited innovation in this space. This area is personalised site search.

The scale of the problem

Research conducted by RichRelevance into how consumers use the search functionality on a retail website reveals that 94% of online UK shoppers use the search feature and the vast majority (97%) think it is an essential part of the ecommerce experience.

Shoppers who make search queries, have an intention to buy.  The top two ways consumers navigate around ecommerce websites is making search queries and browsing search results. Presenting relevant and engaging search results is therefore crucial to increasing dwell times and customer engagement.

It should worry retailers then, that a fifth (21%) of these potential customers are not satisfied with the ecommerce search results they currently receive – primarily driven to a lack of personalisation in this essential utility.

By showing poor product results when consumers search, retailers are actually losing almost a third (32%) of their potential customers. These customers said they were very likely to leave a site if presented with ‘irrelevant’ search results, and a mere 5% said they would definitely stay.

Consumer frustrations

So what drives shoppers away from shopping sites or apps? RichRelevance asked consumers to elaborate on their biggest frustrations when it comes to site search, and the following could be a good starting point for retailers’ analysis of their functionality;

  • Irrelevant product results (31%)
  • Inability to locate the right product (22%)
  • The search function not recognising their terminology or phrasing (19%)
  • A search box that isn’t user friendly (15%)
  • Slow load times (9%)
  • Lack of product images (4% )

It is vital to understand consumer search behaviour in both at scale and the individual level, in order to provide services that meet the basic expectations of today’s online shopper.  Product discovery is no different. Clearly, providing a personalised search experience could be a competitive differentiator for many retailers.

Essentially a personalised search function performs the role of an in-store assistant; dynamically guiding customers to the right products as fast as possible, displaying other products that might be of interest – and ultimately increasing the chance of converting a sale.  At the moment it seems most retailers are struggling to understand customers’ basic search queries and failing to personalise any aspect of product search.

As more and more retailers focus on true end-to-end customer experience personalisation in 2017, a new era of search is around the corner. Personalised search is there for the taking – and will be a missed opportunity for retailers who fail to act.

Article written by Matthieu Chouard, Vice President and General Manager of EMEA, RichRelevance

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