If you walked into a shop in which it
was impossible to find what you were after, or you had to ask a staff member help you look, then you might not return. So it is with websites. Search clarity is everything.
According to sources including the WebSideStory Index (now part of Omniture), people who search within an e-commerce website are two to three times more likely to actually make a purchase than those who simply navigate around the site. The research is conclusive, says Mark Brixton, country manager (Australia) of internet search and navigation technology specialists SLI Systems.
“There are two ways people can find products on websites – navigate or use the search box,” he says. “Those who use the search box are a lot more directional. They know what they want and they are on the site to find it. If your site can produce a result that matches their query, then you are a lot more likely to make that sale.”
Online business systems are complicated beasts and they deserve
to be treated as such. Many Australian businesses have purchased entire platforms that come with their own site search mechanism and most are not up to scratch, says Brixton. Online retailers are now moving towards the US way of developing online business systems, which is to have specialists customising every aspect of a website.
“Australian online retailers like to ensure their site looks good but
they concentrate less on how it works,” he says. “You need to look
at what people search for and we bring that up the front. We ensure there are plenty of drop-down boxes to help people refine their
search by brand, colour, size, type and so on.
“This helps users get further down the funnel and removes the distraction of choice. It makes it less likely that they will go off the topic and it brings them more quickly to the checkout.”
Hold your customers’ hands
Understanding the way your customers search and the information they seek during that search is vital, says Brixton. Think about it as your customers having an extremely knowledgeable virtual assistant who really does understand their wants and needs.
During the purchase process, for instance, many buyers leave a site in order to check out blogs, forums and reviews of the product. Expose them instead to reviews on your own site and open the site up to blog posts, then there’s less chance they’ll go elsewhere for such information and more chance of a purchase within your own online walls.
Understand also that with the proliferation of smartphones comes a far greater need for efficient search functions on websites, as there is simply not enough real estate on the screens of the phones to navigate comfortably, says Brixton.
“If you make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for and make it easy for them to make a purchase, then they will come back,” he says.
“Companies that do it really well include SurfStitch, where a great deal of time and money has been spent,
not only on search function but also on photography and other elements that really engage people; and appliancesonline.com.au who make it very quick and simple to find something specific, despite a huge
number of products.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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