‘No Results’ = ‘No Reason to Stay’: 8 Ways to Improve Your Site Search

If a customer walked into one of your brick-and-mortar stores — assuming, for this exercise, that you have brick-and-mortar stores — and asked if you had any Sleepytime Pajamas, how would you want your sales associate to respond? Whether you only carried Sweet Dreams Pajamas, you’d just sold out of Sleepytime, or you didn’t sell pajamas at all, you’d never want the employee to say, “I’m sorry, we don’t have that,” and walk away. You’d train your staff to suggest alternatives or guide the conversation toward what you did have, to improve your chances of making a sale.

Why should your website be any different? A site visitor who searches for Sleepytime Pajamas andreceives a blank “sorry, no results found” page is unlikely to proceed any further, instead looking for other online retailers who can help.

Build in Customer Satisfaction

Of course, a lack of results can be caused by many things — some due to the user’s approach andsome due to your site search’s limitations. For example, a pajama-seeker may try searching “PJs” or “nightgowns” or “sleepwear.” Each one would be appropriate, but if your site isn’t smart about search terms, three of them might come up empty. And that’s not even considering misspellings or specific brand names.

That’s why it’s critical to make your site’s search function more robust and users’ experiences more satisfying. Following are eight proven ways of enhancing your search function to make your site stickier. 1. Make your search box more helpful. Incorporate rich auto complete into the search field to offer suggested search terms based on your inventory and content as a user types in a query. This helps head off spelling challenges and ensures that there are actual results associated with a query.

2. Build a thesaurus. Review your site search data for misspelled words or synonyms that your search wouldn’t be able to recognize — then add these spellings and terms into your search.

3. Index deeper. Ensure that product features — not just names and brief descriptions — are indexed by site search. Words like “flannel” or “jersey” might be just what a shopper islooking for, but they may not appear until the bullets.

4. Offer substitutes. Use a “Did you mean …?” alternate option for searches that come up dry. Rather than saying, “Sorry, no results for ‘pyjamas,’ for example, you can ask “Did you mean ‘pajamas?'” and everyone wins. Pull these alternate phrases and spellings from your search data tomake sure you’re covered.

5. Showcase other brands. Of course, our pajama example has been leading us here since the first sentence, but the point is, don’t assume that someone who is looking for Sleepytime won’t be thrilled with your popular Sweet Dreams line. Creating a database of products and keyword synonyms allows you to capture more opportunities.

6. Display keyword-driven banners. In addition to text suggestions, a banner advertisement generated on the fly can be an eye-catching way to let visitors know about popular related products.

7. Shout out your top 10. Display your site’s most popular search terms and link them directly to search results pages. It’s probably not what the shopper came to buy, but it will encourage browsing.

8. Gather business intelligence. Reports of search phrases that have returned poor results can provide great insight into what your customers want or expect you to have. Collect these insights and consider adding new products or services to your offering.Finally, whatever else you do, make sure it’s easy for shoppers to reach your customer service team if they need assistance. A live representative is your last line of defense.

These approaches are easy to implement with most search solutions. You can use one or two, or incorporate all 10 to really maximize customers’ experiences with your site. Each one islikely to make your site stickier and your customers happier, and you will see your “no results”-related site departures decline.

Terry Costa is vice president of marketing at SLI Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].

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