6 Tips to Optimize Your E-commerce Search Before the Holidays

6 Tips to Optimize Your E-commerce Search Before the Holidays

Dana NaimMarketing Manager

Holiday e-commerce sales are expected to rise this year like never before. And while US brick-and-mortar shops anticipate a 2.7% growth, online spending is likely to grow 14.8% to a whopping $124.1 billion. This growth is in part attributed to customers’ increased use of their mobile devices to make quick and convenient searches. As of 2017, 40% of all e-commerce transactions already take place on mobile.

Also on the rise this holiday season ­­− customers’ expectations. To help shoppers find the items they’re looking for and ensure brand loyalty into the New Year, we’ve put together a list of the top 6 tips to help you optimize the user experience and capitalize on holiday sales traffic:

1. Review your analytics in real-time

The holiday season is the busiest commercial time of the year and your online customers will be providing you with tons of insightful information with every visit. Particularly helpful: learning about their behavioral patterns from the searches they make. Rather than risk missing out on potentially tremendous sales opportunities, routinely look over your sales and search analytics as they emerge. This will enable you to make effective, real-time decisions that ensure your shoppers see the items they are looking for in their search results. With a little effort (and analytics insights), you’ll be able to help prevent them from abandoning their carts before checking out.

2. A/B test your search during high traffic season

A/B testing is a critically significant tool for using data to improve search year-round, but it is most effective during the winter holiday season, in light of the higher traffic organically making its way to your site. Take advantage of your extra site visitors to try out a variety of new improvements that target particular kinds of search queries, such as searching according to phrases vs. keywords, etc. Not only will you instantly experience great returns via at least one experimental framework, but you’ll also learn which ones work best for your online business year-round.

3. Analyze data from last year’s holiday season

Review your search query log from the same period in 2017 and learn the most and least common searches, which search words led to the most click-throughs, and which search queries left customers scratching their heads, wondering where they can better or more easily find their desired items. Looking back at your logs is critical in understanding your website products’ discoverability − how easy or how difficult it is for your customers to find what they are looking for. Then, you can make necessary adjustments to your search engine, so you can direct customers to the products they’re looking for − faster. For example, you can enable similar words or phrases, such as e-bike and motorized bike, to generate the same product results.

4. Optimize your search for mobile use

To satisfy shoppers’ demands to make purchases from the comfort of their mobile devices, you’re going to have to optimize your e-commerce site search for mobile use, or run the risk of your customers relying on other sites, like web search engines or social media, which can whisk them away to competitors’ e-stores. Here are a few ideas to get you on the right track:

  • Design for mobile responsiveness − that means clear, concise, prominent placement of your search box, ensuring the most relevant results are always front and (top) center on the small, but ever-important smartphone screen.
  • Allow users to search from within results pages to filter results according to more precise parameters.
  • Avoid auto-rotating search carousels at all costs!
  • Make sure you have clear hit areas in your product lists.
  • Allow autocorrect errors and synonyms to generate similar product results. But also enable autocomplete with error correction, to be used at the shopper’s discretion.
  • Offer thematic product browsing and thematic filters, including those less traditional than “women’s shirts,” or “boys’ shoes.”
  • Allow shoppers to save search results.
  • Reduce your average load time to 1.6 seconds to prevent customers from bouncing.
  • Enable search results to show two additional upsell/cross-sell categories: alternative products and complementary products.

5. Optimize for voice search

Twenty percent of mobile queries are currently voice searches and voice tech research and development continues to produce tools with more mature and comprehensive capabilities. To prepare your e-commerce site for an influx of voice search queries, keep in mind that most will come in the form of questions, rather than as keywords or phrases. You’ll need to structure your catalog to answer these questions and long-tail searches (i.e. natural language), including key “trigger words,” such as how, what and best.

6. Apply NLP to make your search more intuitive

Shift your focus away from traditional keyword searches and enter an era of intuitive natural language processing (NLP), where each query is evaluated for its actual meaning. NLP understands what the customer intends to search for in their natural language, taking into account synonyms, qualifiers, special occasions, attributes, negations (such as “dress without sleeves,” and other linguistic phenomena. For example, understanding that “doorbusters” are highly-discounted items, rather than a product geared toward busting open a door. Or, understanding that “stocking stuffers for mom” are small-sized Christmas gifts for the customer’s mother. Such semantic understanding will help you present your customers with the items they want, even if their search terms could be understood in multiple ways.

Bottom line: This holiday season, give your customers the gift of a great search experience. Optimize your e-commerce site and enable shoppers to find and purchase what they’re looking for, with greater speed, ease, and precision. Doing so will not only improve your revenue for the New Year, it will also convert customers into loyal, long-term shoppers year-round.