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Ecommerce Site Search Tip


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42 replies to this topic

#1 BBCoach

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 04:17 PM

In case some of you haven't already incorporated auto-complete on your internal search, then you should seriously consider it. I took 8,000 most queried words (that returned results) on our site and incorporated it into a free JQuery script that does auto-complete. It has tremendously helped our customers find our products to buy. It's a nice compliment to your internal site search because it helps them spell properly. Anyways, thought I'd throw that out for you ecommers. Just Google [JQuery autocomplete] to find a JQuery script that works for you.

#2 adibranch

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 09:06 AM

hmmm i'd considered this on one or two of my ecommerce sites.. might give it a try, thanks.
But, how do you know its helped customers find your products? what research have you done? My concern is, are you sacrificing usability for gimmick. Ie, if i use a search on many sites, the suggestions are sometimes more of a hinderance than a help. It distracts me, i have to move my hand back to the mouse, i waste time loking through suggestions. If i'd just carried on typing without these suggestions, i'd already have my results in front of me..

Sometimes, too much info is bad. So, maybe i'm still not sure about the effectiveness of these. I also assume they're fairly heavy on sql requests, unless they're cached?

#3 BBCoach

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 02:21 PM

QUOTE
But, how do you know its helped customers find your products? what research have you done?
Simple adibranch. First, sales are up and customer emails asking if we have XYZ product is significantly down (40+%). Also, I look at the log info which indicates out of approximately 90,000 queries/day we were getting between 7500 & 10000 queries/day that didn't return results. That number is down to between 3-5,000 queries (most of those are for products we don't sell). In addition, I implemented a "Did you mean to search for <link to a more valid search>" feature seven months ago for queries that don't return results. These two features definitely assist our customers in locating one product out of our 30,000+ products.

Bottom-line is we're making more sales and not having to answer as many customer questions (win/win). Also, this feature has been implemented for a little more than three months and not a single email (or phone call) from customers complaining about the auto-complete feature. And, the emails saying, "Wow, you have a very cool site, blah, blah, blah." are appearing more often. Our site is not a cool hip site either. It's a down and dirty selling machine with no bells ringing or whistles tooting.

QUOTE
Ie, if i use a search on many sites, the suggestions are sometimes more of a hinderance than a help. It distracts me, i have to move my hand back to the mouse, i waste time loking through suggestions. If i'd just carried on typing without these suggestions, i'd already have my results in front of me
Our implementation is practically like Google's. As you type, we spell-check (each character) and the suggested listing changes as they type. We bubble up to select the most accurate query narrowing down the list as you type. Such as, the first word is [red] brings up say 15 suggestions and then a space narrows it down to 10 and then the words [red liederhosen] narrows it to three, and then [red liederhosen large] narrows it to one. I also do it in reverse [large liederhosen red] or [large red liederhosen] for many of the most popular product lines. I want them to self-discover what they're looking for and I continually tweek the suggested word listing. Saves time and money.

#4 adibranch

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 05:03 AM

hmm then the spell checker/correction part of it seems to be the winner biggrin.gif i think i might give it a try on a couple of sites. Thanks for the advice.

Its interesting how many customers use the search box as against the menu. I recently guineapigged a site with a small handful of friends to see how easy it was to find a product they wanted. To my amazement most of them went straight to the search box and bypassed the menu... I rarely use search boxes so i was quite suprised !

#5 NASA

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 05:19 AM

hmm I'm in two minds like adibranch, I hate that dam auto-complete / suggested word rubbish which now appears on all search engines.

Though i can see how it might help a customer find a product, who for some reason isn't capable of using the search facility?

annoying gimick or helpful tool, i guess it's a matter of opinion, but you can't argue with your stats.

However, do you not wonder how come you get so many idiots to your site who are incapable of searching or finding the product they want without this tool?

makes you wonder how they turned the computer on and found your website in the first place!

#6 adibranch

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 06:12 AM

agreed.. either that OR there is something fundamentally wrong with your navigaion, that customers resort to the search box. Having just tried to install an off the shelf ajax search on one site, and not being impressed (it couldnt differentiate between capitals in the product name against search phrase) i'm going to leave it for a while, and continue with my nav reordering biggrin.gif

Of course in an ideal world we'd all have good landing pages, and no need for a search wink1.gif

#7 NASA

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 06:35 AM

Well a search facility is important, and if i can't easily navigate to a product or at least category easily I would use a sites search facility, but I'm the kind of surfer, that if I got a search box that peed me off because of some crappy auto-complete getting in the way, i'd leave.

But I know i'm in the minority as BBCoach's stats clearly show!


#8 Gerry White

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 07:16 AM


I love autocomplete, especially when it comes from the product listings - take a look at "zuggest" http://labs.adobe.co...gestSample.html as an example ...

I am dyslexic, (which anyone who reads my blogs / forum posts / tweets can tell!) and as product names are often wierd I think it is awesome for me, and whilst occasionally Autocomplete has annoyed me (Nestoria.co.uk - mashup) it generally works well for me like the Aria.co.uk website)

I think it is unfair to suggest that people turn to internal search because the site nav is wrong (or even to down play the importance of site search), typically people who go to a site and immediately search are likely to buy, I prefer to search than try navigating - thinking of all the things I have or tried to buy recently I searched sites for each of them (assuming they aren't some wierd niche site) - IPOD DOCK, 1TB NAS, ....

Yes, in site search is one of theee most undervalued and under developed technologies in ecommerce sites!

Good post BBCoach ... I am interested in one thing, which analytics package did you use ? I typically use GA, but you can only do what your talking about with GA with some intelligent customisation....

#9 NASA

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 07:23 AM

"zuggest" -> That's awful, the images block out half the words, sorry but that's a real crappy example, and demonstrates exactly the reason why i hate them!

#10 Randy

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 08:18 AM

QUOTE(BBCoach)
Our implementation is practically like Google's.


It's purely a guess on my part, but I have a hunch this might be an important factor in how well it's being received right out of the box.

IMO it's always a good idea when starting something new to at least try to model it (visually, if not on the back end) after something people are already used to. Simply because of previous conditioning it makes a tool easier for people to use, meaning they'll use it more often.

#11 NASA

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 08:29 AM

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IMO it's always a good idea when starting something new to at least try to model it (visually, if not on the back end) after something people are already used to. Simply because of previous conditioning it makes a tool easier for people to use, meaning they'll use it more often.
Perhaps you should have told Microsoft that before they released MSO2007 lol.gif

Very true, if people are familiar with something, it makes it easier for them to use it.

hmm, but doesn't familiarity breed contempt?

#12 adibranch

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 08:30 AM

i've just checked some stats on a couple of my ecommerce sites...
on one of my sites with 13,000 visitors a month, 460 searches were made within a given month (about 4%)
On another site, also approaching 13000 visitors but different product types, (and with better navigation) only 136 searches were made. (1%)

interesting.. thought it would be higher, but its not quite enough to convince me that an ajax search suggest will turn sales around.

Edited by adibranch, 20 May 2009 - 08:47 AM.


#13 Randy

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:04 AM

You may also want to consider usability concerns adibranch.

I had something similar happen with one of my sites when I first added a search tool to it. The search tool has it's own page, but is also available as a simple search box from every page on the site. It was originally placed along the right edge, just below the abbreviated top nav section on a white background. The search form itself had a light green background.

I tested its placement on the page to see which would get it used more, testing the original upper right position against being at the top of the more robust, light blue left nav block (sort of in the way, but it got noticed and used more often) and also against a top left laying on top placement on top of the darker blue logo graphic. The left nav placement got it used more, but it was close between that placement and the top left placement. I liked the top left on-the-logo placement better, so since it was close I put it there. The light green form background seemed to pop better there to my eye, plus it was easier to tell people where to find it if someone wrote or called in looking for something.

I'm not saying this location would work for everyone, so you'll want to test it with your design/layout. Especially if you want to make your site search a focus.

re: Windows 7 ... I got a good laugh about that one the other day when I heard they were going to have it out by Christmas 09. I guess Vista really was as bad as everybody said it was before it was even released. giggle.gif I'm glad I decided to skip that one!

#14 Jill

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:09 AM

The autocomplete stuff comes in handy when you're browsing from a mobile phone. The less you have to type, the better.

#15 NASA

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:16 AM

lol - apart from not doing mobile phones, that predictive type thing drove me nuts, I turned it off!




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