By Mark Brixton, SLi Systems country manager, Australia
With the likes of Google and Yahoo offering fast solutions to search and navigate the world wide web, it’s easy to understand how internet users expect such simplicity and efficiency to carry over onto any website they enter.
It’s no secret that superior site search and navigation pages are must-haves for any website determined to be an e-commerce success – our own research shows that 73 percent of customers will leave a site in two minutes if they can’t find what they’re searching for. Although quality site search and navigation contribute to higher conversions and improved sales figures, these two critical site features are often left neglected and untested.
In the same way companies will experiment with different aspects of their websites, such as page loading times, placement of information and calls to action, site search and navigation must also be tested and tweaked accordingly. With research from MarketingSherpa demonstrating that people who use site search are more likely to convert at two to three times the rate of those who don’t, companies that don’t properly assess these areas are only hurting themselves.
It doesn’t help that conducting A/B or multivariate tests can be time consuming and often inconclusive, which only leads to speculation about the best ways to optimise. However, in an effort to assist companies in perfecting site search and navigation, there are solutions out there that will eliminate the guesswork and reduce the world load.
By employing such tools, variations in site design, formatting and layout can be tested, while also viewing how such changes impact visitor behavior. For example, different options in the layout of a website’s search results can be tested, in order to decide on the best sized product thumbnail images to show, or whether a grid or list view is most effective.
Even the location of the site search box itself affects customer behaviour and of course, can be examined and studied in order to discover its prime position. Intimate apparel online retailer, A popular intimate apparel online retailer found that although customers who used its site search function were more likely to convert, this tool was not being used effectively due to the difficulty in locating the search box on the website. After the implementation of SLI System’s Learning Search solution and placing the search box in a more prominent position, this change increased the use of the retailer’s site search by 600 percent, as well as contributing to a 70 percent lift in revenue from customers using the function.
When looking for a solution to assess these types of deliverables, companies do not need to waste time on building individual tests. There is software available, such as the Conversion Optimiser, that allows users to define the features and options to test, and how many site visitors will view each page variation. Online professionals can select the part of the conversion funnel they want to optimise – from counts of customers who see particular pages (e.g. product pages), to the total value of products added to shopping carts or the revenue from completed carts.
Consider solutions that allow for easy stoppage of entire tests and automated stoppage of any variations that are performing poorly. In addition to these controls, ensure that users have access to reporting that is both easy to understand and presents actionable data quickly, in order to find out how each page variation is performing and how to best optimise the site in question.
Utilising tools of this calibre gives businesses total control over the tests being performed, without the headache of the complex configuration steps required by other testing systems.
However, for those businesses who still aren’t sure about investing in site search or navigation testing, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the data that says otherwise. Avail Intelligence’s 2010 Searchandising and Recommendation Report revealed that when users search for a product, site traffic typically splits up with 10 percent utilising the search box, and 90 percent using category filters.
Furthermore, if these facets are tested and optimised, businesses are provided with the perfect channel through which to gather invaluable data on site browsers and browser behaviour. With site search users being objective focused – that is, looking for something specific – potential customers are telling online businesses exactly what they want in their own language. It simply doesn’t get any clearer than that, and conversions are far more likely if the results are relevant.
While clearly not everyone in the online industry has the resources or funds that the big search engines do, such serious in-roads have been made into site search and navigation that it’s now effortless to do them both well – and inexcusable not to.
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