Take Ecommerce Search to the Next Level

Most people know that having a search feature on an ecommerce site is a necessity. But how many times have you been on a site searching for a product and made a simple typo such as “lotoin” instead of lotion and have been greeted by this:


No suggestions. No help. Wouldn’t it be much better if instead the search returned:


And then when you click the “lotion” link you’re greeted with some stellar results:


Unfortunately, most built-in search features in ecommerce software is quite limited. They often do not automatically handle common mis-spellings, do not offer suggestions for better search results, and do not break the search into refined sub-categories and sections.

Site Search = Increased Sales

Improving your site search often has a direct correlation to increased sales for any ecommerce store that has more than a handful of products. In fact, Internet Retailer has shown some dramatic results from improved site searches for major retailers:

  • 3ball.com saw a 20% increase in conversion upon implementing an improved search interface. They also saw a 40% increase in page views.
  • cdw.com realized a 4.5% increase in sales through site search, and a 16% increase from search results to product pages.

Enter SAAS – “Search” as a Service

When your internal search system is not adequate enough, there are a number of remotely hosted search solutions available that can provide advanced search capabilities. On the expensive end of the spectrum is SLI Systems, which provides comprehensive search services for many major top retailers. Unfortunately, the price tag for their system is often prohibitive for most SMBs.

Nextopia – Robust and Affordable

A “won’t break the bank” search solution that is quite powerful is Nextopia.com. They offer a wide range of search features, with a yearly rate of $1000 for up to 10,000 SKUs. Some of the key features are:

  • Refine search by brand, type, color, etc…
    A generic search term can then be easily broken down into more detailed options for a shopper
  • Fuzzy searches
    The ability to handle typos and singular and plural results will help keep customers from becoming frustrated when they are not precise with their search terms.
  • Suggestions if nothing found
    The ability to offer related searches or use color normalization to get the closest match is key to a leading search solution
  • Search results based on metrics
    Many search systems can rank keywords effectively. Nextopia can base search ranking on a number of factors such as history, sales data, product views, and is adaptive over time
  • Easy Integration
    Nextopia has already integrated their solution with many of the top ecommerce platforms such as ShopSite, Miva Merchant, and Yahoo Store. Click here for ShopSite specific integration information

Simple Tips

A few other suggestions for improving site search:

  • Make the search box highly visible
  • Make the search box itself larger and use a bigger font (Google recently did this with their homepage… hint… hint…)
  • Offer suggestions as the customer starts typing
    I personally love this one, and if you can base it on popular and recent searches, it really is useful
  • Measure, Mine, and Refine
    Study what customers are searching for, what they are not finding, and continually improve your search system. We discuss this in more detail in a previous post.

I’m sure this only scratches the surface, but hopefully gets you thinking in the right direction. Feel free to comment on other things that can be done to improve site search for online merchants.

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  1. Brent says:

    I have used the Nextopia search with ShopSite eCommerce clients and it works very well. A very noticeable improvement.

  2. Yossi Hermush says:

    Try searching for
    20” LCD screen
    at http://www.abt.com (a Nextopia client).Non of the results are relevant…

    NExtopia’s text matching based site-search leaves a lot to be desired.

    • Yossi,

      Thanks for the feedback. I did go to abt.com and tried your search term. The results that come back are actually relevant to “lcd screen” as the products returned all have lcd screens built into them. If I search for:
      20″ LCD tv

      I get back lcd tv results as expected. The reason the search is not relevant for your search term is the keyword phrase “lcd screen” is used in products that are not TVs. However, I agree that this merchant could do better by adjusting search phrases and weighting to include more results for a term that can be used in multiple ways.

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