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From testing methods to acquire and retain customers to finding strong data to support decision-making, sustainable companies know how important it is to perfect your strategy and measure the results. But even so, many businesses overlook a powerful, strategic tool—the search bar. If you see the search box as nothing more than a UX requirement, you’re missing out. When properly optimized, search can be tuned to match business goals and generate insightful and actionable data about your users.
By helping you better understand and serve you users’ needs, great search also delights your users, driving sales, conversions and user engagement.
Whether it’s internal search, search-as-a-service or site search, all of these terms point to the site’s search functionality, with a few nuances:
Internal search, or on-site search, is an umbrella term referring to the search function on an individual site that helps users find things in a site’s product or content catalogs, subdomains or databases. The search can be hosted on-prem or in the cloud.
Search-as-a-service is a type of cloud-hosted internal search where a third-party vendor maintains the hosting, operations, and maintenance of the search for the site. With this SaaS model, the site has instant access to search features, innovations, and updates provided by the vendor. This enables the business to implement very strong search capabilities quickly and seamlessly without needing extensive search expertise or development resources.
Site search is a specific form of internal search and search-as-a-service for large sites.
If your business offers products, contents or services on the Internet, your users are primed to expect search on your site. In fact, 43% of users go straight to the search bar. The search bar can have an effect on user perception of your brand and your bottom line.
Relevant, effective search quickly connects your users to their needs, driving increased average basket value, conversions, lead generation, registrations/subscriptions and an improved user experience. Bad search (or no search at all) prevents them from finding what they are looking for. An unsuccessful search experience leads 12% of users to go to a competitor’s site.
Any site can benefit from serving users results with increased speed and relevance. Large e-commerce sites and other sites with large product or content catalogs especially need search. Without it, it’s impossible for users to navigate the site. If they can’t navigate, they can’t convert.
Search can also go far beyond matching users to their needs, as well. Well-designed search can feel personalized, even without personalization tools, guiding users to discover needs they had not yet anticipated. Relevant search can be an effective part of a strategy that builds brand loyalty and encourages repeat customers and visitors.
Here are 8 ways search can support your business strategies and drive sales:
Effective internal search engines provide businesses the ability to layer business-specific criteria on top of a default ranking criteria so they provide superior search relevance. This allows business users to prioritize business needs and priorities and more effectively target their users. Custom ranking lets business teams adjust and direct ranking based on the factors they know are important (i.e. popularity, recently added, etc.), which can help increase visibility and user engagement with important products, content and more.
Curation is vital to crafting a search and discovery experience that serves both user needs and business goals. With search merchandising tools, you can ensure the search experience on your site aligns with your marketing strategy, supports promotional campaigns, and helps you reach revenue targets. You can run seasonal campaigns, show promotional banners within search results, recommend similar products, boost and bury products strategically, redirect users to dedicated pages for common queries and, ultimately, deliver a rewarding experience that feels personalized.
Often merchandising the search results can be a time-intensive process. Algolia’s user-friendly, drag-and-drop interface enables merchandisers to create rules with ease.
If your business has several different sites managed by local teams, you know the difficulty involved in replicating a consistent search and discovery strategy across all of them. With a robust search tool, you can unify your core strategy across your local sites. Then, with merchandising, custom ranking tools, and knowledge of locally relevant keywords, your local managers can take charge of merchandising and content promotion for their region.
As a business expands, often the site needs to as well. Your site’s search should support your growth rather than hinder it, allowing new content, products, resources and more to be searchable instantly to prevent lost opportunities for sales and/or engagement. Scaling a business is much less challenging with effective search. Tools such as site crawlers and search features such as federated search ensure that your content is still searchable—and your products are quickly retrievable—no matter how large or distributed your site’s content and product catalog might become. In fact, a crawler can be a great alternative solution to an API integration when it comes to quickly building a federated experience across various entities. By outsourcing these requirements to a dedicated search vendor, businesses can ease growing pains of search availability and security.
When users interact with your search interface, they’re telling you directly what they need and desire, neatly packaged in the form of search queries. Analyzing this user behavior and trends information helps you eliminate some of the guesswork when it comes to deciding how to best serve your users. A search analytics dashboard presents relevant information such as keyword and key-phrase searches, filter and facet selections, searches that return no results, search suggestion clicks and more in an easy-to-understand format. This valuable, actionable data can help you unearth what might be missing from your strategy and find opportunities to improve the search experience.
Popular searches are extremely insightful and actionable. These searches reveal the reasons people are visiting your site, including which products, services or brands make the biggest impact and common questions they may have. Such information is ideal for refining sales pitches and perfecting marketing efforts. With this increased knowledge of what resonates with the user base, salespeople can highlight key features and preemptively address popular questions with new leads right off the bat.
The searches that return no results on the site reveal gaps in the content strategy or the product roadmap. This data can indicate the needs for broad changes, e.g., starting new product and/or content development, or simple changes, i.e., adding a new synonym into the synonym library to capture the various ways people search for things. By matching “no results” search data with feedback gathered in the field, sales teams can help the business prioritize future product enhancements (with product development teams) or content creation (with marketing teams).
Today, a large amount of the buyer journey occurs well before customers speak to sales representatives. Sales teams can set themselves up for success by allowing customers to self-educate with high-quality content on the website. Leveraging search analytics data from documentation or help sections of the site, you can create useful content that proactively answers questions and enables potential customers to get acclimated with your offerings on their own. This type of self education is critical for feeding the sales pipeline, especially when customers can readily engage with a company’s services and products through search.
All of these search capabilities are significantly enhanced by user-friendly dashboards, reports, and custom ranking options. Competitive search solutions even allow business users to fine tune these different aspects of their site search themselves, with minimal or no help from development teams.
Search is a strategic tool that drives business performance. Here’s how three companies used Search to grow their business:
When Under Armour needed a hassle-free way to maintain and improve the search experience, they turned to a search-as-a-service solution. With search analytics, Under Armour discovered queries that were returning no results. They took action, optimizing the search to produce relevant results, which, in turn, led to a decrease in the bounce rate. They also implemented custom ranking for products based on popularity, newness and availability. With these changes, Under Armour was able to increase their conversion rate by 35 percent and boast the highest search conversion rate of any sports apparel brand in the powerful retail vertical.
For iflix, search has always been crucial for app navigation and a key driver of whether visitors watch content (a key business metric). Unfortunately, a poorly optimized in-house solution was making it hard for users to find TV shows, movies, news videos, and other content that interested them. When iflix switched their search to Algolia, they saw the benefit of a highly tailored, highly relevant search engine. Both business and developer teams were able to iterate and improve the search much faster with this approach than they could with its in-house solution. Optimizing search results to better serve its customer base led to a 20 percent increase in iflix’s conversions. Great search enables iflix to compete at the level of their counterparts in mainstream markets.
PubNub, a real time messaging API, relies on an extensive catalog of over 10,000 content assets to address a variety of customer personas. While they are well-prepared to show their value to any potential client, those users could never find their way without a systematic entryway to the content. PubNub implemented Algolia’s site search to transform a large catalog into an intelligent, personalized search experience. With site search, PubNub’s users can access any number of sites to get the search results tailored to their needs—which substantially shortened the customer journey and time to value.
The search bar is a small yet mighty tool that can increase business value. Optimized search quickly connects your users to what they want, when they want it, maximizing user experience and customer engagement. Don’t make the mistake of thinking only your developers can design your search. Algolia’s Visual Editor makes it simple for business users to guide the search and discovery experience based on the factors that matter the most.
Learn even more about practical ways to improve the search experience and your bottom line with our eBook “7 ways to get more out of Algolia search.”