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Searchandising is the application of merchandising strategies to search results on your site. It allows marketers, product owners, merchandisers, and website operators to promote products directly to users as they explore.
Searchandising gives online brands a way to take control of their site and product lines in ways usually associated with brick and mortar stores. Using site search analytics, e-commerce site owners can better understand user behavior, and use that data to provide more relevant (or higher-converting) search results.
A robust search strategy must incorporate merchandising from the beginning — not just as a nice add-on. By doing so, brands can ensure that the search experience aligns with the overall business strategy, while providing users with a seamless experience.
Search is a black box for many businesses. Product owners and marketers may not know how it works on the site, why certain results appear where they do, or how to control these results.
Fortunately, searchandising allows site operators, product owners, and any other relevant parties to take control over their search rankings and promotions. This will not only increase conversion rates and revenue, but also provide a better overall customer experience to help promote brand image and increase loyalty.
When customers navigate through and search on e-commerce site, they generate vast amounts of data about their preferences and needs. This data can help shape and improve the searchandising strategy, leading to more efficient marketing. By tailoring the search experience, brands have an opportunity to really speak to their customers.
In addition to adding a personalization factor, searchandising can also help a business achieve its strategic business goals. An e-commerce store may, for instance, want to promote certain items that are appropriate for the season, on clearance, or newly arrived. Promoting these items directly through search significantly increases the rate of click-throughs and conversions.
Alternatively, a business may want to tailor the search to match the brand and catalog strategy. For example, when users search for socks, the business may want them to see multi-colored socks and not just the white ones that are normally ranked. Searchandising can also be leveraged analytics to uncover user intent to make sure the business tackles the needs of all of your users.
When implementing searchandising into your site search, you should consider the following:
Promotional banners can be linked strategically to results or results pages. These banners are highly contextual and can be featured for a specific keyword, increasing the chance of your users converting.
Adding banners can help make promoted products, content, or other resources stand out by adding a visual emphasis. A strong color contrast, different size, or other visual cue catches users’ eyes and ensures that they see what you’re promoting. You can, additionally, add additional information like promotional details where relevant.
Merchandisers can benefit from automated re-ranking to improve the search results’ performance. But they will still feel the need to manually reorder results to achieve strategic goals. For example, marketers may need to boost a specific category of product for seasonality reasons or because of a business decision to aggressively market certain products. This can be done for specific queries or groups of queries. By doing so, brands can help nudge customers toward products that they want to sell and can easily adjust this over time to handle changes in consumer taste, product lines, or business goals.
Some companies have partnerships with certain providers they might want to highlight within campaigns. In this case, you can create a landing page and every query containing the brand will redirect to this page for the time of the campaign.
Alternatively, when analyzing your search data, you may find that many users are searching for a specific, common query, like “shoes.” For common, high-volume queries like that, your visitors may benefit from a dedicated landing page that shows them the range of options on your site.
For example, your dedicated landing page for “shoes” could have several unique features, like a list of the different shoe brands you offer, a shoe sizing guide, a link to browse all shoes on sale, customer reviews of your most popular shoes, and a seasonal guide for winter shoes. While you may not have the resources to create well-designed, curated landing pages for every possible query, it creates a great experience for more common (and more profitable) product categories.
“No Results” pages are UX dead ends that frequently lead users to bounce. Instead of telling users there are no results for their query, you should focus on optimizing the search on your site so every user need is catered to. One such way to decrease the number of “No Results” pages is via careful merchandising of the least performing queries. For user needs for which you really don’t have the product, you can provide useful content to retain your users as long as possible on your website. Showing users recommended searches, popular products, or useful site links is a great way to turn an unsuccessful search into a successful visit. With a better path forward from their search, you can significantly improve the user’s experience, and increase the chance they stay on the site (and ultimately, convert).
Intelligently leveraging merchandising tools to curate search results and promotions means users will find what they need and discover new things more quickly. Developing a well thought-out merchandising search experience can provide a personalized experience without actually deploying personalization tools. Once the merchandising strategy is in place, though, you can layer on personalization tools for even better relevance for individual customers.
Your search merchandising strategy is vital to implementing your marketing and business goals, but it needs to be built on a robust internal search engine. Your tool should enable business users such as marketers, category managers, or merchandisers to adjust the search experience without development and technical teams. The search tool should give you the data to understand your search experience, allow you to optimize the user experience based on that data, and see the results of your work.
Read our e-book “Search beyond the box” to learn how search can power discovery and drive conversions on e-commerce sites.