You might have noticed that we have previously mentioned the importance of Search Feedback as part of a robust Search strategy. We firmly believe that such feedback plays a key role in the interaction between your customer and your website, and that it ultimately aids you in showing the most relevant products to your shoppers. Here’s how.
Even Wikipedia tells us that “User experience design (UX, UXD, UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.” This means that in eCommerce, a successful UX design will always try to make using your website enjoyable or fun – or at least try to not make it feel like work.
Conversely, browsing through pages and pages of search results and not finding what you are looking for is definitely not considered to be a fun engagement by most. Neither is finding the presented search results confusing. It brings a sense of required effort. It’s suddenly ‘complex’ and feels ‘like a chore’. The worst case, in my opinion, would be customers who accidentally buy the wrong product and have to deal with returns.
However, the above scenarios can be mitigated with relative ease through the use of structured and clear Search Feedback for the user. We can further hypothesise that Search Feedback matters exponentially more when the search result set does not look like what the user expects, which is why this is what we will be focusing on in the scope of this article.
To provide good Search Feedback, your implementation should tick three boxes. It should be:
Firstly, feedback should always be given in a visible format. While that explicitly does not include a pop-up window, it means that, from a visual perspective, the font should be big enough and have a prominent spot in the page layout. To not break the website design, the industry standard tends to rank position over other features, which often means that an ordinary plain text is displayed – in the best possible spot: in the middle of the page, on top of the results. You could consider using vibrant colours or visual elements to make your feedback stand out more.
Moreover, the feedback given should be concise and easy to understand. “Dear customer, because of X, here is Y.” This might seem quite natural, but is important to not make matters more complicated while trying to make them easier.
Finally, we consider offering a Call To Action in the feedback to be a very good idea, as it will effectively reduce effort required for the customer. A good example for this would be to execute an alternative search via a direct link “you typed ‘x’ and we searched for ‘y’. Click here to search for ‘x’ instead”.
So, what are the cases for which we would recommend that you give feedback? There are four clear winners here.
This is easily the most important one. If a customer is redirected to an alternative product detail page, let him or her know, and know why. It can be a very frustrating experience if the results look very similar (e.g. for technical products like cables or successors/predecessors).
There is always the possibility that a search does not find what a user has entered. In case that happens for a multi-token search term, an engine will often only offer results for a subset. For example, if the search was for ‘Adidas shorts’ - but your company doesn’t sell Adidas clothing – the engine might show Adidas products, and products that are ‘shorts’. In order to avoid confusion for the customer and help understand the results, let him know this has happened.
Ideally, structure the results in a sensible way and offer alternatives, e.g. ‘Nike shorts’.
Brief and simple: there are cases where a spell correction is not intended or could have two possible spellings. Inform the user about what is going on. (e.g. “You searched for ‘shurts’, we’re showing you ‘shorts’. Click here if you want to see ‘shirts’ instead.)
Even the best search engine can only find what is there. If you know that an item or brand is not available and there are no sensible alternatives to offer, say so. “Sorry, we didn’t find what you were looking for” is valuable feedback as well. It can, arguably, be better than showing confusing results of products that are vaguely related to the original term, but are not quite like it.
Since the cases we presented today should be relatively straightforward to design and implement for a lot of platforms, we are happy to help you make this a ‘quick win’.