81% of ecommerce leaders say ‘rising living costs make on-site search more important for online shoppers’, but retailers are failing consumers with irrelevant search results, unnecessary friction and a lack of personalization
New York, February 15, 2023—New research suggests 69% of consumers go straight to the search bar when they visit an online retailer, but 80% admit leaving because the on-site search experience didn’t meet their expectations. Leading retailers surveyed across North America and the UK accept that their site-search isn’t up to scratch, attributing around 39% of all traffic bouncing (shoppers leaving immediately) to poorly performing search—or because shoppers can’t find relevant products.
The research from Nosto, the Commerce Experience Platform (CXP), underlines the crucial role of on-site search in online shopping. The findings are based on a combination of surveys of 2,000 North American and UK consumers and 308 senior ecommerce professionals at retail brands as well as real-world testing of the on-site search experience served by 100 leading ecommerce brands (across fashion, beauty, and home/garden/DIY). They paint a picture of merchants losing potential sales and frustrating shoppers with search experiences that fail to meet consumers’ expectations.
A snapshot of retailers’ on-site search failings
Among the key shortcomings is a lack of relevance: despite 99% of retail brands’ senior ecommerce professionals believing their search results are relevant, 69% of consumers complain that they often see irrelevant results (with real-world site testing revealing that 81% of ecommerce websites display irrelevant items when shoppers search even two-word queries).
Similarly, even though 70% of consumers say they are likely to make a purchase if results are personalized, 66% of ecommerce professionals admit that they fail to offer personalized search results—this is despite 82% of them agreeing that personalized search is critical for higher conversions.
Additionally, 60% of brands admit their on-site search doesn’t display content (such as articles or FAQs) that relate to the products people are searching for, even though 59% of consumers say they are likely to make purchases after consuming this kind of content.
Rising living costs makes on-site search a bigger priority
These shortcomings are even more significant in the current economic downturn: 68% of consumers agree that, with living costs rising, they like to compare products from different online stores—and good ecommerce search makes this easier. Merchants themselves are aware of this, with 81% agreeing that increasing inflation makes ecommerce search more important as it allows customers to easily find and compare similar products before making purchases.
What frustrates consumers most about on-site ecommerce search?*
|Failings of on-site search||% of consumers that are frustrated by this|
|Irrelevant results being shown ||41%|
|When products are shown in search results despite not being in stock||32%|
|Not being able to narrow results down due to a lack of appropriate filters (e.g. not being able to filter by ‘cut’ for jeans, or by ‘finish’ for lipsticks)||30%|
|Results taking too long to load||27%|
|When it can’t interpret queries (i.e. cannot acknowledge synonyms e.g. ‘couch’ for ‘sofa’, or tolerate spelling mistakes and typos e.g. ‘smarthpone’ for ‘smartphone’) and therefore can’t yield desired results||26%|
“This research highlights just how important search is for the performance of ecommerce stores. Shoppers don’t simply want a personalized and relevant experience every time they shop online–they expect it and are frustrated by not having it. Relevancy is critical and it’s clearly a huge pitfall of merchants, with 80% of shoppers exiting online stores due to bad search experiences,” says Guy Little, head of brand marketing, Nosto.
Nosto’s research highlights six important considerations for online retailers:
1. Relevance remains a key challenge
Irrelevant search results are a major bugbear for shoppers, with 41% of consumers placing this among their top three most frustrating things about on-site search. Moreover, 69% of consumers say they see irrelevant results often and 35% admit leaving a site after seeing irrelevant results. The real world site testing reveals 81% of brand websites return irrelevant results for two-word search queries. Many brands seem unaware of the problem, with 99% of ecommerce professionals perceiving their on-site search as relevant (35% extremely relevant). Only 1% rate their search relevance as poor.
2. Personalization is a game-changer
70% of shoppers reveal they are likely to complete a purchase if on-site search results are personalized. The vast majority (82%) of ecommerce professionals at retail brands agree that personalized search is critical for higher conversions. However, 66% of those same ecommerce professionals admit their ecommerce store currently doesn’t offer personalization as part of its on-site search offering.
Personalization is even more important to younger shoppers—24% of 16-24 year olds and 29% of 25-34 year olds said they are likely to leave a site if on-site search is not personalized.
3. Still too much friction in the search experience
Brands are not doing enough to make the on-site search experience easy and frictionless for their shoppers. 27% of shoppers have left a site because the results showed too many options and it wasn’t possible to narrow down the search using appropriate filters, while 26% have left because search results listed out-of-stock products, and 25% have left because results were just too slow to load. 56% agree that ecommerce site-search should be quicker.
Not being able to narrow down search results with appropriate filters (e.g. the cut of jeans or the finish of lipstick) is one of the top three on-site search frustrations of 30% of consum