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The Search for eCommerce Success: A Salesfire Webinar

By Laura Taylor • Monday Mar 1st, 2021

For our first Salesfire webinar of 2021, we explored a cornerstone tool in eCommerce: site search.

Search tools facilitate product discovery by providing intuitive recommendations and accurate results for who are customers seeking inspiration and speed in their purchase journeys.

With new lockdown influenced habits here to stay, shopping online is at the forefront of our lifestyles and site search must keep up with the demand.

Head of client services, James Lees, and head of marketing, Josh McGregor, discussed the features your customers are crying out for and how to effortlessly create that smooth shopping experience.

 If you missed it, here’s a live recording of the session complete with a transcript below.

James: Hi everyone. Welcome to our latest webinar, The Search for eCommerce Success: how site search is revolutionising the online retail experience. 

So hopefully we're going to give you a lot of information about how this is going to be hopefully a viable part of your business in eCommerce in the future. 

So I'll do the introductions myself. I am James Lees, head of client services here at Salesfire. It's my department at Salesfire that manages clients’ expectations, campaigns and supports them through their Salesfire experience and one of the facets of that being site search. 

And I’d like to introduce you to my colleague, Josh McGregor, head of marketing at Salesfire, hello Josh.

Josh: Good morning, James. How are we doing? 

James: I'm all right, mate, how are you? 

Josh: I'm very good. 

James: Good stuff. Good stuff. So we'll get cracking with this then. I'm going to hand you over to Josh now who’s going to go through this slide and introduce ourselves a little bit more to you.

Josh: Hello everyone. So hopefully you guys who are coming on here probably know a little bit about us but for those who don’t, I'll give you a bit of a rundown.

So Salesfire as a platform is born out of years and years of experience working within eCommerce, more specifically eCommerce platforming. So we’re a team here of about, I think we're about 40 at the minute. Is that right? 50 now. Wow. And we've got a lot of agency experience when it comes to platforming and, again, specifically eCommerce.

So what we're trying to do is we're putting everything we have at the minute into revolutionising the way people are shopping. But more importantly to us and specifically, our clients, how people are inspired to shop online and how they're inspired to make those purchases.

So alongside that, we also want to create something that makes a bit of space in a website’s stack that's really smooth to integrate. It's really easy to use and really addresses those CRO gaps and quick fixes. 

Right now with the focus being on search, what we're trying to do is build some really strong next-gen search capabilities. 

It was founded on super fast results at first, but we've recently moved into image compatibility and product recommendation campaigns. 

We have a current portfolio of over 600 clients at the minute and that's millions of transactions every month where we’re generating extra for our clients, so I think we're doing pretty well so far.

James: Doing all right. Doing all right. Smashing, right so we'll get cracking with the content of why we're here now. 

So Josh, quick question here to start things off. Why does site search matter? 

Josh: It's no surprise to anyone at the minute that Google as a term, as a verb, is being interchangeably used with search every single day and it has been like that for years now. 

How many times have you been told to Google something or have you told your son or someone like that? Just go Google it. If you want to learn how to do it, go Google it.

James: Yeah it’s what you say isn’t it, you don’t say go search on Bing for that.

Josh: No, we certainly don't! And as that landscape starts shifting towards eCommerce, specifically the retail landscape, in a really drastic way at the minute, we're starting to see continuously growing product catalogues hundreds of SKUs getting added to some of these fashion sites at the minute every day, specifically the fast fashion sites. 

And not every user has the patience to sift through pages and pages of products and categories to find what they're looking for. 

You don't want your shoppers fumbling around your site, trying to find a specific product. they want to know instantly whether you have it and if they should bother hanging around your site to try and find it if not. 

James: So the next slide we've got here is in regards to search influence sales in 2020. 

Now, these stats here are taken from TrendDesk. TrendDesk is our online platform for all things stat-based when it comes to eCommerce. 

This is taken from client data. So we don't tell you specifically what clients’ data it’s from, but it just gives you an insight in regards to sectors, what parts of sites are really getting conversions, conversion rates in particular sectors and things like that. 

For more information and to get this data for free, please do visit salesfire.co.uk/trend-desk. Also, listen to the podcast because I'm the host for that as well and it’s pretty cool. 

So what we did see in 2020 in particular, Josh, site search was growing on what you would say is quite an upward curve. But then between September and November in particular it was like bang, massive, huge, huge spike there. 

Now we will say a big reason for this was people looking for gift inspiration, Christmas shoppers thing like that. 

Also during that time as well, particularly in November, you've got to remember retail was shut as well, so there was another UK lockdown during November so that’s probably why we do see a massive spike there, but why do you think site search, in particular, has seen that growth?

Josh: Well, I think one of the key factors here as well is the fact that the searches were a lot more granular as well. 

We were seeing much longer search queries at this time and for a lot of our clients that aren't on search at the minute that sort of goes unnoticed, and it’s not being utilised in the best way it can. 

Those clients we have that have got search, we're able to sort of turn that around and turn that into some insight for them.

But I think right now there's no real excuse for buying a bad gift when you got all this time on your hands as well. 

James: Yeah very true.

Josh: I think inspiration has been key to a lot of people as they’ve been going through it and again, it's just being granular with it and it's upping those average order values too. 

I think we've seen some massive average order values going through search in particular. 

And I think there's no excuse to not have a personalised approach to it across the board at this point. I think it’s something people expect and it's something people aren't going to hang around for long for if you don't have as well, so I think that's exactly why people have started using search a lot more and why it’s driving a lot more revenue across the bottom line. 

James: You mentioned there Josh the stats, so we'll move on to the next slide here in regards to some key stats for site search. 

The main stat we've got here, 73% of sites fail commerce site search expectations. Now that's scary. 

Josh: It's crazy. 

James: It is scary, but I'm going to go through some other stats here and this kind of goes on the whole conversion rate thing that you’re mentioning there.

So on eCommerce sites, up to 30% of visitors will use the site search bar to navigate. 

Customers engaging with search spend three to four times more with a given brand. These are massive. 

34% don't return useful results when users search for a model number or misspell a word with just a single character in the product title. 

29% of site transactions came from users utilising site search. 

And visitors who buy are 91% more likely to use site search than those merely browsing.

So with these key stats in mind, Josh, do you feel the importance of a fully functioning site search has grown in importance day-to-day? 

Josh: I mean, it's something we just briefly touched on in that last slide, but today a consumer wants to find everything they want or need within seconds of landing on your site.

Not only that, when they land on your site, they want to know that they're going to be able to find it as well when they get there. 

It's not even necessarily an issue that they're not going to be able to find it, it's just knowing that they're comfortable with the tools that you've put in place for them to go through and get it.

And again, one of the quickest and most intuitive ways to do it is through your search bar as well. 

Again, we're all conditioned to expect a certain level of service. Search is a huge part of everyone's online lives and it's completely underutilised on retail sites.

It's one of the biggest blind spots we see when we're going through, I think it's fair to say from a client services perspective, you probably see that as well.

James: Massively, massively. Yeah, it affects our overall client campaigns as well. If they don't have a good site search functionality on there it's always something we can discuss with them. 

My next question on this one, Josh, and I think you've pretty much answered it, but it's been said a lot of times from people in eCommerce and digital as a whole that we're in the age of convenience.

Do you feel like that's a contributing factor as to why site search is something people kind of are expecting now rather than it being a bonus on a website?

Josh: Definitely. It's something that people expect. And I think what people forget sometimes is just because someone comes on and purchases once it doesn't mean that they're going to come and repeat the purchase and be a repeat customer. 

If someone is forced to endure a process and a bit of a clunky process, they're going to remember that. And they might get so far through and they might end up purchasing and going through with it, but it doesn't mean that they're going to come back.

We're seeing the biggest retailers that are out there now who are competing and taking that market share are those that have a really strong relationship with their clients, their customers, and the ones that are getting them coming back time and time again. 

So it's convenience, but what else is that? It's speed. It's flexibility. Finding similar products to something that they're looking at and having relevant recommendations all works into one facet when you’re looking to get people involved with your search. 

James: Okay. So as I say these stats are massive and it’s something that any eCommerce retailer needs to take on board when thinking about site search. Now, with that in mind, are a lot of online retailers overlooking the best conversion tool.

Josh: They are and I think that brings us onto the next slide as well. 

So as a conversion tool, it's something that people take for granted. It's not something that you're discussing when you're talking to your platform provider about what features you're going to be including on your site.

It's something that people tend to believe is going to be there and it’s not going to change much. 

So if you go to the next slide here. There's a number of things that you can really start targeting to start improving your site with search. It's not just getting somebody, a list of products in front of them. 

For instance, the biggest one and the one we’re probably all here for is conversion rates. This is really one of the most simple and potentially significant changes you can make to your site when you start optimising your search capabilities. 

We need to start looking at site navigation more like a weapon in your arsenal and something that can work for you rather than a barrier to entry or an obstacle that you sort of, you see so much with people where they're fighting against their own tech and their own stack like that.

So we need to start seeing this more of a positive again, when it comes to conversion rates, something that is going to start benefiting you rather than something you have to address constantly. 

Another big one is the quality of customer engagement. You want people to want to spend more time on your site, again, going back to those repeat customers. We’re seeing some clients with huge successes by increasing the lifetime value of a customer and making them feel more seen and more at home amongst your product.

James: Surely there are some huge stats, Josh, in regard to this. What we know from working in eCommerce for as long as we have is if a user spends more time on your site, they are more likely to buy. 

It's rarely not a flying visit unless they’re going for some kind of convenience product that they know they can get somewhere, which in that instance, you've already done your job in regards to the engagement level.

Josh: They’re more likely to buy, they’re more likely to open an email, they’re more likely to react to retargeting and advertising. 

Again, it's that feeling of being at home amongst your service and amongst your product and feel like they know they can go there and they know they're going to receive the care and attention that they're going to receive from somewhere else. 

Another one there, lowering bounce rates, again, super obvious, it does what it says on the tin. Helping a customer find what they're looking for in a really unfussy and direct way is going to achieve one thing and that's driving your bounce rates down and propelling someone towards a conversion.

And again, it's as simple as that really, you want to retain people on-site to get them through to the end goal, which is that conversion, so there's nothing more to say on that one. 

But another one as well is upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

They're absolutely huge when you start to fine-tune your search. That's from the discovery stage all the way through to results.

I mean, utilising an image search tool and allowing someone to upload their own imagery, what are you doing there? You're providing an inspiration that's sort of unparalleled anywhere else. 

James: It’s that personal shopping experience, isn't it? It’s a higher level of personalisation.

Josh: That’s a perfect way of putting it. You're selling more than the product at that point. What you're doing is you're selling an experience, you're selling a lifestyle to someone.

And what's that in sort of base terms for cold people looking at numbers like us? When you're selling a lifestyle, you're selling complementary products, you’re selling accessories, you’re selling outfits rather than an item of clothing and it's a natural way of doing it. It's a really natural and helpful way of upping your average order value across the board as well.

Last one, customer insights. You're literally having people asking you queries at this point. They're telling you what they want from you and your site. 

So search reports based on misspelling, specific queries, brand SKUs - there’s gold in each and every one of these reports and people need to start pulling this from the process.

Because out of the box solutions for search will give you a search report, you don't need anything super specific for that. And there's going to be gold in there as well so it's something we really stress to people to get into and start looking through, but we'll come on to that a bit more when we start looking at quick fixes. 

James: Well, yeah, I mean, I can just say from a marketing perspective, as a digital marketer, search reports give you some absolute nuggets in regards to how we can help merchandise your site but also campaigns around that and that’s the same here if you can improve your on-site experience around that, it's a no brainer to look at these reports. It's like you say, if you are getting all this data and you do nothing with it, you're missing out. 

So we'll move on to the next slides here, Josh. So we're going to go through how retailers are optimising their search. 

So, Josh, again, I’m getting you to do all the talking here but I'm happy with that. Josh, can you give us some good examples of how people are making the best use of their on-site search? 

Josh: Biggest one is clean, practical and obvious we've written on this next slide. 

It's one of the cornerstones of CRO though, isn't it? It's keeping everything clean, keeping it practical and I think above all, I know some of the CRO heads out there are going to be up in arms about this, but just keeping it obvious. 

There's no real wrong answer to it, as many CRO people will tell you as you’re spending a lot on contracts with them. But every website is built completely differently. It's about taking a step back and removing as many of those visual complexities as you can and just decluttering your entire process and giving it a bit of breathing room, I suppose. 

James: Well, that takes us back to the age of convenience. People are going online for convenience and you need to make it as simple for the user as possible. 

Josh: Completely. I think we're coming full circle where that stuff that, I think people are realising you can add features and features and features, but you start affecting your speed, you start affecting everything else. So clean, practical and obvious. It's one of the biggest tips we can give really. 

Again, categorisation and making it genuinely helpful. So, we sort of move past the only categories on site being colourways, sizes and that type of thing.

We need to start thinking about inspiring people and inspiration and moving towards a more fluid approach towards that which we are seeing with some of these search products as well.

This is a good one. I don't know if you've got any insight into this, but differentiating between browsers and searches. So looking at sort of UX. 

We need to be able to differentiate between two types of shoppers: the browsers and the searches. So we need to remain engaging, relevant and inspiring to a browser, but to a searcher, for instance, that's like clarity, that's being surgical in what they're looking for.

They've got a list of things they need. They've got a list of things they need checking off before they're going to go forward and make a conversion.

James: I think it’s a good point. They are both on different journeys as well but it's how do you actually define them as soon as possible to give them the best experience for that?

It's how do you merchandise your search for these people based on these kinds of search terms? It's an interesting point. It'd be good to dive into that a little bit further I guess on maybe another occasion.

Josh: I think there are a few things in the quick fixes that we've got at the end, but again, this harks back to the practicality and the obviousness of your offering as well. 

This is quite an interesting one because this is one we're sort of dabbling our toes in at the minute with some of our new products, but sort of image search, visually similar search and voice search, more than your standard ways of going about it.

So apart from the obvious inspiration and apart from the utilisation of something which is helping people search in a much clearer way, there's also the accessibility side of things as well.

It’s been a focus for some big brands over the last couple of years and rightly so, to be honest. Obviously, some clients who aren't Nike, who aren't Adidas, haven't got the resources to dedicate to this and that's totally understandable, but it's definitely something that people need to start thinking about. 

Some of these features are often seen as sort of gimmicky or trendy, but there was a recent report by Microsoft, I'll put the link in the slides actually, outlining best practices and it sort of galvanised the need for us to start looking at accessibility and providing spaces for the less able to really be a part of your buying funnel as well. 

I mean, ethically and practically in a bit more of a business sense. I mean, those people are shopping as well.

And obviously, voice search and the other things have their own obvious benefits, but accessibility is a huge one. I think it's something that we're going to start seeing a lot more people focusing on in the next couple of years. 

James: Okay. Brilliant. And there’s one point I want to go a little bit further in regards to these hints and things here Josh, it's visual. So making things visual in regards to the importance of image search. 

Basically, image search and visually similar search is the tool we've launched this year for our clients and we're getting some brilliant, brilliant feedback from it.

But there's also some kind of encouraging stats for this as well, Josh, that I've got here in regards to visual search.

Again these are all taken from TrendDesk as well, on average home and living saw a 1006% increase in revenue than the average typed search since being introduced on the 1st of January. 

Josh: That's crazy. 

James: That's stupidly good numbers. And in footwear and fashion since the first of Jan image searches have topped any other typed search term by 2056 clicks and have seen a 1353% increase in revenue. And accessories, 410% increase in click-through rate after utilising visually similar search. As a digital marketer, you look at that and think, wow.

Josh: Specifically through your search, it’s crazy isn't it? 

James: Yeah, it is. It's insane. I guess the main stumbling block people have with this one is that the tool’s there and when people use it it's wow, but how would you get more people using it and why do you need to get more retailers engaging with it as well? 

Josh: That's key, I suppose, when it gets to that sort of saturation point, education is going to be less of a concern for people, but I think if what you were driving at there was saying that you need to start educating your own customers on what it is and how it works, then I think you're right because I think that's going to be the biggest obstacle that people are going to face with this type of thing.

James: I think so. Like you say, from a Salesfire point of view, in regards to the tools we’ve created, this one is one that really excites me. 

You'll see some huge retailers like your Boohoo and your Asos of the world using this kind of technology. What we've done, we've developed it and rolled it out to the SME. So they can give their users that kind of user experience, that personalization we mentioned earlier and making that shopping experience easier. 

If you've got a particular leather bag, as shown in the slide here, and you think “I like that leather bag, I like the look of it, what else have they got?” Bang. Let's analyse that image and show you everything else that's like it. Everyone's a winner there.

Josh: The results speak for themselves as well.

James: Exactly. And you look at the conversion rates that are coming through and it's ridiculous, it's ridiculously high and it's great to see and hopefully, we start seeing extra growth in that one. 

Josh: I think one of the interesting things to point out as well, so you mentioned fashion and footwear there, with that you're looking at colourways, you're looking at accessories and that type of thing on it. But with home and living what we saw is people were actually looking for connectors and different types of door handles and that type of thing. 

James: It’s that on-site kind of interior designer kind of attitude isn’t it?

Josh: When you look at what it’s got and when you look at the capability of it in the future as well: you could actually go in with a nut or a bolt you're not sure of and it's a different type of connector and you can use it for that. It’s so versatile.

James: It’s actually the functionality you can use it for as well.

Josh: It's crazy when you start thinking.

James: Never even thought of that. Right, we'll probably close this part off now, Josh, and we’ll have a look at quick wins and fixes.

Josh: Yes. I think this is probably the most actionable bit. This is probably the bit people have tuned in for anyway. 

So we've put a few things together here that we're seeing big results in for our clients when we're making those assessments and running them through it. 

So the first one, treat every set of results as a landing page and by this, I mean, consider the merchandising of it and how you're delivering your results. 

What are your bounce rates like on your search results pages? If you start looking at how your URLs are built, you'll be able to see these easily in the analytics of your platform or even by looking at Google Analytics. 

I know we mentioned it earlier, but the gold in there is that every query is like a high intent action. Somebody is there to find something specific, they want to buy that. That's what they're after. So that's absolutely crazy. So you need to treat it as the high intent action that it is. 

Make sure that your accuracy and the relevancy of what you’re serving up is there. I know it's a nightmare to go through product descriptions, they're an absolute chore.

It's one of the biggest necessary evils of retail and eCommerce managers struggle with it all the time and I know it's a nightmare, I’ve been there myself. But making sure everything's tagged up accurately is completely key to improving that conversion rate. As you said earlier, with hundreds of new SKUs coming on a day, something's going to slip through the net.

James: Of course it is. It's not an easy thing to do. 

Josh: It's not easy and hats off to anyone who has to deal with it. But if you have that slick process in place to make sure you're catching them, or at least addressing that regularly or even have a well-maintained solution for it whether it’s AI-based, I mean, shameless plug for us, but that's something that our platform does as well, takes that out of it for you. You’re just taking the sting out of the tail. And even if you’re seeing a half a per cent increase, that's something you can go out and action straight away. 

Again, dedicating time to analysing your search reports. I know we mentioned this stat earlier, but 34% of searches won’t return useful results when a model number or a misspelt word is there.

And that can be within the threshold of just one character when it comes to a product title. Someone spelling hoodie, for instance, with ‘IES’ instead of ‘YS’ or however you've got it set up.

You've got to look for the colloquialisms and the misspellings and sort of the nicknames because that can be the difference in making a sale just because of how someone approached it and how they've been spelling it all their lives. So you've got to look at those search reports and really dig into those.

Again, most out of the box search solutions are going to give you that, whether it's built into your platform or it’s something you've added on top. So it’s just making sure you've got that as part of your process as well. It's easy to not see the wood for the trees here, I think, that's the biggest one for us. 

And then the last one I'd say is the consistency of messaging across the board, no exceptions to it. You need to stop treating your results pages as part of a different ecosystem to the rest of your site. 

Your messaging needs to go all the way across your results. If you're talking about a sale or promotion on your social channels and on your homepage banners and that type of thing, there should be no reason that's not reflected in promotions across your search.

Someone could land on your site from a PPC ad or something like that and if they're not seeing your homepage, they might never know you've got that sale, you're not running it. And there's no reason for it to be like that.

You can put that into your product pages and your search results as well. That's not always one that you can do with an out of the box search products but, again, there are plenty of specialist services out there that can do that as well, us included. But that's probably the last one on that one, I'd say.

James: Speaking of us included then Josh. We do have our own search solution. 

Josh: Yes, we do. 

James: And it's a brilliant tool. We are looking to push this massively in 2021. We launched it in 2020. The feedback we got was superb, I mean some of the results we’re getting here, like in speed, you know we find results in point zero zero one second.

So again, looking at the age of convenience, someone types something into that website search bar, bang, they’ve got it straight away. You've got that design element of things, you can know when people are searching for something. We're not just giving them a list of products, you've got promo units and things like that you can put in place.

If you've got, for example, Klarna, if you offer payment by Klarna, that’s a reason people will buy and give more reasons to purchase in the search results. You’ve got that element of it. And you don't have to be a developer to work this.

Josh: Completely. It's one line of code to get going.

James: It's a piece of code on your website, bang, done. It's working. Don't get me wrong, there may be things that we need to have a look at in regards to how it integrates and stuff, but we do have free support for people. You can trial the product for free.

Josh: I think the other key thing is as well as all these insights we've got from looking into how we are developing this search as well.

So basically everything that we've got here, our system will handle it for you, but hopefully, there's enough here in regards to quick wins and things you can go away and do yourself for it. Yeah. So you don't have to do that.

James: Brilliant. Let's get cracking with the questions. Yeah. I think Gabby's in the chat.

Josh: Should we take any questions and we'll go through them now.

We hope you enjoyed the webinar and have been inspired to revisit and optimise your site search tool.

Learn more about the fundamentals of site search: what it is, why it matters and how it benefits eCommerce sites.

If you'd like to know more about anything we discussed, get in touch with us at [email protected] or book a demo.