80% of Consumers Exit an Ecommerce Portal Due to Poor Search Experience


As the ecommerce industry grows, customer expectations from brands are growing. So, what are their expectations regarding the search functionality on ecommerce sites? And what are the gaps between what shoppers want and what brands deliver? Nosto partnered with Censuswide to conduct a study to find the answers.

The last few years have seen growth in the ecommerce industry due to consumers’ increasing preference for online shopping. The growth skyrocketed over the previous three years owing to the pandemic. According to StatistaOpens a new window , retail ecommerce sales are expected to touch $8.1 trillion by 2026 from $5.2 trillion in 2021. 

That said, when it comes to ecommerce site searches, what are customer expectations? And what are the expectation gaps between what shoppers want, what companies think they deliver, and what they deliver?

To uncover merchant and consumer sentiments toward ecommerce portal search, Nosto partnered with Censuswide to conduct a study. Here are a few insights from the study and key improvement areas for brands to focus on.

See more: How To Deliver Personalization and Profitability Across Retail Amid Economic Uncertainty

Product Discovery Starts and Ends With the Search Bar

The digital customer journey begins and ends with the site’s search bar. About 69% of consumers most likely go straight to search once they land on an ecommerce site. The search is also a crucial conversion battleground, with 80% of consumers saying they exited the portal owing to a poor search experience. Even brands acknowledge this.

Presenting irrelevant items is a significant aspect of a poor search experience. About 35% of shoppers left a site as it did not show relevant results. About 41% of consumers said there were too many irrelevant results shown. About 32% said products were shown despite being out of stock. Despite almost all brands believing their search results are relevant, real-world testing showed that 79% of ecommerce sites had irrelevant results from searching a few words.

Brands recognize that relevancy is essential for the search experience and conversions. By focusing on relevancy, consumers will most likely convert. About 79% of people would likely purchase something they searched for in the search results.

The importance of search experience is emphasized in today’s economic climate. About 68% of consumers preferred comparing items from various online portals owing to the increased living costs. Brands, too, agree about changing purchase habits. And a good search experience makes a difference for both consumers and brands. 

An excellent search experience matters even more when targeting younger consumers (below age 34). These consumers expect more and will likely leave the site if they have a poor search experience.

Alternative Product Suggestions Can Improve Conversion and Retention

About 56% of shoppers would likely continue shopping on an ecommerce site if it suggests alternate products upon zero search results. About 24% also believed sites could improve the search experience by suggesting alternative items upon zero search results. This indicates how vital product suggestions are for consumer conversions. However, only 35% of brands offer this feature.

Further, 70% of shoppers would likely complete purchasing if the results were personalized according to their search history or specific brands, sizes, and colors they like. However, while many brands agree with consumers, 66% don’t personalize their search results.

Outside personalization, content is critical to the consumer’s journey as well as being an engagement tactic. About 61% of consumers would likely engage with the right content if displayed in the search results. Furthermore, 59% would likely purchase items having consumed the related content displayed in the search results. Some consumers said displaying content in the search results is a way companies can improve the portal’s search experience. 

Areas where shoppers think brands can improve site search the most

Source: The Future of Ecommerce SearchOpens a new window

However, 60% of brand sites don’t serve content within the search results.

Brands can leverage user-generated content (UGC), like comments and reviews, to convert and engage shoppers. About 51% of shoppers would likely engage with the right UGC or influencer-generated content if it were displayed in the search results. Yet 57% of brands are not leveraging UGC or influencer-generated content. This type of content is particularly advantageous for brands targeting consumers aged 25-34.

According to consumers, a few other aspects that affect the search experience include results taking a long time to load (27%) and the search bar’s inability to interpret queries or requests (26%).

Having seen the crucial features contributing to shopper frustration and a good search experience, here is a list of search functionalities companies are missing on their websites.

Key search functionality brands are missing

Source: The Future of Ecommerce SearchOpens a new window

Brand Sites Face Several Barriers

Ecommerce sites face several barriers. For example, sites not helping shoppers navigate their catalogs is a crucial hurdle. About 27% of shoppers left a website as search results displayed too many options, and efficiently narrowing down the results was challenging. About 30% also felt that being unable to use filters to narrow the search results was frustrating. This hurdle is common among companies, as 56% lack dynamic filters. 

Further, 17% of brands do not measure important metrics despite consumer analytics being critical for improving relevancy. About 81% of brands don’t measure the most popular search terms that end up giving zero results. Further, 79% of brands don’t measure the queries that yield high revenues. About 78% also don’t measure what percentage of the site visitors use the search, and 77% don’t measure conversion rates for various search terms or the percentage of abandoned searches.

See more: Time for Keyword Marketing in Ecommerce to (Finally) Die in 2023?

Interestingly, 95% of companies encounter at least one problem with the present search solution, which directly impacts the portal’s search experience. These problems include an absence of advanced product data processing, a shortage of appealing merchandising functionality, and implementation complexity.

Biggest pain points brands face with site search

Source: The Future of Ecommerce SearchOpens a new window

Despite these pain points, brands are looking to invest in improving the search experience. About 84% said they intend to invest in continuously improving the portal’s search.

While the wish to improve the site’s search experience is there, the top pain points may indicate a need for solutions that allow sophistication without compromising time-to-value and efficiency.

Future Opportunities to Improve Customer Engagement

The study demonstrates how integral search on ecommerce sites is to customer experience and how it can impact conversions. It also shows that while brands realize and agree that aspects such as product relevancy, personalization, and UGC boost conversion and retention rates, their search feature doesn’t offer these functionalities. This indicates a huge opportunity to improve their offering to improve consumers’ experience and engagement. Further, brands also have the opportunity to measure crucial metrics to gain better customer behavior insights.

Ultimately, given that brand websites face several pain points with their current solutions, there is also an opportunity for solutions to provide sophistication while maintaining time-to-value and efficiency.

How are you closing the gaps between what consumers want and what you deliver in terms of search functionality on your ecommerce site? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .

Image Source: Shutterstock


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