Black Friday 2019: Is your webshop ready? - The necessity of optimizing your onsite search engine

We’re less than a month away from the biggest retail event of the year: Black Friday (November 29). Unlike a few years ago, the event isn’t solely a one-day sales peak or an American ‘thing’ anymore. Black Friday has gone global and retailers don’t wait ‘till Friday to offer their discounts, and shoppers start looking for sales early. Sales are so high around the event that it has become crucial for the retail business with 30% of all annual sales being done in the period from Black Friday through Christmas. Black Friday really is the kick-off for the busiest and most profitable season for eCommerce. So, is your webshop ready for the busiest period of the year?

Search and thou shall find

Black Friday isn’t simply the biggest peak in online sales, the event spikes the highest number of searches, too. According to a survey done by Google, weekly search queries experience an average uplift of 15% compared to the rest of the year. Since 2014, the searches in the last quarter of the year have more than tripled. And shoppers start looking around early; with the peak starting as early as October: over 40% of all related queries take place in the month before Black Friday. And the searching doesn’t stop there; shoppers will keep looking out for sales all through Xmas and well into the New year. 

Within a website and/or webshop search queries peak too. At Sooqr, we’ve seen a massive increase in searches the past years. In the week of Black Friday 2018, our Sooqr Search engines processed over 6,5 million search queries. This year we expect to see this rise to 8 million! To put it to the day itself, we forecast an increase in the number of total search queries of 33%, in comparison to Black Friday 2018. Meaning we expect more than a million search queries in a single day! Also, after taking a look at years of our own data, we expect our customers to see an increase of 46% in clicks. Crazy, right?

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The necessity of optimised onsite search

It’s not hard to see the necessity of a well-working, optimised onsite search engine. Did you know searching visitors find more products and content, buy up to five times more, look up more, stay longer, have a higher order value and come back more often? And obviously, they help grow your conversion rate. Onsite search is the last stage of the buying process and the place within your shop where conversion actually happens. The stakes are high - the customer either gets the desired experience or leaves to buy elsewhere. That's exactly why optimised onsite search has to ensure instant and hassle-free shopping, especially during the hectic festive season. To make it even scarier: with every second of waiting for results to load, up to 30% of your visitors will leave.


Get your webshop ready for the festive season: optimise your onsite search!

Obviously, at Sooqr, we believe that integrating an optimised onsite search engine within your webshop can be of great benefit for your ecommerce business. There is nothing more annoying than not being able to find your way around a shop. Whether that shop is a physical one or an online one, with a great number of products, it’s just like searching for a needle in a haystack. This is where optimised onsite search comes in. It makes the search short and lets customers find ‘the needle’ in an instant. To make sure your online shop is ready for the festive season, we would recommend optimising your onsite search first. How? Let us give you 9 easy-to-follow steps to optimise your onsite search engine.

Step 1. The location of your search bar

The first thing you need to know about optimising your onsite search gets forgotten a lot. Basic necessities that get overlooked? The size and even more important: where it is placed. Ideally, a search bar should be present on every webpage. Even when you don’t sell anything, visitors should be able to find what they are looking for. Both content & product. From sale items to last items in stock, and from blogs to return policies. The search bar should be in plain sight, at the top-right (preferably), left, or middle of each page. Longer queries are more common nowadays. You need to make sure your search bar is big enough. Give it at least space to fit 30 characters. This, so your searching visitors have enough space to write down what they’re exactly looking for. Also, keep in mind that your search box shouldn't be the same size as, for example, a button to subscribe to a newsletter or the shopping basket, or your searching visitor might get confused.

Step 2. Instant & Relevant

Make your onsite search instant and relevant. The faster, the better. Search results should always correspond with the query. And that is exactly what an optimised search engine does do: give you relevant results instantly. In a nutshell, showing red trousers when visitors search for red trousers. Not yellow socks, or no results at all!

Step 3. Autocorrect

Not everybody is very good at spelling. Throw in some pretty advanced product names, and typos are inevitable. With the misspelling of ‘iphone’, a default onsite search engine most likely won't give any results. An optimised search engine will; whenever a typo is made, the spelling corrector will intervene. So that when you type in ‘Ifoon’, an iPhone will appear and with Zamsnug, a Samsung.

Step 4. Filters & Sorting

To help your potential customers narrow down their search - UX - give them enough options for filtering and sorting results to their query. When searching for shoes, give options for sizing, colour, fit, heel size, material, on so on. 

Step 5. Synonyms

In every language, we use different words for the same things. Like a bike. Bicycle, cycle, two-wheeler, velocipede. All one and the same aren’t they? Imagine you are on the hunt for some new denim trousers. You type in ‘jeans’. You don’t get any results on the query. Strange, because jeans really are the same as denim trousers. You get this result because this default search engine doesn't use synonyms. An optimised search engine does do this. Making you find jeans when looking for denim trousers and visa Versa. 

Step 6. Measuring is knowing 

Zero-hit management is quite an overlooked part of onsite search. What are your visitors looking for, but can’t find because they get no results on a query? When you are willing to optimise, measuring certainty is knowing. Save this kind of information too, as it will help you in the future. You might need to add new synonyms to your list. Or take up a new product or brand that you haven’t got in stock yet. Use (Google) Analytics. By keeping track of all of the movements of your customers, you will find out a lot about them en what they desire. Gather and use this information!

Step 7. Product & content search in one

Sometimes you are in a webshop, just browsing for products. But sometimes you are looking for more than that; you are looking for information. Information on delivery, shipping(costs), opening hours or FAQ. An optimised search engine shows all of this information too. Onsite search for product and content, in one search engine.

Step 8. Lazy loading = fast finding

When something is lazy, we usually don’t really see that as a very nice quality to have. Within the business of eCommerce, it is. With lazy loading, a website doesn't have to load in one go. Pages load as they are being used; when scrolling down. Or in the case of a search engine: when showing search results. 

Step 9. Responsive search engine

Nowadays we’re always online: behind a screen, on a tablet or mobile phone, at home or on the road. You can imagine the frustration of not being able to find what you are looking for because a search engine only works on the desktop. A responsive search engine makes sure you can always use it, wherever you are, whatever device you are using.

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More hacks to optimise your webshop for Black Friday

Optimising your onsite search engine should be a priority, but there are more ‘hacks’ to make sure your online store is ready for the busiest time of the year.

  1. Is your webshop ‘on point’? 

    Is your store up to date? Are all the ads you are showing accurate? Show appropriate images, branding and call-to-action phrases, throughout specific periods of the year. Are all of your items in stock? Temporarily take out-of-stock items off your site. It’s a no-brainer: frustrated customers won’t buy anything, will leave and won’t come back. 

  1. Site Speed 

    Site speed is important. Remove data that is making your site slow(er), such as large images, and/or invest in a tool that specializes in making your website fast(er). A great one you can try free for 14 days is WAO.IO

  1. Images 

    Take a good look at your images. Are they pretty, clear, accurate and show your products in the best way possible? Customers want to be able to see what they’re buying: as they can’t touch and feel, you’ll need to highlight the ‘see and feel’ aspect of the shopping process. Keep in mind: use clear/even backgrounds, one where the products are in use and at least one close-up. Even better: an image with a zoom option. 

  1. Cater to your visitor 

    Invest in options that make it easy for customers to ask questions and/or find information. Include an extended FAQ. Add a (free) chatbot (like one from Watermelon - they’ve also got a free trial), as it will save a lot of time (both for you as a retailer and for the ‘waiting’ customer) and money. 

  1. Make it personal 

    Going the extra mile for your customers does not only make you more trustworthy as a company or brand, but it also increases customer loyalty. A great part of your Black Friday shoppers will be first-timers, whom you would like to return in the new year. That’s exactly why you need to invest in great customer service. Send a personalised email thanking customers for their purchase. Or why not include a voucher for a discount for their next visit. Free (return) shipping on all orders purchased during Black Friday? Bonus points if you use great packaging - something different than an impersonal brown box. Especially during the festive season, because who doesn’t like receiving presents?

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