Why Mobile and E-commerce Search Fails to Deliver | Part 2

Jul 21, 2016

mobile e-commerce

Delivering the right message on the homepage is the first step in delivering a meaningful mobile commerce experience. In order to draw visitors deeper into the site and use the search and browse functions, homepages must first be able to quickly adapt to the breadth of a sites product offering.

Baymard Institute's recent mobile e-commerce usability study found that many people use the homepage content to gain an understanding of the site and the available options. Based on that information, users then scrolled back to the top of the page to select a category or perform a search.

Users Assume the Site Will "Search Within"

The study revealed that more than 50% of users tried to "search within" their current category as a way to filter the product list within that category, however 94% of mobile e-commerce sites perform another site-wide search query instead of offering a way to contextually filter within a category.

The "search within" surfaces at the intersection between category navigation, filtering, and search. The lack of site search and filtering support for this behavior was observed to be a direct cause of site abandonment, as one of the test subjects explained after performing such a search and learning that it was not connected to his category: "When I search—when I am in a category—then to me it seems logical to search within that category."

It's easy to understand why a user would expect a site to support this behavior, but it's another thing altogether to deliver it. Fortunately there are two design alternatives that have shown to be an effective way to solve the "search within" conundrum: a smart autocomplete feature or a scope selector. Let's take a quick look at both solutions.

Solving for the "Search Within" Behavior

  1. Smart Autocomplete — 74% of mobile sites have a search autocomplete feature in place, however not all smart autocomplete technology is created equally and many make suggestions based on the words the user is typing and not the context of the shopper. For example, if a user has navigated to the Bed & Bath category and begins a search with the letters "med..." it's likely that they are looking for medicine cabinets, not medicine balls or media storage. Advanced solutions such as Hawk Search's smart autocomplete offer the ability to utilize features such as visitor targets, boost and bury rules, and even 1:1 personalization and individual shopping behavior to offer visitors the most relevant suggestions.
  2. Search Scope — Another option, made popular by mass-merchants like Amazon, is to scope the search field itself or in other words display a manual selector in the form of a drop down or embedded in the search field. "Scope" can be thought of as category and the results should default to the current category and offer alternatives. Using the previous example of a search beginning with "med..", as the searcher types each letter, the autocomplete navigation options dynamically update and display results that might include, "Medicine Cabinets in Bed & Bath," "Medicine Balls in Sports and Fitness," and "Media Storage in Furniture." 

Request a free one-on-one demo today and learn how we can help you make your website search feature mobile friendly.