July 10, 2020

If They Can’t Find It, They Can’t Buy It: Why You Need Facets and Filters in Site Search

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. Your search functionality must deliver an exceptional experience for website visitors, or you risk potentially losing that prospect or customer forever. In fact, according to Shopify, 80 percent of users admit that a poor search experience can make them leave a web store. Another 2020 article about website statistics states that 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. The following article explores how facets, faceted search, faceted search filters, and faceted sorting help you captivate your customer by providing a smooth and simplified site search experience.

Site search needs to produce relevant results.

When it comes to website search (as with so many things in life), it’s all in the details. Take faceted search filters, for example. These small details can elevate the customer site search experience from good to great, from meh to mind-blowing.  You’ll recall that in a previous article, "How to Improve Your Site Search Relevancy and Customer Experiences," we looked at the need for refined filters on your company’s website search bar, including relevant keywords and combinations of key phrases.

In this article, we do a deeper dive into filters. Specifically, outlining the value of faceted search to suggest filters that match the user’s queries more closely than the initial search results. (Think of it as a subset of the recommendations engine that helps the user identify the desired product--and can even help with upselling.) In short, your customer knows what they are looking for. Help them find it fast by using product attribute filters that can be applied to a subset of search results.

HawkSearch Workbench interface detailing facet administration

The benefit of facets and faceted search to the user experience seems obvious. But surprisingly, 60% of websites do not leverage facets and filters.  Let’s look at why these features should be embedded into your site search functionality.

The Value of Facets, Filters, and Faceted Sorting

If your online catalog has just a few dozen products, basic search and navigation tools might be adequate to accommodate visitors. For some ecommerce sites, filters are sufficient. For many other ecommerce sites, today’s savvy shoppers demand faceted navigation and search.

The golden (search) rule?

Always remember that customers cannot buy what they cannot find. And they expect you to understand their needs and wants when they visit your website, so it’s on you to provide a fast, easy search experience. When you force the user to manually select a well-defined scope, you are making them work too hard, leading to site abandonment. For example, when you don’t use facets and filters, search results are based on attributes that are not based on relevance. As a result, low-quality results move up higher on the displayed list. We have all had this happen and it’s so annoying, most users will abandon the search altogether. When faceted search and navigation IS available, you get a higher conversion rate.

Now that you understand how important these terms are, let’s define them and how they provide a better search experience.

• Filters- allow shoppers to narrow results based on simple criteria, such as items for the garden, kitchen, or bedroom.

•Faceted navigation- provides more relevant results based on filters of specific attributes. When shopping for appliances, for example, filters help narrow a selection down to side-by-side washing machines. Faceted navigation with filters helps locate the exact types of machines that will fit in a specific space.

• Faceted search - is similar. Instead of browsing to a specific section, users enter keywords to search, which applies filters to the results. Most product types on Amazon can be searched using this method. (Don’t confuse this with simple search filter tools that allow users to check parameters as part of the search itself.)

• Faceted sorting- suggests a list of category-specific sorting options for any highly relevant subset of the search results.

Sorting using facets

Fact: A search usability benchmark study from Baymard shows that these techniques are currently only utilized by 10% of top e-commerce sites, making them the most overlooked aspects of e-commerce search usability.

Facets & Filters: At a Glance Benefits

Facets improve product findability. Faceted search removes the burden on users to select the precise keywords to enter into the search box. Instead of having to think about how to best direct the search engine, it allows the user to easily recognize and select from a list which facet best describes what they are looking for.  For those customers who aren't sure what they want, facets outline attributes they may want to consider and offer suggestions for their search. For those shoppers who know what they’re looking for, faceted search narrows the results down by what's important, without limiting their choice to exactly one item.

Faceted search enhances the customer experience

Simplifying your customer’s journey from search to purchase “delights the customer” and is one of the most effective ways to increase conversion, sales, and brand loyalty. In comparison to traditional e-commerce site search that forces shoppers to outline their own criteria for what they want, faceted search provides a long list of subsections or facets that can be explored gradually, one at a time. These facets not only help shoppers to narrow their options and find what they came for without having to guess at catalog descriptions and structure, but it also sets accurate search result expectations, as the number of results they’re likely to find is located adjacently to the facet.  

Facets reduce null-results

The null-result is one of the most frustrating shopper experiences. So much so, that visitors who receive null-results (i.e. no results at all) are three times more likely to leave and never return. But with faceted search, null-results are no more. Unlike regular on-site product search, where all control is with the shopper, faceted search enables your e-commerce store to guide the visitor in the right direction. With the ability to configure search results to only show facets which have results in them, you can be confident knowing that your customer never finds themselves in a situation where zero products are available.

Faceted search delivers valuable customer insights

Data is essential to truly understanding your customer, as well as for ongoing e-commerce optimization and improvement. The more user data you have available, the easier it is to identify trends and patterns in shopper activity and personalize offerings to increase sales. While on-site product search gives you some insight into what shoppers are looking for, if the search terms are too broad and don’t encompass specific keywords, they’re not likely to be useful. Faceted search, by comparison, is much more encompassing. It provides shoppers with multiple options to drill down to the specific product, each step revealing more and more information about the types of products that interest them.


Faceted search allows your customer who knows what they want to narrow their search by what's important, based on the search terms they use, and without limiting their choice to exactly one item. It also helps those who aren't sure what they want to outline some of the attributes they might want to consider.

HawkSearch is different

HawkSearch provides AI-driven, personalized and easy-to-configure facets and filters for your ecommerce store. But more importantly, HawkSearch is the only site search platform that offers unique programmatic data normalization so your ecommerce site can serve up the most useful set of facets to your prospect with normalized and consistent values. For example, your user can sort values that should be numeric in the appropriate order, use the same unit of measure in each facet, use sliders, and other widgets and other usability features unattainable until now.

Talk to us

Find out why HawkSearch offers a competitive advantage. It is the only unified search, recommendation, and data normalization platform for “complex ecommerce” that can effectively handle:

•High volumes of products/SKUs

•Complex inconsistent data attributes

•Year-Make-Model and Part Number/SKU searching  

Visit HawkSearch.com to learn more


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