We Analyzed the Onsite Search Functions of 15 Top eCommerce Sites in the World and the Results Were Unexpected

When you really analyze it there isn’t anything more important than people being able to find what they want on your site.

If they can’t find what they’re looking for they can’t buy it, which means no sales. The entire point of having a site in the first place is negated if your customers can’t find what they want easily and buy it.

Even though this fact is more than enough to make the findings of this article some of the most valuable you’ll ever read, there are even more incredibly important reasons that search is so critical to your site.

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The Reasons Great Search is Vital to Your Business

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User Experience:

When a customer can’t find what they are looking for they get really annoyed. Once someone is annoyed it’s much harder to please them with any other aspect of your site or customer service.

Once they get upset, they tend to stay upset. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that upset customers buy less, return more and make more complaints.

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Sales Go Down:

This is pretty obvious, customers can’t buy what they can’t find.

Not only that, but they will tend to leave you site faster as well.

As an example: Here we will use camera lenses, but you could be selling anything.

Your customer needs an 18 – 55 DSLR lens that fits his camera model. He uses the drop downs in the navigation and doesn’t see what he needs. So, he looks for the search bar and doesn’t immediately see it even though you have one that will appear when you click the magnifying glass, but, it’s not obvious. So, he leaves.

Or, he finds your search bar, types in as much as he can, and it comes up with a poor result, essentially the same thing he found before, because your search has a poor engine, and so he leaves.

The reason you know he would leave is, because if you think about it, you would too. If you search the navigation and the search bar and cannot find what you want, you presume they don’t sell it and leave.

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It Cuts Down on Refunds:

What happens when you searched as best you could on a site, you found what you think might work, you buy it and upon receipt see that it’s really the wrong item?

Well, just like everyone else, you return it.

When your customers can find the precise item they need, they buy with confidence and receive the item that solves their problem or fills their need.

This dramatically cuts down on costly returns.

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Great Search Keeps Them on Your Site Longer:

This happens for a few reasons.

A). Once you find one thing that you’ve been searching for easily, you tend to search for more items. If the search was difficult or exhausting, you tend not to perform more searches.

B). When you find what you want, you buy it instead of leaving. If your shopping cart has similar items or also bought items merchandised that are one click add on items, then you not only get the sale, but continue merchandising and gaining sales.

C). It’s undeniable that a pleasant user experience keeps people on your site and keeps them coming back. Whereas, a difficult or upsetting one makes them leave and not come back.

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Better Word of Mouth:

People talk. The problem is they seem to like talking about bad experiences even more than good ones.

Providing better search improves the customers user experience which leads to more positive comments online and with friends or family than negative ones.

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More Social Shares:

It’s a fact, customers share sites more often that they like and they like sites that are easy to use.

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When Looking at the Top Sites

As mentioned; we wanted to review top eCommerce sites to determine what commonalities they possess, what they are doing right and what they could improve upon.

The goal is to provide usable examples that you can test on your site to make large or even small improvements that can significantly impact your bottom line.

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Finding The eCommerce Stores

The criteria were simple. Look for eCommerce stores in a variety of industries that were all using search to some varying degree of success.

Then analyze each and compare with their piers to determine which features, functions, page positions or visibility factors would have the greatest impact on consumers successfully using the function to find what they wanted.

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View and Review Each Site

We then examined each of the following sites home pages site search functions to determine which elements they each used and how they impact user experience.

While the focus of this article is not just the use of search in the mobile presentation of the examined sites, which will be the focus of an upcoming article, mobile integration is incorporated in our information for you below.

The criteria we used to determine successful commonalities were;

The search box location in both desktop and mobile, is the search box always open or must the user open it to start, does search have a spell check feature, is their an autocomplete feature, number of products in the drop down and is it a horizontal or vertical dropdown.

We also looked at what platform they were using for their store, so you could compare that against your site as well. Or if you’re looking to open a store, the information might be invaluable in your platform choice.

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Here is what we found:

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Fashion Nova

Market Segment: Online fashion clothing store.

Platform: Shopify.

Search box location: Top center.

Search box location mobile: Top of page, below page header.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 2.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 5.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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IMA

Market Segment: The selling of international military antiques.

Platform: Shopify Plus.

Search box location: Top right.

Search box location mobile: Top of page, below page header.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 2.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 3.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Horizontal.

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Pura Vida Bracelets

Market Segment: Bracelets, jewelry and more.

Platform: Shopify Plus.

Search box location: Top right.

Search box location mobile: Need to click on hamburger menu to see the search box.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 4.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 4.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Gymshark

Market Segment: Gym wear and fitness clothing.

Platform: Shopify Plus.

Search box location: Top right.

Search box location mobile: Need to click on hamburger menu to see the search box.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 4.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 4.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Asos

Market Segment: Fashion and style clothier.

Platform: They are using a custom platform.

Search box location: Top center.

Search box location mobile: Search icon (magnifying glass) on the top header, just near the “asos” name. need to click on it to open the search box.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 2.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 0, thought relevant categories are listed in the dropdown.

Products images included in the dropdown: No.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Forever 21

Market Segment: Clothing fashion retailer.

Platform: They are using a custom platform.

Search box location: Top center.

Search box location mobile: Top of page, below page header.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 2.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 0, thought relevant categories are displayed.

Products images included in the dropdown: No.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Sephora

Market Segment : Beauty products.

Platform: They are using a custom platform.

Search box location: Top left.

Search box location mobile: Top of page, below page header.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 3.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: No.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 0,  thought relevant categories are displayed.

Products images included in the dropdown: No.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Next

Market Segment: Clothing.

Platform: They are using a custom platform.

Search box location: Top left.

Search box location mobile: Search icon (magnifying glass) on the top header, just near the “next” name. need to click on it to open the search box

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 2.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: No.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 0.

Products images included in the dropdown: No dropdown.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: No dropdown.

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Colour Pop

Market Segment: Beauty and cosmetics.

Platform: Shopify.

Search box location: Top right.

Search box location mobile: Search icon (magnifying glass) on the top header, just near the “colorpop” name. need to click on it to open the search box.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 3.

Search box always open: No. You need to click the word search for it to open.

Search has a spell check feature: No.

Search has an autocomplete feature: No, though you do get relevant suggestions.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 6.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Horizontal.

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Kylie Cosmetics

Market Segment: Beauty and cosmetics.

Platform: Shopify Plus.

Search box location: Top right.

Search box location mobile: Top of page, below page header.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 2.

Search box always open: No, you must click on it to open it.

Search has a spell check feature: No.

Search has an autocomplete feature: No.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 0.

Products images included in the dropdown: No dropdown.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: No dropdown.

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Ford Motors Accessories

Market Segment: Auto accessories.

Platform: Magento.

Search box location: Top Left.

Search box location mobile: MMY and then search box top right.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 1.

Search box always open: Yes, when clicked you’re asked to fill in your make, model and year of automobile.

Search has a spell check feature: No.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: Varies.

Products images included in the dropdown: No.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Olympus

Market Segment: Cameras

Platform: Magento.

Search box location: Top center.

Search box location mobile: Need to click on hamburger menu to see the search box.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 1.

Search box always open: No, you must click it to open.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: No.

Number of products found in the dropdown: Varies.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Fujitsu Scanners

Market Segment: Document and image scanners.

Platform: Big Commerce.

Search box location: Top center.

Search box location mobile: Search icon (magnifying glass) on the top header, need to click on it to open the search box.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 1.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: No.

Search has an autocomplete feature: Yes.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 4.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Ben & Jerry’s

Market Segment: Ice cream and confections.

Platform: Big Commerce.

Search box location: Top right.

Search box location mobile: Top of page, below page header.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 1.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: Yes.

Search has an autocomplete feature: No.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 5.

Products images included in the dropdown: Yes.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: Vertical.

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Motorola

Market Segment: Radio communication equipment and software.

Platform: Big Commerce.

Search box location: Top right.

Search box location mobile: Top of page, below page header.

Number of products in the SERP – mobile: 1.

Search box always open: Yes.

Search has a spell check feature: No.

Search has an autocomplete feature: No.

Number of products found in the dropdown: 0.

Products images included in the dropdown: No dropdown.

Horizontal or vertical dropdown: No dropdown.

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Statistics

Here are how the statistics break down.

  • Search Box Location:

The winner here is the Top Right placement with 7 of the 15 using that space effectively.

2nd place goes to Top Center with 5 of the sites placing their boxes there.

  • Search Box Always Open:

The clear winner is YES with 10 of the sites using this feature.

2nd place goes to closed is various fashions of doing so.

  • Has Spell Check:

9 of the top 15 sites have spell check and 6 do not.

  • Has Auto Complete:

9 of these top sites have it and 6 don’t.

  • Products in the Dropdown:

9 of them have products in the drop down and 6 do not. The largest number in the dropdown is 8 and the average number in the dropdown is 4.3.

  • Has Products Images in the Dropdown:

8 of them have products images in the drop down and 7 do not.

  • Horizontal or Vertical Dropdown:

10 have a vertical drop in their search box 2 have horizontal openings and 3 have no dropdown.

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Points to Consider

Even with large sites that are successful there are things they could improve upon that other successful sites are doing such as;

  • We all know that you lose people with every click you make them take. 

So, a search box that’s always open makes sense as it cuts down on the number of clicks to find your products.

  • People may be unsure of exactly what they are looking for, its precise name or how it’s spelled. 

Having your onsite search with both auto complete and spell checking helps your customers find what they are looking for while limiting their frustration and possibly the embarrassment of not knowing how to spell it.

  • Make it as easy as possible. 

When you have products appear in your drop down that are what the consumer is looking for or at least close, you’ll get a whole lot more eyeballs on those items than if there’s nothing in the drop down.