October 15, 2002, 12:00 AM

Site search still needs work, says new research

On a scale of 1-5, site search usability and relevance ranked a 2.3, says the E-tailing Group, which studied 25 merchant sites.


For all the attention that the importance of site search has gotten as a key driver of successful retail web sites, the search function at retail sites is still pretty dismal, reports Chicago-based consultants the E-tailing Group Inc.

In a test backed by site-search vendor iPhrase Technologies, the E-tailing Group studied 25 merchant sites across six product categories. On a scale of 1-5, site search usability and relevance ranked a 2.3. Even when searches were performed on a specific product brand name, only 72% of the searches delivered correct results. The results dropped quickly when testers searched on customer service inquiries--36% correct--and misspelled words--28% correct.

In addition, online retailers are making it hard to find shipping charges. Only one-third of the sites returned results when testers searched on shipping charges. To make matters worse, only a third of those sites presented correct information, the E-tailing Group says.

Even after relevant search results were displayed, customers have to go through additional steps to find what they need. When viewing results from a category search, customers had to view an average of 2.64 to 2.79 pages to reach the product. Even from the results of a specific product search, customers had to view another 1.26 to 1.79 pages on average to find the product.


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