April 8, 2004, 12:00 AM

How to deliver more relevant site search results

Refining search options for multi-attribute products helps shoppers better articulate what they’re after. Both the search query form and results listings offer merchandizing opportunities, says web design firm.


On its standard storefront platform, a search on “trains “ at hobby site eHobbies.com once revealed results that mixed model trains of different scale with model train parts, scenery, paints and accessories and more in one long list. A switch to multi-attribute product site search from web design and development company Bock Interactive Inc. helped change that by equipping site search to deliver more relevant results.

Search results under “trains” now break results down into each of those category options, as well as give the shopper the ability to further refine search by price, manufacturer, and other features. EHobbies hasn’t disclosed how the site search upgrade has affected conversion rates, but Bock Interactive director Brian Bock says that, across many retail sites, he’s seen improved site search function increase conversions by 5% to 15%.

Site search functionality plays a key role in conversion depending on how a visitor comes to the site, Bock adds. To a shopper coming in from a comparison shopping engine who’s delivered directly to a product page, site search is less relevant, but to the shopper delivered to a site at a high level, such as the home page, it can be critical.

“Search really has two sides: the search form and search results,” says Bock. While a search form can be as simple as a single keyword, a site that sells garden plants, for example, must determine information about the customer’s color preference, plant hardiness zone, growing conditions and more before it can deliver meaningful results. “There, the search form and how people fill it out can be invaluable in helping visitors articulate what they are looking for,” Bock says.

Site search results can offer sales opportunities beyond the expected product listings, Bock adds. The Sharper Image, for example, found that presenting a selection of popular items instead of a blank “no results found” when a search query came up empty was so successful on its U.S. site that it worked with Bock to implement the feature on its European site as well. “If merchants can control both the search form and the search results, ideally they can use them as a merchandising opportunity,” Bock says.


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