More than a third of shoppers rank the search box as more important when gift shopping compared with everyday shopping, according to a new study.

Consumers shopping for gifts on an e-retail site rank the ease of searching for and finding  products as the No. 1 site priority, according to a survey released today at Shop.org Retail’s Digital Summit.

47% of consumers say the ability to easily search for and find products was most important to them, ranking higher than product ratings and reviews at 26%. Other responses were multiple and high-quality images at 19%, curated gift ideas at 4% and other at 4%.  1,006 U.S. consumers took the online survey in September, conducted by personalization technology vendor RichRelevance Inc. RichRelevance’s product suite also includes site search and navigation technology, and the vendor has 54 clients in Internet Retailer’s Top 1000.

37% of consumers say a retailer’s search box is more important when they are shopping for gifts than it is otherwise. 55% say search is equally important and 8% say it is less important.

Shoppers likely weigh the search box as more important for gift shopping because they might be seeking products they don’t normally purchase on a retailer’s site they haven’t visited before, says Diane Kegley, chief marketing officer of RichRelevance.

“The search box provides a natural starting point for shoppers who are moving quickly or [who are] unfamiliar with a given site’s navigation structure or categories, or who don’t want to invest the time and effort to browse gift guides and look books,” Kegley says.

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Still, search capabilities are important all the time, as 32% of consumers always use the search box when on a retailer’s site, and 44% often do, according to the survey. 84% of consumers say the search box is extremely important or important when shopping.

A retailer can improve site search by making sure it understands jargon and certain word combinations that mean the same thing, Kegley says. For example, a shopper who types “hairdryer” and “blow dryer” should get the same search results. If a shopper receives no results or just random products when she keys in “blow dryer,” she may leave the site. 73% of consumers say they are extremely likely or likely to leave a retail site that doesn’t produce good search results, according to the survey.

Another way to improve site search is to recognize symbols and abbreviations, Kegley says. For example, a search box should be able to recognize if a consumer inputs a model number or if a consumer types in “10 ft paddleboard.”

When consumers are shopping on a mobile device, 38% of consumers say they get worse search results. 54% say they haven’t noticed a difference and 8% say they receive better results on mobile. Only 65% of consumers say they are satisfied with search results they receive on a retailer’s mobile site or app.

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