To better engage and convert buyers with site search, take advice from effective retail ecommerce sites that modify search results to help buyers find what they need and complete a purchase, Unilog’s Aung Latt writes.

AungLatt_Unilog

Aung Latt

When a consumer wants to buy a product online, they’ll often search for it on Amazon and expect to see what they’re looking for appear near the top of their search results. A huge seller like Amazon can invest heavily in its search technology, but most B2B ecommerce merchants aren’t as fortunate—they’re judged by their results, and if a buyer doesn’t see exactly what they want in the first returns, they may not make a purchase.

Online shoppers use site search frequently: 45% percent use it “often,” and 35% use it “always,” according to the Site Search Survey 2018. Getting the right results is incredibly important, and it’s crucial for distributors to have content and product descriptions that are indexed for the best possible search returns. While great content is the first place to start when looking to maximize search returns, there are several other factors and features that B2B eCommerce sellers can use to deliver an experience that rivals Amazon and other competitors. Here are three crucial things to consider deploying as part of site search results:

1—Predictive content to expedite search

Most online retail searches are a single word, so sellers must match results with that single word as best as they can. One way to do this is to add predictive functionality to the search tool, which helps customers find the products they want even faster.

For example, visit the website for Home Hardware Center and type the letters “ham” into the search bar, and you see predictive results, including categories, brands, and recommendations, all before going to an actual results page. These predictive results reduce the amount of time users need to spend combing through search results and finding the product they want. If they can see the predictive result without even clicking the “search” button, they can get to the product immediately from the home page and add the product to their cart. This is good news for the seller, because an easy purchase journey leads to improved customer retention and loyalty and increased site usage, according to Econsultancy. It’s a positive for B2B buyers, like contractors, as well, because the less time they spend searching and ordering, the more time they have for helping their customers.

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Distributors can take predictive recommendations even further by applying machine learning to influence the order of the predictions and search results. A shopper who types in “ham” may be looking for a product like a hammer, a hammock or hamster food, or they may be looking for a brand, like Arm & Hammer. If users are clicking on one of those items more than the other, machine learning will use those recorded actions to adjust the returns and recommendations. The end result is a highly-relevant search experience that better matches buyers to the products they want, and continues to improve by analyzing buyers’ on-site shopping habits. This almost personalizes the on-site experience, again making it far easier for a business buyer to complete their order in a short amount of time.

2—Previews of products

Predictive results are great, but they can be made even better by incorporating product previews. Rather than simply displaying words based on what a user has typed, that same search tool can display images, short descriptions, or even previews of the pricing and an “add to cart” button, right there in the predictive results.

While buyers still have to type the words of the product they want into the search engine, the ability to actually see the product they are looking for will make it that much easier to make a purchase decision. Once again, the easier and faster it is to find products online, the more likely you are to convert searches to sales.

3—Promoting brands with engaging content

Ecommerce sellers can build even more engaging content off their search results and predictions. One possibility is building specific branded pages that stand out a bit more from traditional search results by incorporating brand logos, videos, and additional content.

If a buyer visits Town & Country Hardware, types in the brand name Traeger and clicks on the brand recommendation, they are taken to a branded Traeger results page. The benefit here is that the buyer doesn’t need to run separate searches for Trager smokers and the hardwood pellets used in these smokers. Instead, all the brand’s products are grouped together with branded imagery, along the opportunity to click for access to more content, like recipes and how-to videos. Once again, the easier it is to get to a product, the more likely a buyer is going to come back. For suppliers in industries like hardware, this is crucial, because building long-term relationships with professionals is a great way to increase revenue.

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These search-driven promotions allow ecommerce sellers to produce smaller content hubs on their site for their brand and manufacturer partners. The result is a much more engaging and easy-to-navigate on-site experience for the prospective buyer.

More than anything, B2B ecommerce sellers need to view site search as a way to enhance their customers’ on-site experience. Search is a necessity, but a truly powerful search tool that offers predictions, previews, and brand promotions can drive sales and separate an online distributor from its competition.

Aung Latt is president of Unilog Content Solutions, a provider of B2B ecommerce software integrated with PIM technology. He has 20 years of experience in enterprise business software and multimedia technology. Prior to joining Unilog, he was an executive at ERP technology companies DDI System and Epicor Software Corp.

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