Building a site search feature that helps your customers do their jobs will keep them coming back to search and buy, writes Justin Racine, senior commerce consultant at Perficient Digital.


Justin Racine

When Google opened its doors in the late 1990s, it started on a path that would forever change how society would find, digest and share information. Google provided an easy way for people to search for literally anything and everything, and over the last 20 years or so it has perfected this platform to the multibillion-dollar organization it is today.

Someone with a clinical background may have a different view of your site search compared with someone whose roles is mainly as a purchaser or procurement manager.

Google receives more than 63,000 searches per second, which equates out to over 2 trillion searches per year, so as you can imagine, its search results must be exceptional and meet the focused expectations of its users.

All of these site search results and expectations, however, stretch far beyond users looking for the nearest sushi restaurant or where to buy a replacement car battery. Google has created search results that are so good that everyone who uses its platform is now spoiled with these types of results. This can create issues for businesses with ecommerce platforms. I’ll explain why.

It doesn’t matter if your business is B2B, B2C or B2B2C—the user at the other end of that computer or device is a person, and all people use Google. As a society, our expectations of internet search have been elevated extremely high through our experience searching on Google over the years, and this transcends into ecommerce platforms. Because of this, a site-search system on your ecommerce site that helps customers find your products should be one of the top things on your list to maximize in 2020.


Where to start with site-search strategy

As ecommerce practitioners, we spend countless hours and resources to build platform-rich features that meet—and hopefully exceed—our customers’ expectations.  Site search should be one of these features.

Customers have more options today than ever before to find what they are looking for online, and I can guarantee you that if your site search is lacking, they will bounce and look elsewhere.

So where should you start? How do you know if your search is lacking? What can you do to fix it?

The first thing you need to do is dive into the analytics and data that you already have today regarding how customers use your site search. Gather some baselines and start to track your site search users and the bounce rates on your site stemming from site search.


Cater site-search to customer personas

Are users looking for a specific product that is yielding no results and, as a result, leaving your site? These are the areas to start with.

Also, try reaching out to a set of customers and ask them about their experience with your site search. Make sure to get feedback from different personas, or types of customers, within each customer grouping. For example, someone with a clinical background may have a different view of your site search compared with someone whose roles is mainly as a purchaser or procurement manager.

If you’ve completed these steps and you’ve determined your site search is lacking—what’s next?

Here is where you really need to roll your sleeves up. Gathering as much information from your customers is vital so that you can build a site search system that exceeds their expectations.


Look at elements for search that make sense for your business. If you’re an electrical supplier, you might want to focus on products that are traditionally always used on job sites and boost search results around these types of products.

If you’re a car tire wholesaler or retailer, you might want to focus on informational searches like “what size tire fits a 2010 Jeep Cherokee.” In this instance, the search result may not necessarily link to a specific product, but instead to a product tire configurator, which is likely what the customer needs.

A critical branding opportunity

Exceptional on-site search is important for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is that successful site search becomes a critical branding opportunity for your business and can shift and solidify perception within your customer.

If customers are able to not only find what they need on your ecommerce site, but find other things that they didn’t know they needed—or didn’t know you offered—then you will be able to shift perception and become the single source of truth for what they are looking for.


Think of it this way, customers may start their search on Amazon Business because the perception is that “they have everything.”

If you can build this perception within your business, why would your customers ever need to go elsewhere to find what they are looking for? Once you’ve created this perception, customers may always start their search on your site—and if you’re doing other things right, you’ll gain new business, increase average lines per order and, most important, exceed your customers’ expectations.

Justin Racine is a senior commerce consultant at Perficient Digital, a digital technology and services agency. He is a former director of ecommerce and marketing at distributor Geriatric Medical and Surgical Supply Inc.