What should retailers measure to increase conversions and improve the customer experience through search? An ecommerce consultant and Foot Locker engineering leader offer their perspectives.

Are visitors using search on your ecommerce site more likely than others to complete a sale? Although that’s likely to be true, you can’t answer that question or improve conversion rates from search if you’re not tracking the metrics.

“When customers use the website search box, they are much more likely to complete that purchase,” says Richard Isaac, CEO of RealDecoy, a leading enabler of ecommerce for brands such as Sysco Foods, Samsung, Honeywell and Coach. Conversion rates average 4.6 percent when search is used, more than 60 percent higher than the industry average of 2.8 percent, according to Econsultancy.

Most e-retailers don’t know which metrics matter in search, Isaac argues. “I would say more than half of the companies we work with don’t have appropriate search metrics.”

With the exception of the “null” search, which will be discussed later, a search metric is a measurement that most retailers are probably already using. It’s just a matter of tracking the metric for customers using the search box so that it can be compared to those who find products through a different path.

Isaac notes that analytics packages and intelligent ecommerce search platforms have the capabilities to provide “a fairly good view into search behavior and search analytics, but they need to be set up the right way.”

Isaac contends that retailers not gathering and monitoring search metrics “don’t realize how much search — not only the search box, but also the intelligence that surrounds search — impacts conversion rates. There’s a disconnect between how important retailers think search is for conversion and how important it really is.”

Because different retailers might use the term conversion to describe different metrics, Isaac clarifies, “I’m talking about the percentage of people visiting your website that actually checks out and pays for a product.”

Merchandize Search to Drive Revenue

Retailers have traditionally viewed search as a tool that improves the customer experience — making it easier for the customer to find an item when they come to the site with a product in mind — but not as a revenue driver. Modern search platforms improve the customer experience in ecommerce by correcting misspellings, providing type-ahead suggestions and predicting user intent, among other capabilities, but that’s not all.

In the webinar “Elevate Your Digital Commerce Platform with AI-powered Search,” Isaac shows how retailers can not only personalize search for the user but also merchandise through the search box. In this use case, the retailer could use the average order value (AOV) or revenue per visitor (RPV) metric to gauge how well the strategy is working to cross-sell and upsell.

Merchants can use the type-ahead function in the search box to highlight deals and specials related to that search, Isaac explains.

For example, Ace Hardware promoted grill accessories from one vendor by having six of its branded accessories automatically appear, with images, when a user starts typing the word grill.

“When visitors use the search box, they are telling you their intent,” Isaac says. “If you aren’t merchandising based on the search box when you have an opportunity to do so, you’re not leveraging that signal to drive personalization. And personalization has a huge positive impact on AOV.”

How Foot Locker Uses Search Metrics

Pavan Baruri, director of core services at Foot Locker, Inc., is responsible for the ecommerce websites for the company’s eight brands, which include Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, and Champs Sports.

He is in the midst of migrating the websites to a new ecommerce platform brand-by-brand, along with the implementation of Lucidworks Fusion. At press time, only the Kids Foot Locker site had made the transition.

Baruri is using search metrics to compare Foot Locker’s outgoing search platform with Fusion. One of his first priorities is to look for improvement in the customer’s search experience by closely monitoring null searches, the “no results” messages that are one of ecommerce users’ biggest frustrations. “We don’t want to be in a situation where there is something we sell but we are not able to surface because of a relevancy problem,” he says.

Baruri also wants to manage the parallel problem of searches that return so many results that they are useless to the shopper. Noting that the company specializes in athletic footwear and related products, he says that customers expect its sites to understand their shortcut language for specific items. This is especially complicated because social media handles drive these searches and can change quickly.

Take, for example, the Nike Air Max 95 model, which sneaker shoppers search for using just the number. Type “95” into Google and you will get more than 8 billion results, including crashes on I-95, a news story on a nuclear-capable Russian bomber and Gloria Vanderbilt’s age in her obituary. Type “95” in the search box on kidsfootlocker.com, which is powered by Fusion’s artificial intelligence, and you’ll see 71 listings for Nike Air Max 95—and nothing else.

Add-to-cart is another key metric for Baruri because it enables him to see whether search results are relevant enough for the visitor to take an action. As customers put together their cart prior to checkout, they often use search for some items and browse for others. Add-to-cart identifies the items that visitors found using the search box.

Barari also uses click-through-rates, which track when a searcher moves from a result to a product page, “to give us is an indication of how many users are seeing the new search as more relevant,” he says.

Even in the early stage of using Fusion, “we are seeing decent elevation in conversion and click-through rates,” he adds.

“There are multiple layers to this journey of migration,” Baruri points out. “Fusion comes with a lot of capabilities that we are not leveraging in the first round, but we want to add at least two or three innovation products — the more advanced features of Fusion — into the mix before we head into the holidays.”