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How to Optimize your Search and Discovery Experience on Shopify

Shoppers are looking for what you sell at this very moment. In fact, there are an average of 2 billion ecommerce site visits every month. Most visitors either use your store's search to look for what they need, or find what interests them via recommendations from your site. Those who use the search bar are 2 to 3 times more likely to convert than those who don’t, according to a Forrester Report.

At Shopify, we know that efficient, effective search and discovery makes all the difference for success. That’s why we’re not only improving the search and discovery capabilities we already provide to Shopify merchants, but we’re also working on an exciting new Search & Discovery app that will give you more control over how customers discover products throughout your store—helping you create a great online experience, boost sales and build customer loyalty. 

Why does search and discovery matter?

Shoppers don’t have time to waste. When they struggle to find what they want or don’t see something that piques their interest, they click away. 

After a poor search experience on a site, 85 percent of shoppers said they changed their perception of that brand.

On the other hand, merchants who offer thoughtfully curated, high-quality search and discovery experiences have much to gain. Enhancing and optimizing your site’s search and discovery features can give you an edge over competitors by enabling you to:

  • Influence which products shoppers see first. You know your customers best, and are best positioned to know which items in your inventory will appeal to them.
  • Improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Giving each shopper what they’re looking for quickly and easily saves them time. And helping them discover other items they may want or need not only delights them; it also leads them to anticipate great experiences in the future—increasing the likelihood that they’ll return.
  • Convert more leads into customers. Using search not only saves shoppers time, it also increases the odds that they will make a purchase. As mentioned above, users of site search features are 2 to 3 times more likely to convert than those who don’t use search.
  • Increase your sales. High-intent shoppers who know what they want when they enter your site are not only more likely to buy, but they also tend to spend more. They will ring up, on average, 2.6 times more in sales than those who visit a site to browse. (Think about the customer who walks into a shop and asks for something specific versus the one who is “just looking.”) Finding what they want quickly and easily may leave shoppers more open to discovering other items.

Search vs. discovery—which is more important?

“Search” and “discovery” might seem redundant, but in fact each of these words describes a different action. When we search for something, we usually know what we’re looking for. Maybe we want a wide red belt to cinch a white summer dress, so we go to our favorite online store and head for the search bar. If we find what we’re looking for without a lot of trouble, that’s a successful search. If we also see a recommendation on the belt’s product page showing a matching bag or shoes that complete the look, that’s a discovery.

For ecommerce sites, a simple, speedy search experience is essential to making sales and earning customer loyalty. Good discovery features that offer shoppers relevant items—showing the right products to the right customers at the right time—can boost your current and future sales even more. We continue to improve our native search and discovery features, and our soon-to-come app will give you the flexibility to customize both.

3 Tips for optimizing your site’s search, product recommendation, and filtering settings

Giving your customers the very best search and discovery experience can really pay off in conversions, sales, customer loyalty, and even customer evangelism. To help, here are three tips: 

Tip #1: Keep the results relevant

When customers come to your site looking for pants, do you know which search terms they’ll use? The words customers use for the same item can vary even if they’re all speaking the same language. Among English-language speakers, for instance, a pair of pants can be “trousers,” “pants,” “slacks,” “jeans,” or “leggings.“ In fact, Merriam-Webster lists 40 pants-related synonyms.

That’s why it’s best to include as many synonyms and variations on a term as possible in your site content, inventory listings, and especially product search tags lest you miss serving up the right options to a shopper seeking yellow corduroy pants (“cords,” perhaps?) or paisley jumpsuit (“pantsuit”? “onesie”?).

Colors can be especially tricky to get right. The spectrum is vast; there’s a reason why the big box of crayons comes in 64 hues. “Yellow” is yellow, but what about “lemon,” “chartreuse,” “butter,” “amber,” “gold,” or “honey”? And then there’s “yellow-orange,” “orange-yellow,” “light yellow,” “yellowish-green”, etc.

Tip #2: Let searchers customize their asks

Adding filters to your search engine lets shoppers get specific about what they’re trying to find right up front, and saves them time on your site. Are they looking for a particular size? Color? Fabric? If they want those mustard cords in size XL, but all you have are small sizes, don’t waste their time. However, you might recommend a pair of XL violet jeans—perhaps at a discount.

Tip #3: Delight them with discoveries 

There’s a reason why fast-food workers invariably ask, “Would you like fries with that?” Suggestive selling works. 

Suggesting additional items to customers—known in the ecommerce world as “cross-sells”—can increase your sales and customer satisfaction if done right.

You see what they’re seeking or ordering, and you can enhance their purchase with something extra: matching lipstick with their blush purchase; an umbrella with the raincoat they’re buying; extra brush heads for their electric toothbrush. And if they’re having trouble deciding, cross-selling can present them with alternatives that might be a great fit.

Improving search and discovery on Shopify

As a Shopify merchant, you can already add search and discovery tools such as product recommendations through your Shopify theme settings. If you’re using these, you may have noticed that they already recommend alternative choices and present items frequently purchased with the products they’re browsing through. 

We want to do more for our merchants. Toward that end, we’re working on the Shopify Search & Discovery app, which is coming soon.

Now available to a limited number of merchants for Early Access, this app is set to launch on the Shopify App Store in the coming months. The Shopify Search & Discovery app will now offer merchants the ability to customize what their customers see. You already know your customers best: now, you’ll have what you need to influence their search and discovery experiences. 

Our new app will:

  • Improve empty or poor search results by enabling you to add synonyms to accepted search terms. Not sure which terms your shoppers are using? Our app shows you which searches on your site are producing poor or no results. No more guessing! 
  • Allow customers to filter their searches and category results, so they can find what they’re looking for more quickly. They’ll be happier, and so will you, when they spend the time they saved to peruse more items on your site.
  • Increase your top-selling products’ visibility by recommending them to shoppers via product boosts.
  • Customize how you cross-sell items relevant to the shopper’s selections on your site, further boosting your sales and enticing your customers to come back again and again.

Your customers’ search and discovery experiences are one of the top factors influencing whether they will do business with you, and how much they will spend on their visits. At Shopify, we’re committed to our merchants’ success by providing you with the very best technologies to serve, delight, and retain customers.

Stay tuned: The Shopify Search & Discovery app will be available in the Shopify App Store soon. Learn more here.

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