Shopify Search Guide: Make More Money From Site Search
The most beautiful thing about Shopify is the ease with which you can set it up and start taking payments. In just a matter of hours, you can have a fully functioning eCommerce store ready to start selling your products.
“Out of the box”, though, means accepting some design limitations because whilst Shopify is a great eCommerce platform, it does have strengths and weaknesses, and one of the most significant shortcomings lies in the product search.
By default, Shopify calls its data set by the variant data specified in the admin panel. If variant data is unidentifiable or omitted, your products simply won’t be found in search.
This article will help you understand the Shopify search problem and suggest a way to improve the search function and increase customer retention and sales into the bargain.
Identifying Shopify Search Problems
Take the following example:
If you own a Shopify shoe store, then your starting point for search would be to add the following data variants to each product:
However, because Shopify data calls only return products with their associated data variants, a customer can’t search for all brown shoes in size 8.5, for example.
You would have to add groups of variants to each product to make this work, but this isn’t feasible if you have an extensive product catalogue. The problem worsens when you add more parent categories to your store and so defining search groups in this way is slow and cumbersome.
A simple solution to Shopify search would be to use the new predictive search feature to show results related to what you are typing. Search terms are matched precisely with typo relevance or the searchable properties of your store products. On some Shopify templates, it is possible to use dropdowns in the search bar, which enhance the search experience.
The problem with using predictive search is that it is torturously slow to use and provides no product variant filtering, so you could not search, for example, “all brown shoes in size 8.5”.
We need a better store search function.
Easy Ways To Improve Shopify Search
Before we delve into the alternatives to improve or replace the default Shopify search bar, we should, first of all, consider making sure the basics are in place, and this is something you can do quickly and easily with your Shopify store:
Tip Number One: Place your search bar strategically.
It may seem evident that placing your search bar in a prominent location will help your visitors. Still, many websites fail to follow this simple design principle because search is an afterthought and only gets implemented when the website design is close to being finished.
This means the Shopify search bar often gets shoved down the bottom of the page where it is not immediately visible.
Most Shopify template themes allow for placing the search bar at the top of the page, and this is where we suggest you put it. Also, make sure the search bar repeats on every page of your website rather than making visitors return to the home page each time they want to search.
Tip Number Two: Make your search bar long enough.
You can’t always be all things to all men, and if you tried to make the Shopify search bar long enough for the longest of your product queries, it would stretch across the whole page!
A better approach is to take the average length of your search queries and design the size of your search bar around that. It’s worth taking the time to see what the average character count is.
To reduce the length of the Shopify search bar, you have to edit the CSS properties inside the theme.scss liquid file.
Search for .search-bar_input and alter the width property by a percentage until you are happy with how the search bar looks on your site.
Tip Number Three: Apply product variants, labels and tags.
Make it as easy as possible for your visitors to find what they are looking for by making good use of the Shopify tagging system. It can be time-consuming to set it up, but it will pay dividends in the long run.
Shopify tags are not visible to the customer, and they are there purely to aid in organising and categorising products on your website.
Tip Number Four: Use a theme that supports the search filter function.
Not all Shopify themes are as functional as others, and in some cases, it is worth paying for a theme where extra features are supported.
One of the Shopify themes that we like is the “Warehouse” theme. Using this theme, you can customise the search bar to allow your customers to filter product results by type.
Be aware that this feature only applies to product types and not on blog posts and pages, as they do not support the product type attribute.
Another neat trick is to show “quick links” when the user hasn’t yet typed anything, although the menu will not show dropdown links if you choose this feature.
There are several ways you can quickly and easily improve the Shopify search experience rather than simply leaving it as an afterthought. Now, let’s move on and discuss some of the problems with the typical site search.
Common Problems With Shopify Search
Although I am focusing on providing a better search experience for Shopify users, the problems with eCommerce site search are prevalent across most eCommerce platforms and not just limited to Shopify.
Here are a few inherent problems that the standard eCommerce site search has to prevent; you should use and test the site function yourself to see what issues it throws up for your visitors.
Null Results Pages
Returning a “no results page” is a common problem not just with the Shopify search engine but most website sites in general.
Ensure that the visitor has some sort of alternative navigation presented to them rather than simply showing them a blank page.
There are several ways of doing this, including adding category suggestions based on the user’s search query, providing alternate queries, and showing personalised recommendations.
Product recommendations based on the search query may not help the user find the exact product they were looking for, but they can help point the user in the right direction.
Adding a phone number direct to the sales line, a chat feature and links to support or a FAQ page are good ways to reduce the page abandonment rate.
A certain number of “no results” searches due to misspellings, will be inevitable on your eCommerce store, but you can use the advice above to mitigate the damage.
Due to many typo permutations, it is impossible to track every search query, but adding a predictive search if your Shopify theme supports it is a good starting point.
Site visitors often use different words to look for the same item: “pants” and “trousers”; “gowns” and “dresses”; “tee shirts” and “t-shirts”. You’ll want to program common synonyms into your search and enable “Fuzzy Matching”.
Displaying Related Products
Displaying related or similar products in a search result set (for example, a “red blouse” if the “blue blouse” is unavailable) is a powerful way to provide product alternatives and keep the customer shopping even if they don’t give a perfect match.
Now that we understand what the Shopify search engine can provide and its limitations let’s move on to finding a better site search solution for Shopify.
Personalised Search And Discovery
What Is Search Personalisation?
One of the most powerful tools used by all the leading eCommerce retailers (I’m thinking particularly of Amazon) is the highly advanced machine learning techniques used to aid site search for their visitors.
You can tailor site search to fit the user by dynamically showing content and product recommendations based on the previous user interaction. For example, tracking the browsing history, examining past purchase behaviour, and using geolocation are great ways to enhance the search experience.
Understanding the customers’ needs is at the core of personalisation, and it’s not just site search where this technique can be applied.
Producing savvy “cart abandonment” emails or quizzes that enhance the onboarding process are both effective ways to target your customer better.
In this way, you can drive repeat purchases, increase conversion rates and generally engage the customer more in the shopping experience.
Artificial Intelligence – The gateway to better eCommerce site search
Arthur Lee Samuel was an American computer pioneer who came up with the phrase “machine learning” all those years ago in 1959 to describe the ability of computers to self-learn without being programmed by humans.
He invented The Samuel Checkers-Playing Program, one of the world’s first self-learning computer programs, and proved that artificial intelligence (AI) was possible.
How Machine Learning Improves eCommerce site-search
Traditional site searches can only deliver results based on the keyword supplied. The adage of “garbage in garbage out” is always a probability in the case of human input. As we’ve seen above, this site-search method provides many problems, producing “zero results” pages and issues with misspellings, typos and synonyms.
Site searches enhanced with machine learning return a far more comprehensive choice of results for each query due to inherent learning ability, interconnecting products based on previous search patterns and user behaviour.
How it works:
Using a combination of Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Linguistic Programming (NLP), site search is improved to return all results based on shopper intent and searches all available product data to produce only the relevant results.
Also, adding relevant synonyms to the product catalogue achieves a more refined search result set even when the search intent does not match the catalogue data.
Searching with machine learning combines the keyword with data such as the click-through rate, how high the conversion rate is, customer reviews, inventory, and crucially – margins.
The search algorithm “learns” which products to display based on the user information provided, and as it records each query, the algorithm improves over time.
Once a site search using machine learning has had a chance to mature, it rewards users with a rich and engaging search experience offering autocomplete and relevant results, real-time trends and personalisation with dynamic filters.
Merchandising search results
By fine-tuning search results, the merchant can apply rules based on commercial objectives rather than simply offering the closest stock item. Returning results with products based on the highest margins can have a massive positive impact on the bottom line.
Putting It All Together- Doofinder is Your Site Search Solution.
Fixing the common search problems listed above will solve a lot of your site search headaches, but implementing custom search solutions can be costly and time-consuming.
Using a simple pre-made integration for your chosen eCommerce platform, Doofinder can help your website shine and provide a best in class site search solution that your site visitors will love! (And also, buy more 😉 )
Include the following features and implement site search best practices with Doofinder search:
- Make the search box easy to spot
- Make the search box big enough for typical queries
- Personalise search suggestions with the use of machine learning
- Search query autocomplete
- Faceted search to product filter
- Natural Language Processing for better results
- Image and voice search
- Comprehensive analytics for easy improvements and reporting
Unlike other complicated site search solutions, Doofinder takes just a couple of minutes to set up. There are premade module solutions for all popular eCommerce shopping carts like Prestashop, Shopify, Woocommerce… etc.
Author: Miriam Vélez
Content Manager at Doofinder.com – With 8 years of experience, responsible for Doofinder’s content team, coordinating the communication strategies, to make the best to be close to our clients and make them enjoy the site search experience.