Research slates e-tailers’ site search facilities

More than half of all products on sale on websites run by retailers such as Amazon, Argos and Tesco cannot be found by making simple keyword searches using the search facilities built in to those sites, a new report says.

The study – which analysed consumer behaviour and the underlying structure of retailers’ sites – found that searches using relevant keywords failed to turn up 57 per cent of the products actually available on individual sites, even though the same items could be found by exploring on-site links and menus.

The report, Online Retail User Experience Benchmarks, published by E-consultancy, found that the three critical areas for site and revenue optimisation are search, customer support and promotion.

E-consultancy chief executive Ashley Friedlein says: “The success of an online retail operation is inextricably linked to the ‘holy trinity’ of search, promotion and support. By focusing on and investing in the customer experience, retailers can expect to generate sales and raise conversion rates.”

The study’s author, Dr Mike Baxter, director of customer experience specialist Sales Logiq, says: “Some aspects of online shopping are still struggling to reach basic levels of performance – search effectiveness, for instance. Our usability data suggests that the first site to implement the full range of best practices will see immediate and substantial improvements in sales conversion.” Baxter suggests that just by making sure products are linked to the correct keywords, retailers could see sales double.

The report analyses the online customer journey, incorporating 86 website measures and making more than 50 suggestions to boost sales and conversion rates.

For instance, retailers are largely ignoring deep promotions such as bundles, special offers and Amazon-style free shipping, says Baxter. Interactive product guides, advanced filtering for search results and online customer service tools could all simplify online shopping for customers, encouraging them to spend more. Better page design would also help to reduce the amount of time wasted scrolling down to view content.

Online retail now accounts for about seven per cent of total UK retail sales, and is worth about &£17bn a year.

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