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What Google Search Results Teach E-commerce Companies About Merchandising
On the surface Google search results and e-commerce merchandising don’t appear to have much in common. One helps you find information. The other is a destination to buy merchandise.
But people navigate search and retail sites in similar ways — and in turn, Google searches can teach e-commerce retailers important lessons about the importance of product sorting, user behavior, and relevance.
Apply the following principles to your e-commerce sorting strategies to improve user experience on your site, increase engagement and sales, and ultimately drive business growth.
Give users the best options immediately. When was the last time you clicked on a Google search result on page two? It’s probably been a while. When have you clicked on a search result on page 12? Probably never.
In fact, a recent study of 4 million Google search results found that only .63% of Google searchers clicked on a result on the second page. Meanwhile, the No. 1 result had a clickthrough rate of 27.6%. That was followed by 15.8% for the second search result, 11% for the third result, and 8.4% for the fourth result. The findings shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s human nature. Attention spans are short, and people want the desired result with as little effort as possible.
Similarly, e-commerce consumers click on results at the top of collection or search result pages and virtually ignore the rest. In fact, 80% of users won’t scroll beyond the third page of your collection results. On most stores, the top five to 10 collections receive 50% or more of all the collection views.
There is one important distinction. Compared to Google, retailers have the advantage of control. They can put their most popular or best-selling products in key areas of category or collection pages immediately. On Google, placing your content on the first page of a search result takes mastering the art of search engine optimization or buying a Google ad. Using an automated merchandising tool like Entiace only makes that process easier by automatically sorting collection pages based on predetermined criteria.
Relevance is critical: Google search results are sorted based on their relevance to the search query. If successful, the search results will correspond to the specific information that the person making the query wants. If not, people get frustrated. Say someone is searching for NBA legend Chalres Barkley but sees results for the band Gnarles Barkley, they won’t be too pleased. Relevant search results equal happy Google searchers.
Similarly, e-commerce retailers can use product sorting, filtering, and assortment planning to ensure that products are presented in a way that is relevant to a user's search query or browsing behavior. Provide logical filtering options and arrange products to appeal to all of your different customer types. Ensure that your collection pages have assortments for every type of buyer persona, have compelling product assortments on each page, and group products visually by color, aspirational imagery, or other factors.
Optimize for conversions: Google search results are optimized for conversion, with the aim of encouraging users to take action, such as clicking through to a website or making a purchase. Similarly, e-commerce retailers can use product sorting to optimize their category and collection pages for conversion. To do so, present products in a way that is most likely to drive purchases — or at least click throughs from category pages to product detail pages. That entails featuring products with high sales, high sales efficiency (which sell well when clicked on), or products you are currently promoting in key places on your site.
Focus on user experience: Google search results are designed to provide users with the best possible experience, with results that are easy to navigate and relevant to their search query. Similarly, e-commerce retailers can use product sorting to improve the user experience on their site, by making it easy for users to find what they are looking for, and providing them with relevant products that meet their needs.
The big distinction here is that user experience is a high-stakes game for retailers. If the user doesn’t find what they want quickly, they’ll likely turn to a competitor. When it comes to online search, there are only a few other options. Consumers could possibly switch to Bing or DuckDuckGo but they’ll likely just stay with Google. In retail, the options are endless, so the user experience must be on point.
Get your ranking algorithm right: In online search and retail, the relevance and popularity of content or products are essential in determining its ranking. On Google, the search engine uses its highly celebrated (and highly protected) algorithm to rank search results based on factors like keyword relevance, domain authority, and user behavior. On ecommerce websites, product ranking is determined by its own algorithm, using factors like popularity, customer reviews, and more.
Of course, many retailers don’t have an exact algorithm for ranking products. Many do it manually. Others choose an automated merchandising tool to automatically sort collection pages based on a series of criteria. They allow you to prioritize top-sellers, efficient-selling products, or group other factors like price or color. Once you input the criteria and build your algorithm, it automatically reorganizes your page.