Let’s Talk About Site Search

We talk about site search quite a bit here on Ecommerce Outtakes. Maybe someday, every site will have an awesome search function and we won’t have to bring it up anymore. But for now, there are still some bad examples of search gone wrong, which means I have to send these sites to the Lion’s Den. Today I came across a big problem when I performed a search on Merrell’s ecommerce site. Check it out.

I wound up on this online store in my quest for hiking boots (who doesn’t like a nice hike in the autumn air?). I entered “women hiking boots” into the search function. First of all, this search returned 13 pages of products, most of which were not hiking boots. As I scrolled through the results, I found sandals and clothes for both men and women. Even from these first few results, you can see that there are men’s and kids items here, along with a pair of gloves. On top of this, there are no sorting or filtering options to help narrow it all down. What a frustrating search!

merrell search copy

To see if I could come up with some better results, I started to type in a new search. This is when I noticed that this is actually a predictive search that suggests popular search terms. Looking at these closer though, I found them to be pretty strange. I would not naturally put + in between all the terms I’m searching for on an ecommerce site; I’m more likely to simply type the words, like I did before. It isn’t very intuitive for the shopper to have to enter those searches exactly like this with the + signs to get relevant results.

merrell search2 copy

For contrast, let’s look at the same search performed on the REI ecommerce store. Notice how the suggested searches are far more natural, and in fact, the one I’m looking for is right at the very top. This predictive search is a lot more helpful.

rei search1 copy

Now take a look at the search results. Products that are actually what I searched for, without a bunch of irrelevant extras. The icing on the cake is all the helpful filters and sorting options to help me refine the search. This is a site where I can truly find the item I want.

rei search2 copyGranted, REI sells a  lot more products from a lot of different brands, so there is a greater need for filtering options. But even on The North Face’s site, an outdoor retailer more similar to Merrell, we can find an easier to use search function. Notice the relevant results, the filters at the top, and the sorting drop-down menu. All helpful features.

northface search copy

Creating a nice site search is no small task, but it’s well worth investing in. Returning relevant results for the terms people naturally search for, and providing refinement options for shoppers to narrow down their results, are both hugely important aspects of a good search function. The North Face and REI are doing a great job, and I suggest that Merrell follow in these other site’s footsteps.


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