The recent Econsultancy Site Search Report found half of site searches are unsuccessful. While the survey also finds 57% of firms are planning to increase their investment in this area, it is something that is only going to become more important as online retail continues to grow and cross-border trading increases.
Our own research shows internet retailers are losing at least 20% in their conversion rates due to failed searches, specifically through spelling variations. A perfect example is the word 'spaghetti', for which through our experience of processing more than 150 million search queries every month from some 800 internet retailers we have found more than 40 variations. This type of query will be invisible to a standard search engine.
Another area that can cause problems is the relevance of search results, which can again be crucial to converting visitors into buyers. All products, and their related items, must turn up within the first two pages of any search result; just 22% of people look beyond page one.
The report also suggests that 37% of companies use free site search technology, increasing to 56% for companies with a turnover of less than £10m. This merely serves to underline the problem free search technology will simply not have the power and functionality to deliver good, comprehensive results.
As a pan-European company, we see that the UK online grocery market is much more developed than in the rest of Europe. While retailers such as Tesco in the UK surge ahead, many major European grocery chains are only just considering taking the plunge online. With this in mind, it is imperative the UK provides the right technology for its 'smart' online shopper.
Today, most professional, third-party site search solutions provide self-learning technology combined with dynamic filter options and good insights and analytics.
Even multiple languages should not be a problem. I believe we will see retail, particularly grocery retail, lead the way in dynamic, error-tolerant search functions over the next three years and these will become standard functionality for all sites.
Mathias Duda is head of UK operations at FACT-Finder.com