This is the first in a series of articles on e-commerce search that draw on findings from our recent search usability report and benchmark.
In this article we’ll introduce 12 types of search queries identified during our large-scale usability study of e-commerce search. While not exhaustive they reflect the main types of queries that users rely on when searching in an e-commerce context.
During the usability study, the test subjects were observed to rely heavily on e-commerce search queries that included a theme, feature, relation, or symptom – yet most of 19 tested sites had poor support for these query types. Even among the 50 e-commerce giants we’ve benchmarked the support for most query types is meager at best, as should be evident from the graph above.
These benchmark results reveal surprisingly dismal support for essential e-commerce search query types. For example, among the top 50 grossing US e-commerce sites:
- 16% of the e-commerce sites do not support that users search by product names (which appear on the product page).
- 18% handle phonetic misspellings so poorly that users will have to pass a spelling test to be presented with results (e.g. 0 results for “Kitchen Aid Artysan” when looking for the “KitchenAid Artisan” mixer).
- 70% require users to search by the exact same product type jargon the site uses, failing to return relevant products for a search such as “blow dryer” if “hair dryer” is used on the site, or “multifunction printer” vs “all-in-one printer”.
- 22% of the sites don’t support search queries for a color variation (despite the product searched for being available in multiple colors).
- 60% don’t support thematic search queries such as “spring jacket” or “office chair”.
- 84% don’t handle queries that specify a subjective qualifier, such as “cheap” or “high quality”.
- 60% don’t support symbols and abbreviations, resulting in users missing out on perfectly relevant products if searching for inch when the site has used ” or in.
In this article, we’ll go over each of 12 query types of e-commerce search – with plenty of query samples, tips on how to best support each query type, and examples from the test sessions.
Note: This is the longest article we’ve published to date – a cup of coffee is advised. You may also download the article as a PDF or ePub.