Are You Getting the Most Out of On-Site Search?.


On-site search is nothing new to the digital world. It's something brands have been investing in for years, but that doesn't mean that everybody 'gets it'!

I've put together some helpful scenarios comparing online and offline experiences to help you get the importance of your on-site search tool. Customers wouldn't stand for inadequate assistance in a retail situation, so why should their digital experience be any different?

# 1 Presence

The exposure of your assistance search tool is essential.

Imagine walking into your local supermarket and not being able to find the integral ingredients to help you steal the show at this weekend's rendition of come dine with me. Already frustrated with your search, which has led you down three different aisles, you find yourself back where you started. With no end in sight, you turn to look for assistance only to find there isn't any... not a good experience!

I often come across websites where the on-site search is well-hidden from view or not clearly signposted. Data shows that consumers who use search are more likely to purchase than those who use standard navigation because they are shopping with intent. You need to make sure it's easy for your consumers to find what they're looking for. A strong presence can also encourage consumers to use the search, which can help shorten the time of their journey.

We ran a simple A/B test for one of our clients, changing the search positioning and making it more prominent. The proof was in the pudding, with the variant seeing a 33% increase in usage when compared to the control test.


#2 Performance

Most importantly you need your search to perform.

Now let's imagine you've found your shop assistant and can now request that show-stopping ingredient. It may only be balsamic glaze vinegar, but it presents a real sense of class to your dish (and helps to mask any bad cooking). However, your shop assistant returns with a multitude of products ranging from 'sea salt & balsamic vinegar' crips through to pickled eggs; hardly the key ingredient of your masterpiece! Instead of saving you time, the assistant has given you a whole host of vinegar-related products for you to sift through, only adding to your frustration.

But don't worry, the performance of your site's search tool needn't be like that unhelpful assistant, it can be optimised in lots of different ways. Fuzzy logic and predictive results can help return the most relevant and popular results based on your search entry. You can also configure your search to understand which part of the site consumers are searching from, and therefore which content items they are most likely looking for.

For example, if you're on the crisp aisle, being presented with a bag of 'sea salt & vinegar' flavoured would make sense. However, if you're on the aisle signposted 'oils and table sources', you'll have no doubt lost all faith in that assistant's ability to help you on your quest to be crowned as top host.

Ensuring your content is clearly indexed as part of your search tool's configuration cannot be emphasised enough. It's always frustrating being presented with 'Zero results for your search term were found', and this can leave you feeling like you're part of a Little Britain sketch.

#3 Timing

The timing of any prompts that encourage users to utilise your search tool need to be impeccable. There are lots of different types of shoppers, and they don't always shop in the same way every day. I'm sure many of us have experienced walking into a fashion store and finding themselves in the following scenario:

Shop assistant: "Need any help?"
Customer: "No, thanks… 'I'm just browsing?"

This may sound a little harsh, but I'm sure many can associate with this! You're there to have a look around and will ask if you need any support. The fact that they have imposed themselves on you without paying any attention to your behaviour or intent is just annoying.

Now it's not always this black and white online but an impromptu pop-up on a site asking if you need help finding something can be equally annoying – and starts your user journey in a confusing and frustrating manner where you have to close the pop-up.


Websites should be using data to build an understanding of each user's intent. They should be able to distinguish between when a user is browsing versus when they need help finding what they're looking for. In these instances, a simple 'need help finding what you're looking for' message will suffice; enabling the search tool to serve the right message at the right time.


The Sitecore solution

Understanding user journeys, setting up goals, and automated messages are an essential part of building a customer experience that converts.

Sitecore offers businesses the foundation for building customer profiles and understanding their on-site behaviour. This data allows you to appropriately engage shoppers with the right types of communication at the right time; reducing the friction and optimising the user experience and driving conversions to purchase.

Get in touch

Sagittarius has a wide range of experience in understanding how on-site search can improve the path to purchase and drive conversion, resulting in ROI! If you are looking to enhance your on-site search experience using data analysis and initial scoping through to UX and configuration; our team of experts can support your team to deliver the best experience for your customers, get in touch on 0208 070 7820 or email

Ross Breen Thumbnail
Ross Breen
head of client services
With a wealth of Account Management experience under his belt, Ross has lead the growth of many key clients over a number of years and has a broad understanding of the various digital marketing disciplines, working with brands in a number of industries including Travel, Retail, Finance and Insurance.
Ross Breen Thumbnail

Ross Breen

03 Oct 2019 - 5 minute read
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