Maximizing eCommerce Search Performance for Brands and Manufacturers

The Rise of the Multi-Channel Shopper
Mobile Fueling the Growing Importance of Search
When the Search Begins, Amazon Is the First Stop
Retailers Improving Search for the Multichannel Shopper
The Moment of Truth for Brands and eCommerce Search
Optimizing for eCommerce Search: What Brands Are Doing
Maximizing Search Performance: How Clavis Helps Brands

The Rise of the Multichannel Shopper

The days of a linear path to purchase that begins with the first moment of truth at the shelf and ends with a purchase at the register are over.  Today, the shopper journey is rapidly becoming more of a zigzag between multiple channels during three distinct phases—research/compare, purchase, and delivery/return with ecommerce search performance influencing each stage. ecommerce search

Whether shoppers do research online and go to a store to buy; took the inverse of that approach; or tapped both channels during a pre-purchase search, moving between the digital and physical world to research and buy is becoming the new normal in an increasing number of categories.  In fact, the number of shoppers using several different channels—including bricks-and-mortar stores, online, and mobile apps—along the path to a single purchase grew from 36% to 38% in the US in 2015, compared to 42% who search and buy online only and 20% who search and buy in-store only (UPS).  

While ecommerce sales of retail products are growing rapidly in their own right—up 42% in 2015 and outpacing total e-commerce’s 30% increase (1010data)—the online channel also plays a critical role in influencing and driving purchase decisions in offline channels.  Even for “every day” items like laundry detergent and shampoo, consumers indicate they do research online prior to making an in-store purchase.  In general, more than 85% of US consumers say they researched a product online via their PC or laptop before buying (PWC).

Of course, as they zig and zag between online and offline channels, shoppers increasingly expect retailers and brands to enable seamless movement throughout the course of their journey.  Consumers still need and want assistance to make shopping faster, easier, and more efficient–especially when they begin their search for products in a category and the often overwhelming array of choices comes flooding at them.

Mobile Fueling the Growing Importance of Search

Multichannel shoppers relish the freedom to research and buy wherever and whenever they want.  Now that more than 70% of people over the age of 18 in the U.S. have a smartphone (Nielsen), that freedom has expanded dramatically.  As many as 8 out of 10 consumers globally now report using a computer, in-store technology, or a mobile device when shopping (Mastercard) and 28% of in-store sales are now influenced by mobile devices (Harvard Business Review).  

The mobile-driven expansion of virtually unlimited access to the online channel is a major reason it has become the primary go-to-destination during the research phase of the path to purchase.  Almost 40% of offline shoppers and more than 30% of online shoppers agree that technology’s impact is greatest during the research phase. (BCG) Among online shoppers, 95% reported using a PC or laptop to research a product, 58% using a tablet, and 56% using their smartphone (UPS).  Not surprisingly, multichannel shoppers regularly use their mobile phones prior to arriving and while at a store to learn more about and find products.

As a result, a full 60% of product searches now start online compared to just 13% at a store (UPS).  Instead of trawling up one aisle and down the next hunting for items on their shopping lists and/or a salesperson to help, a rising majority of shoppers simply type in a few search words or phrases to find products.  The ‘search bar’ has clearly become the tool of choice among consumers ready to buy.

When the Search Begins, Amazon Is the First Stop

Interestingly, a shopper’s search may be one of the few areas Google does not have a corner on the market.  Among online consumers who are ready to buy, a full 27% of them head directly to Amazon’s search bar, compared to the 15% who start on a search engine.  

For Amazon, this en masse movement to online search has opened up a major opportunity to convert the sale. A stunning 87% of shoppers who start with a search on Amazon ultimately buy elsewhere.  In response, the online retailer has heavily focused on finding ways to convert traffic to sales and lock in repeat purchases by make it faster and easier for shoppers in search-and-research mode to find what they need and “skip the trip” by clicking the buy box on Amazon.

ecommerce search performanceIn anticipation of the many category needs of shoppers, Amazon attempts to make a product search as efficient as possible by offering shoppers multiple options for refining their search for a particular product – by “Deals,” “Best-Sellers,” different product attributes and characteristics, and brands.

The search result pages provide essentials such as product images, a product rating/review snippet, and price.  Meanwhile, expanded A+ content options for product landing pages now include videos to provide shoppers with product images and concise information, delivering fuller pre-purchase product interactions—in many cases superior to those that shoppers might get in a physical store.

With a promise of “everyday made easier,” Amazon’s Dash button and Prime Now mobile app facilitate ordering and expedited delivery of familiar and frequently used CPG products for shoppers.  Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program offers another fast way for shoppers to buy and get a discount on the products usually purchased during a re-stock trip.

Retailers Improving Search for the Multichannel Shopper

For their part, traditional retailers are nipping at the heels of search engines, too, as far as commanding the attention of buy-ready shoppers goes – 14% of online shoppers report beginning a search on a retailer’s website (UPS).  Recognizing that anywhere from 50% to 75% of in-store sales now initially start with an online store search or a mobile app, retailers such as Target and Walmart are highly motivated to attract and retain the multichannel shopper. recently changed its user interface to place a much greater emphasis on product search. Target added a more prominent search bar and also collapsed the category menu, to allow shoppers to use keyword searches to more quickly find products. The search features are easy to navigate and use on mobile devices. “Featured” categories, “Most Loved” items and “Top Viewed” products help shoppers more easily narrow down the consideration list of prospective products in a category and build a shopping list. updated its mobile app with improved search capabilities as well.  The “Search My Store” feature on the app empowers in-store shoppers to use keywords or product names to search real-time inventory at their local Walmart.  The search then returns a list of products, pricing, and the precise in-store location where the shopper can rapidly locate the products they want to buy.

The Moment of Truth for Brands and eCommerce Search

With the biggest ecommerce and traditional retailers catering to the multichannel shopper’s search needs, search results have unmistakably replaced the shelf as the first moment of truth for brands.  

Remember, however, that the primary reasons shoppers head online to start a search are the convenience and the potential for more expansive product information—including ratings and reviews from other consumers.  Shoppers have limited interest and ability to process product information; they do not want to peruse and evaluate the thousands of products for sale in any given category.   

Shopper expectations for fast, easy, and efficient searches means that unless a brand appears in the top 10-15 search result listings, the likelihood of consideration drops precipitously.  On Amazon, for example, 70% of shoppers do not click past the first page of results.  Because shoppers confine consideration to only a handful of brands, securing one of the top four or five listings on a search results page and landing “above the fold” on mobile devices is of critical importance to achieving an “eye-level” position on the digital shelf.

As Amazon and other retailers expand programs such as Amazon’s dash button and Subscribe and Save which lock in a shopper’s brand choice from purchase to purchase, getting into a that initial handful can have a significant payoff.  To add another incentive, 55% of online shoppers use the same shopping list from one purchase to the next—a brand that makes the first list has a built-in advantage when it comes to securing consistent repeat purchases. (Kantar Worldwide)

Because the link between ecommerce search performance and sales performance—both online and offline—is strong, the competition to get a brand into the top results can be fierce.  Adding to the complexity, not only is ecommerce search different from general internet search, but each store also has its own proprietary Search algorithm. Layer in the multiple SKUs a brand maintains—often in several categories—across all these different retailers, and maximizing search performance can seem like a daunting task.

Optimizing for eCommerce Search: What Brands Are Doing

To deliver better search performance, many brands looking to get ahead of the competition in their category have successfully identified ways to prioritize their efforts to get to eye-level.  Looking at their brand’s key categories, understanding the search terms, and selecting from the 20% of products that drive 80% of the revenues, for example, has proven an excellent first move for manufacturers when it comes to selecting the best products to optimize for Search.

Looking at the common contributors to search rank across online retailers—elements such as product availability, product content, and ratings and reviews— helps brands to hone in on the areas that have the greatest potential to affect search position. Of the common contributors, maintaining product availability is especially important as going out of stock can have long-lasting negative consequences.  

Many ecommerce search engines list out-of-stock products about as far from eye level as they can get—at the bottom of search results or hiding them all together.  The low rankings continue even after the product’s inventory is replenished.  Brands that proactively monitor and maintain the availability of their products can simultaneously maintain a higher search position for their products.

Getting the basics of search optimization for ecommerce engines in place additionally aids efforts to improve position.  The #1 most common mistake brands make in online stores, for instance, is listing the incorrect product title.  Listing the full product name first, followed by a functional name, product size, and any aliases or keywords linked to the category in the product title is the ecommerce-search-friendly approach to follow.  

Maximizing Search Performance: How Clavis Helps Brands

Search represents one of the biggest challenges as well as one of the greatest opportunities for brands looking to nail the sale as shoppers move along the mobile-enabled multichannel path to purchase.  Retail manufacturers that actively utilize management tools to make the process of maximizing search performance more effective and efficient will see greater sales success.

Our enhanced search reporting provides your brand with a deeper and more complete understanding of how shoppers are finding your products at online retailers. Our reports allow brands to visually assess and customize category Search performance across key retailers for different position goals.

Brands can widen their search position goal to be as broad as the top 20 or top 50 results or narrow their search position goal to be as targeted as the top 10 or even the top 3.

Our share of search information is now inclusive of all results returning against key search terms, not just a brand’s products and named competitors. This capability will help your brand to identify unknown or emerging competitors.  

To learn more about our search performance and optimization tracking and all the ways which Clavis can help you win the digital shelf, contact us and see a demo of our ecommerce intelligence platform.