Flickr Image: Jeffrey Beall
There are three ways consumers use the web: they search, browse and buy. Most organizations increase their site’s traffic by adding searching tools and enhancing SEO. While this helps people answer their initial question of “what,” it doesn’t necessarily go the extra step and encourage them to browse or buy.
However, if positioned correctly, encouragement to go beyond just the initial search can be helpful to the consumer… at least when it comes to expanding their knowledge and possibly influencing their buying decisions. Today’s consumers, want a site to tell them something they didn’t think to search for or think they might want/need. In the process, they may be persuaded to take some action and possibly lead to a conversion or sale based on the resources you provide beyond the original search.
Search Mode- Provide the consumer with what they know they want
When a prospective customer is searching a site they almost always have an overall notion of what they want, but perhaps not all the details or at least a vague idea of the need they want to fulfill. This is where websites that utilize the search toolbox plug-in (usually located at the top of a webpage) come into action. The client wants to be able to search their product and be given substantial results.
For instance, when I simply type in the search box “scarves” at ShopBop—a luxury clothing retail website and BurrellesLuce client—I get an overwhelming list of over 200 results. The search function on the site even makes my quest easier by providing suggestions of related searches much the way Google or Bing might.
Browse Mode- Provide detailed information
With a list generated, a prospective buyer shifts into browse mode. What’s important here is how much information is provided—the customer wants to know more about their prospective purchase in the most organized fashion possible, no pun intended. Generated reviews from other customers should be at complete view coupled with suggestions. This will help the consumer differentiate one product’s value from another. It is also most helpful to provide organizational tools for the client to be able to sift through all the search results.
Shopbop does a great job at this. First, I can see “More from Scarves /Wraps” and also descriptions about the designer and the item itself. I have the capability to see how other customers rated each scarf. I also have the option of organizing my products in “Wish Lists” and “My Likes/Hearts” giving me time to consider my purchases without fully committing myself to placing the product in “My Cart.” I can sort the scarves with drop-down options by designer, size, color, and price. These categorizations are an aid to a consumer who might be inundated with an overwhelming amount of data.
Buyer Mode- Be your customer’s personal researcher
Now that the customer has browsed all the data, they have finally chosen the best product for them. While they may be done researching, that doesn’t mean the work of the service provider should end there. In fact, it is now your job to take on a new role: personal researcher. As Tara Gessinger, states in this Online PR Media blog post on Online Public Relations: Building Personal Relationships with Customers in the Digital Age, you need to keep the online conversation with your clients going through email as you would in real life. For instance, provide future recommendations based on previous purchases to the client. After I browse ShopBop or make a purchase, I receive an e-mail weeks later suggesting clothing that I might like based on my past shopping experiences.
Sites using this type of search and browse capability are designed to work for people who research and take a period of time before making a committed decision. In today’s market, researched buyers are becoming the norm and the buying cycle is changing. The impulsive spendthrift is a dying species. Marketers need to be a step ahead of the curve. Web marketing should not be about gimmicks to get attention from a prospective buyer – today’s savvy consumers will see through this. Instead it is about understanding the keywords that buyers are using and then positioning campaigns to engage buyers to webpages full with the content they want (or never knew they wanted).
How are you using search capabilities on your website to influence visitor action? What are some of your favorite search features provided by your favorite sites?
Bio: Before joining the Burrellesluce team in 2011, Kelly interned at CondeNast’s Glamour magazine as an editorial intern to the senior style writer and was an editor of her college newspaper. She received a B.A. in Behavioral Science and Business, Society and Culture from Drew University with honors. After graduation, she worked as a sales associate at Nordstrom and took a month off to travel abroad throughout Europe. In Kelly’s free time, she enjoys traveling, fashion, reading, bringing awareness to Breast Cancer, running 5Ks, baking and social media. Twitter:@miss_mulholland Facebook: BurrellesLuce; LinkedIn: Kelly Mulholland