search feature in e-commerce

Xiuming Yan

HOw can a search feature boost your website performance

There are many advantages search feature can bring to your e-commerce business.

Provide fast and highly relevant products based on users' search keywords. There are many different types of search queries that users make on e-commerce websites, it is important to to support and never frustrate users that they abandon your site immediately or completely. Use autocomplete suggestions to help and lead users to products they are interested in.

Assist users finding answers, thus to make them stay longer. Design and extend your search scope. Based on the design, results and guidance presented, you can guide users toward better paths, might even save cost for your customer support department.

A Practical guide to learn from the best


search field content

Place default keywords inside search box as a teaser. This is more for those users who are just hanging around on internet, to inspire them who to search and it can also avoid the No-results page situation if search button is accidently triggered. Therefore it is required to be able to return results for user when nothing typed and search button gets hit Don't forget to disappear the default text in search box once user starts to enter their own search terms. 

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Give users a bit of response when nothing is inside search box and yet they clicked search button. At least refresh the homepage to give users certain feedback. Amazon does this. Some other e-commerce website presents users a new page to guide users what to buy, or display no results found page.

Bread crumbs right under search box to help navigation. This can both serve as more search keywords inspiration and product or category promotion.

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Auto-complete query suggestions

Early close up view of possible matching products. Of course users should be able to navigate from here. Taking douglas example, for cosmetics product, a beatuful picture preview and clear structured design here can stimulate users to head to the product page. Also the old saying,  a picture is worth a thousand words. It can alongside solve certain translate issue, people recognize the product picture even if they might not know the terms in German, French, Chinese etc. etc.

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Intelligent autocomplete. Suggestions based on other users' past queries should be carried out with special care or avoided entirely, not to mention performance issue. However, it can be advised to provide customized results based on this user's own activity history. Filter bubble or annoying users to see these results as they might not be interested in them any more, that can be a consequence you have to consider.  

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Results pages and filtering

Show the search query on results page. It is considerate to inform users advance the number of results found besides displaying the search query they typed. Take amazon search results as simple example. 

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On-page navigation over search. Don't stop at displaying results only, allow users to further refine results. e.g. sort by price low to high, various filter options, display results in grid or list view etc. 

More advanced feature to try, make sure the suggested filters are product-specific based on the user's query. 

Prefill the user's query on the results page and allow user to iterate on their previous search query. Example from Zappos.com or Amazon, when you search a product there like HP, on the results page, not only the previous search query HP is preloaded for users, they can add extra text e.g. laptop to narrow down results. 

Show non-product results. This is the part you think for users and from your own products and services, what else information you want your users to read or what services you believe helpful to present here. 

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Display customer reivew for the search results. Obviously for certain products or services, users rely on customer review heavily and in return the customer reviews add more credibility to the business.

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Breadcrumbs to help user access related products. Concept of hierarchical and history based breadcrumbs help user to access related products, effciently browse a collection of products or return to search results page entitle user to a bigger selection and remake a decision and choice.

No results page

Serve results related to the search term. Instead of showing No results page, e.g. when you simply don't have the specific product in your stock, display relevant products instead.

Guide user to a interesting page. Design links or sections that are both interesting to users and helpful to your marketing events. This is better than a blank no results page. Be sure not to overwhelm or disturb users with your selected promoting content. 

search query types supported

Semantical friendly search to take care of long tail keywords. Supporting long tail keywords can help a group of users better find out the products, possibly to increase more transactions on your e-commerce website.

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Support searches with symbols and abbreviations. Some products have specifications that are vital to the users' purchasing decision. e.g. 11 ft. paddleboard, "13" laptop. The more you help your customers find the product, the higher chance and faster they buy from you.
To know more about search query types you should support, you can read article from Baymard Checklist of  12 search query types

search query guidance

Handle common misspellings and provide synonym support. Most of the time it is pleasant to receive useful guidance when shopping on internet. Instead of showing no results, in advance correcting misspellings for users and display correct results for them.

Allow user to search within a specific category. When your website has millions of products and categories, different services, shops, you can do as Amazon to let user switch categories inside search box.