If you’re using the Magento e-commerce platform, I don’t have to tell you that it’s among the most powerful and robust available. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. How so? Too many users expect that their new web store powered with it is going to automatically start racking up sales once it’s launched. Most of those users are going to be disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong. Magento is a great framework for any b2b or b2c enterprise. What’s more, although the company does tout it as “the World’s #1 Commerce Platform”, they don’t try to pass it off as a plug-and-play automated money-making system. Besides, we all know that there’s more to be done to establish an online shop, right? Right.
So, if you’ve taken care of all those other tasks, like SEO and SEM and this and that and the other thing, and you’re getting good traffic, you should be making a tidy profit, right? Well, maybe. If your conversion rate isn’t meeting your expectations, then it’s probably time to look at why. One very probably answer isn’t complicated, but it deals with a feature that many Magento take for granted.
Included Doesn’t Mean Better
The feature we’re going to look at today is the site search and why I think that one of your first tasks in using this platform should be to replace it with a Magento search extension.
Your “out-of-the-box” installation came with a built-in website search. It does what it’s made to do. So why am I telling you that you should replace it? There are two very good reasons:
- A site search engine should do MUCH more for your business
- Magento’s built-in search is hard to modify.
Let’s take a look at those points, in order, in greater detail.
Power Shoppers Use the Search Feature
The interesting thing about search functionality on websites is that we’ve begun to take them for granted. Think about that for a minute. If you visit a website looking for a particular item and you don’t see it immediately, do you automatically start to drill down through the site menus to find it? I don’t, and I can remember when that’s the way it was done. (Yes, I just dated myself.)
Now, however, the first thing I do is look for the search box and I fully expect to find it. What’s more, I expect to find what I’m looking for in a few seconds when I use it. How? I’m a huge fan of auto-complete and automatically-generated product suggestions. If you’ve ever shopped on Amazon, you know what I’m talking about. I think most online shoppers are as accustomed to those features as I am.
The Potential Value of a Site Search
What most of us don’t think about is what’s happening behind the scenes while you use that handy-dandy little feature. While you’re using it to get where you need to go, the top selling sites are using it to collect data about your visit, ethically and legally. That’s a big part of the reason they’re top sellers.
From the moment you start searching, a session is started that gathers valuable information like:
- How you found the website (referring page or search engine)
- What you were looking for
- Whether you found the item
- How many and what steps it took to find the item
- Whether you purchased that item
- Whether you purchased any related items
and perhaps much more. I’m not talking about personal information; I’m talking about general statistics that can be used to improve your experience, future shoppers’ experiences and increase the odds that you and those future visitors will make one or more purchases.
Alright, some of you may already know all of that. Either way, have you stopped to consider how valuable that information is? With that data and the right analytics program in hand, you can deliver more of what the customer wants, faster. You can even use the unsuccessful search data to determine which “hot” products you should be selling!
There’s an important phrase in that last paragraph – did you catch it? Imagine having to pore over all that data “by hand”. To really make the most of your site search engine’s capabilities, an analytics dashboard is a must. For comparison, take a look at your basic site statistics data – the simple stuff that shows you where your customers came from and what pages they visited on your site. Try to find the trends, percentages and such for just that information.
To be able to really USE all that information, you need to have something that does the analyses for you and presents it visually, so you can easily know what needs to be done.
About Point Number 2
The second point I brought up was that Magento’s search engine isn’t easy to modify. It’s difficult enough that you’ll need guides like this one just to make minor changes.
This platform is an intelligent PHP/XML hybrid, built by seasoned developers that they, themselves refer to as “An Army of Innovators” and it requires “Expert Implementation Partners” just to get it up and running in many instances. That’s why there are so many extensions available for it, also created by developers. That’s the way non-programmers utilize sophisticated frameworks like this – by finding the right component and adding it with a few mouse clicks.
Do it Now
Hopefully by now you’ll see the logic in what I’m attempting to explain in this article. This single step is one of the most important you can make to start converting your visitors into customers. Why? Because once you’ve got them “in the door”, they’ll buy from you if you get them to where they want to go quickly and easily. If not, they’re going to go somewhere else.
It’s that simple. Replace the default Magento search and see the difference.