Tactics for Enhancing Website Search and Navigation

As digital commerce continues to evolve, standards for user experience are on the rise. Why? Technology that creates personalized, seamless customer experiences (CX) across channels keeps raising the bar.

In fact, in a survey of more than 8,000 B2C and B2B buyers around the world, 73% said just one really good experience with a company raises their expectations of other companies. That’s great news for companies who are already providing extraordinary experiences, but for the many that aren’t, this poses a new set of challenges.

One thing customers expect when visiting a company’s website is to find what they need—and fast. Whether they’re looking for a specific product, information on your service offerings, or user reviews to help them make a buying decision, ease of access is essential.

But many websites fall short when it comes to helping customers find what they’re looking for. Some even (unwittingly) make the process more difficult. We’re sharing tips for improving your website navigation and search to enhance user experience (UX) and stand out against the competition.

Digital Buying Experiences Customers Want

It’s hard to overstate the influence a great experience can have on your customers. Salesforce found that for 89% of B2B buyers and 83% of B2C shoppers, experience matters as much as what a company sells. What’s more, they found that access to information is the most influential factor in buyers’ perception of a company.

With more and more B2B buyers making purchases independently, you can no longer rely on your reps to make up for shortcomings on your website. In fact, 49% of B2B buyers never speak to a rep before a decision is made. Even further, according to a recent TrustRadius survey, 56% of B2B buyers say they rely on the vendor’s website to gather information before making a purchase.

How fast do customers want to find what they’re looking for? 56% expect to find what they need in 3 (or fewer) clicks. For B2C customers, evaluate your website to ensure they can locate products, shipping information, or your return policy effortlessly. For B2B buyers, make it easy for them to locate product demo information, user reviews, and other important product details.

Of course, clicks aren’t the only way customers find information on websites. Personalized recommendations based on customer behavior have raised the bar, too. Salesforce found that 62% of all customers now expect such recommendations.

When your site helps customers find what they’re looking for quickly, while generating hyper-relevant recommendations based on their behavior, you’re providing the high-quality experience customers want. It sounds simple, but it’s a challenge for many retailers and B2B vendors.

Too Often Company Websites Fall Short

Only 47% of customers get the level of personalization they expect, according to Salesforce. Just 45% say they can find the information they’re looking for in 3 clicks or less.

A Baymard Institute study took an in-depth look at nearly 20 top ecommerce websites’ navigation and search experience, uncovering “more than 700 usability issues related to product lists, filtering and sorting.” That’s more than 700 ways to frustrate buyers. Does your website deliver a poor-to-mediocre experience with long product lists and unhelpful filters?

Optimize search results. Be mindful of the number of products listed in on your site’s search results pages so you avoid overwhelming your customers as they browse. Don’t expect customers to search by a precise product name or part number. Empower product discovery with intuitive search functionality and smart filters so shoppers can seamlessly narrow their search in the moment.

Refine product sorting. Standardized attributes like price, bestsellers, and new arrivals, don’t always make it easier (or faster) for customers to find what they want. Improve your website’s product sorting by guaranteeing the most relevant products appear first. Spotlight base products at the top, while placing related items, such as accessories or replacement parts, below.

Clear, Concise, and Consistent Site Navigation

Most sites have room to improve their navigation to deliver a better customer experience (CX). What can you do to make it easier for your customers to find what they’re looking for?

Save your customers from a friction-filled experience by focusing on the 3 Cs of site navigation. Keep it:

  • Clear. Don’t throw every product that’s on your site into your top-level navigation. Focus on your best-selling categories and most sought-after products to help customers get started. For B2B vendors, clear navigation will make it easy for customers to find product demos, product information, and reviews as soon as they arrive on the site.
  • Concise. Avoid an avalanche of search results. Offer intuitive and smart filter options for the most relevant attributes. Consider intelligent sorting to surface the most popular or sought-after results in each subcategory first.
  • Consistent. Establish a uniform format for each page of search results to keep customers from feeling lost on your site.

Harness technology to serve your customers. If set up properly, on-site search tools can spare your customers a lot of digging around. Text search that compensates for spelling errors is a must, and voice search is convenient for your growing base of mobile customers. In addition, your site’s chatbot or live chat should serve as a concierge to assist in product discovery.

Provide personalized product recommendations. As visitors move around your site, they should see customized recommendations based on their browse behavior, as well as their search and purchase history. For example, Episerver’s Product Recommendations uses AI to generate suggestions of in-stock items based on real-time behavior and visitor profiles.

Track Your CX Improvements

How will you know if your navigation upgrades are helping to increase conversions and sales? Determine which KPIs are most relevant to the changes you make, test, and evaluate their success.

For example, before implementing a new personalized product recommendation engine, a retailer might benchmark cross-sell and upsell numbers, then track the changes. On the other hand, a B2B vendor might compare product demo sign ups before and after implementing navigation improvements. 

Use your metrics to continue to refine your search functionality and navigation over time. Not only does this enhance product discovery and make it easier for customers to do business with you, but it will also set you apart from your competitors.

Need help delivering a streamlined online experience that reduces friction, increases conversions, and gives you a competitive advantage? Get in touch to talk to a digital strategist about how we can optimize your website for a customer-centric and efficient buying journey.