Searching For Answers
Quick question, folks. What’s the most important aspect of any successful storefront – digital or otherwise. Is it the diverse selection of products they sell? Is it their price, or how well they’re marketed? Could it, perhaps, be that they offer something no one else does?
None of the above, actually. While I’m certainly not trying to say the factors I’ve listed here don’t matter – they’re actually all quite necessary – the lack of one or two of them isn’t going to make or break a store. But there’s one thing that will.
What quality could possibly be so vital – so integral – that it outranks even marketing?
A Matter Of Usability
Simple: navigability. If your visitors can’t find their way around your store, then it doesn’t matter how well marketed it is. It doesn’t matter what products you carry, or how great your prices are, or how many people know about you. A large percentage of your customers – perhaps even the majority of them – are simply going to become frustrated and do their shopping elsewhere.
For this reason, it’s extremely important that you find a way to incorporate an internal search tool into the design of your site and that you ensure that each of your product pages is set up with all the keywords a user might possibly enter to search for it. That way, people who visit your store will be able to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. This means that they’ll be far likelier to purchase from you – and far likelier to leave satisfied and come back later.
So, we’ve gotten that established. Your website needs a search bar in order to flourish. But how does one go about installing it?
Installing Your Search Engine
If you’re looking to add an internal search engine to your storefront, there are a few ways you can go about it.
The first is through an E-Commerce tool or plugin, such as Shopify. Designed to simplify the process involved with setting up an online store, these tools will generally provide you with all the features and utilities you need to make your website as easy to browse as humanly possible. The trade-off, of course, is that most of the tools worth using require some sort of monthly subscription. It’s up to you if that’s a worthwhile exchange.
In lieu of finding a tool that allows for internal search, you could also just use Google, which features a Custom Search Engine Utility which – with a bit of tweaking – can be every bit as powerful as one that’s coded into an E-Commerce platform. Of course, this comes with its own array of disadvantages, such as limited re-indexing frequency, inability to reformat the results page(without payment), and reliance on whatever company operates the service. Again, it’s your prerogative whether or not those problems are worth it.
Last, but certainly not least; if you’re technologically inclined (or can hire someone who is), you can simply install your own search engine script. Although you’ll need Perl or PHP support on your server in order to make use of it, you’ll have more freedom than with any of the other options, with the added bonus of being able to customize everything to your heart’s content. Not only that, re-indexing of your site won’t require you to use any additional bandwidth – always a plus.
Let Them See What They Need
Although it’s inarguably important that you market your store, provide reasonable price points, and offer a great selection, none of these factors will make a whit of difference if people can’t find their way around your site. In order to succeed, your store needs to be navigable. A search bar is one of the best ways to make it so, allowing users to find exactly what they’re looking for without having to muck about a confusing selection of categories.
What that ultimately means is that they’ll leave happy – and that they’ll probably come back again before too long.
Image credit: Images_of_Money