Crafting your mobile site or app so that it is deemed user-friendly and efficient is one of the most important things you can do to improve your conversion. People can only buy something that they can find, so search is a fundamental mobile activity, and should therefore be at the top of your list of priorities when building a profitable app or site.
The Search Field
To help your users find what they are looking for in a quick and easy way, start by having a prominently displayed search field. The search field is vital, and having a discrete search bar will create user frustration, so make the search bar prominent on your page. E-Commerce apps should feature the search bar at the top of their home screen, and if the home page is long then it is advised to repeat it again at the bottom. If your app has a huge inventory then it may even be best to display the search field by default as this will ensure its visibility and convenience.
Always accompany your search field with the icon of the magnifying glass – the universally recognised icon will only improve the visibility of your search function. Make sure to use a schematic icon, as the simplest version of the magnifying glass will increase its recognition.
The search function requires the user to come up with a query, and to then type it – which is error prone and time consuming, particularly on a mobile device. To reduce the effort required from the individual user, consider including auto-suggestions. Providing useful and helpful suggestions, this mechanism can help users to find a proper query – and a successful search result – by trying to predict their search based on the entered characters.
Though auto-suggestions have the potential to be useful to the consumer, poorly designed auto-suggestions can have the opposite effect, confusing and distracting users with irrelevant results. Use a spelling auto-correction, as well as recognition of root words and predictive text in order to improve the tool.
Also make sure to include the recent searches, so that the user saves times and effort in searching for the same item again. Apps should store all interactions, including recent searches and purchases, so that they can provide this information the next time the user conducts a search.
In an ideal world, your search results would be displayed immediately, however, if this is impossible then you should provide a proper visual feedback. For delays of over 1 second you should attempt to make the wait more pleasant. Lazy loading is a technique that means that some results are displayed whilst the others are being loaded – this means the page loads quickly because very few products are loaded initially. For this technique it is often a better idea to show the text of the products before the images, so that the user can start to scan the page for their target product whilst waiting for the images to load.
Mobile Result Display
As mobile screens are more compact, it means that there are a limited number of results that can be displayed before the user has to scroll down. Ensure that the user sees a small number, say 3-5, of highly relevant results before they must scroll. A Baymard Institute study noted that more than 50% of mobile e-Commerce users tried to ‘search within’ their currently navigated category path, so it is a good idea to design your e-Commerce site to support this behaviour.
Giving filtering and sorting options will help to further narrow down the search results, meaning that excessive scrolling or pagination is avoided, which is important when considering that the user is searching on a small screen.
A “No Results” page is an opportunity to make a sale or provide further options to your customers, so avoid having a blank “No Results” page. If a search does not come up with any matching products offer the user some valuable alternatives, such as products from a similar category, or employ an ‘intelligent search’ feature that covers singular, plurals and misspellings.
Having a menu that has clear and defined categories will greatly improve the user’s search, providing a more user-friendly experience and a quicker path to the right product. The golden rule is that your menu categories should not overlap, as this causes confusion and frustration.
Search is a multifaceted subject, however it has never been more important to get it right, with 30% of all online shopping purchases happening on mobile devices. When retailers provide a frictionless mobile retail experience, consumers are much more likely to make a purchase…