Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

69% of online shoppers go straight to the search bar on ecommerce sites, but 80% leave due to a poor experience

New research suggests 69% of consumers go straight to the search bar when they visit an online retailer1, but 80% admit leaving because the on-site search experience didn’t meet their expectations. Leading retailers surveyed across North America and the UK accept that their site-search isn’t up to scratch, attributing around 39%2 of all traffic bouncing (shoppers leaving immediately) to poorly performing search—or because shoppers can’t find relevant products.

The research from Nosto, the Commerce Experience Platform (CXP), underlines the crucial role of on-site search in online shopping. The findings are based on a combination of surveys of 2,000 North American and UK consumers and 308 senior ecommerce professionals at retail brands as well as real-world testing of the on-site search experience served by 100 leading ecommerce brands (across fashion, beauty, and home/garden/DIY). They paint a picture of merchants losing potential sales and frustrating shoppers with search experiences that fail to meet consumers’ expectations.  

Among the key shortcomings is a lack of relevance: despite 99% of retail brands’ senior ecommerce professionals believing their search results are relevant3, 69% of consumers complain that they often4 see irrelevant results (with real-world site testing revealing that 81% of ecommerce websites display irrelevant items when shoppers search even two-word queries).

Similarly, even though 70% of consumers say they are likely1 to make a purchase if results are personalized, 66% of ecommerce professionals admit that they fail to offer personalized search results—this is despite 82% of them agreeing5 that personalized search is critical for higher conversions.

Additionally, 60% of brands admit their on-site search doesn’t display content (such as articles or FAQs) that relate to the products people are searching for, even though 59% of consumers say they are likely1 to make purchases after consuming this kind of content.

These shortcomings are even more significant in the current economic downturn: 68% of consumers agree5 that, with living costs rising, they like to compare products from different online stores—and good ecommerce search makes this easier. Merchants themselves are aware of this, with 81% agreeing5 that increasing inflation makes ecommerce search more important as it allows customers to easily find and compare similar products before making purchases.

“This research highlights just how important search is for the performance of ecommerce stores. Shoppers don’t simply want a personalized and relevant experience every time they shop online–they expect it and are frustrated by not having it. Relevancy is critical and it’s clearly a huge pitfall of merchants, with 80% of shoppers exiting online stores due to bad search experiences,” says Guy Little, head of brand marketing, Nosto.

Irrelevant search results are a major bugbear for shoppers, with 41% of consumers placing this among their top three most frustrating things about on-site search. Moreover, 69% of consumers say they see irrelevant results often4 and 35% admit leaving a site after seeing irrelevant results. 

70% of shoppers reveal they are likely1 to complete a purchase if on-site search results are personalized. The vast majority (82%) of ecommerce professionals at retail brands agree5 that personalized search is critical for higher conversions. However, 66% of those same ecommerce professionals admit their ecommerce store currently doesn’t offer personalization as part of its on-site search offering.

Personalization is even more important to younger shoppers—24% of 16-24 year olds and 29% of 25-34 year olds said they are likely1 to leave a site if on-site search is not personalized.

Brands are not doing enough to make the on-site search experience easy and frictionless for their shoppers. 27% of shoppers have left a site because the results showed too many options and it wasn’t possible to narrow down the search using appropriate filters, while 26% have left because search results listed out-of-stock products, and 25% have left because results were just too slow to load. 56% agree5 that ecommerce site-search should be quicker.

Not being able to narrow down search results with appropriate filters (e.g. the cut of jeans or the finish of lipstick) is one of the top three on-site search frustrations of 30% of consumers. But more than half (56%) of retail brands’ say they don’t provide this kind of dynamic filtering facility that is specific to the products being searched for.  

“What’s interesting in this research is that, while 95% of brands are citing pain-points with their current search provider, 84% agree5 that they are planning to continually invest in their search technology meaning they understand the importance of this critical piece of the ecommerce equation,” says Antanas Baksys, head of search product, Nosto.

“That’s why Nosto has develop a fully customizable, AI-powered search solution as part of our Commerce Experience Platform (CXP), built specifically for ecommerce, giving performance and power out of the box. Today, online merchants expect next-level search solutions. They expect these solutions to be automated and self-learning, reducing the time to value and the need for constant manual adjustments. Poorly functioning search will simply drive your shoppers away. With our search product you can unleash your ecommerce store and nail relevancy, keeping your shoppers engaged, happy, and spending on your online store.”

Download the full research report: The Future of Ecommerce Search from the Nosto website:

¹ ’Very likely’ and ‘Somewhat likely’ responses combined

² Mean % of sites bounce rate

³ ’Extremely relevant’ and ‘Somewhat relevant’ responses combined 

⁴ Very often’ and ‘Somewhat often’ responses combined

⁵ ’Strongly agree’ and ‘Somewhat agree’ responses combined


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