Selling Digital Goods? Here’s How To Optimize The Search Process

ecommerce search process

Effective ecommerce plans rely on several techniques, mainly because the area of coverage is so broad. In this article we will be discussing methods that only regard the search system on your ecommerce websites with the purpose of selling  digital goods. Effectiveness in ecommerce can be easily determined, the key factor for this being the number of conversions one would get on their website. We will try to go through some tips that were proven to be highly effective in improving the overall usability and conversion rates on ecommerce websites that rely solely on the search system.

1. Emphasize the Search Bar

Icon Finder search field

The search bar is obviously the starting point for a proper search, yet is often neglected when talking about conversions. There are several methods of putting the very necessary emphasis on it. Offsetting it in a different color from your site’s color scheme is one method of drawing attention to it. Putting text inside the box, such as “Input keyword,” lets visitors know at a glance what is expected. Top it off with a button that reads “Search” or “Find” and include some stylized arrows (indicating motion), and you have the foundation for a great search bar.

Placing each product into its own individual cell, along with its name, price, and ratings is a good way of preventing clutter within items. Sorting appearing options on the left for further refinement is another technique. This method is great for showing ecommerce products but could be improved even further by allowing the user to view a close-up of the product (or different product angles) without a click to be necessary.

Using analytics, FootSmart, was able to identify badly performing search terms and act accordingly. By improving their site search and making relevant adjustments all across the usability of their ecommerce site, they saw an 82% improvement in conversion rates.

2. Filter the Search Page

Ecommerce product filters

The search results page is the decisional factor of whether a visitor has found something and will go further or leave. And with a good site search engine, you can customize it a lot, depending on what the audience you’re targeting is looking forward. For example, as women’s clothing retailer Caché shows within the page of search results, you can type in keywords like “blue” and get a broad range of various products, which you then can sort by several filtering options. Shoppers also can refine items based on whether they’re on sale or they’re new arrivals.

Overall, the filtering itself carries importance in its value as it is the main tool that makes the search customizable, as queries themselves cannot provide advanced functionality, given their way of being. That’s the reason filtering is not only a must for your website, but also something that should be worked on in order to provide your visitors the necessary customization tools.

3. Autocomplete Search Results

Ecommerce autocomplete feature

Autocomplete has got to be the most effective way of helping the end-user while performing a search. It allows for artificial intelligence to go through numerous possible suggestions yet pick the most probable ones and serve them to the visitor. Not only this is a great way of helping the user find what’s necessary, but also saves him a few seconds, which does sound negligible but might be appreciated by the search performers.

In ecommerce, the concept of autocompletion extends to not only suggesting the search query but also suggesting the best-fit products. When the user selects a recommended product, he lands on the product page, and will move forward from there, without having to land on other pages. This accelerates the purchase cycle and increases the conversion rates.

If the customer selects a popular query rather than a recommended one, he will get to a result page for that query without the necessity to type down the full product name thus implying popularity of the inputted query, adding to the possible hype of a product.

It is recommended  both product and search query suggestions, as they increase the likelihood of user selection and accelerate conversion. Your users are using Google and Amazon. They are conditioned to expect autocompletion. If your site search engine has a decent autocompletion module – have it enabled. If you don’t have one, get an autocomplete product and install it, or subscribe to a good search autocomplete service.

4. Categorize your Products

Let users choose from the pool of features that will influence the purchased item. Ignore features that are not important to users, and figure out what those are by A/B testing and analysis. Features rarely chosen by customers should be put at the end of the list or hidden under a “More options” link.

A clear, simple but beautiful user interface necessary to be set in place If users don’t understand your system, you lose customers and potential sales. Don’t make users have to guess your system. Figure out their mental model of your product range first. If filtering by a query is possible, do not omit relevant products related to the said query in the results. Avoid vague words like “Other” and “More.” The hierarchy of categories shouldn’t be deep so that your users could find your products easily.

5. Work out your Forms

Ecommerce Forms

The design of user interfaces must be simple and relevant to your design. Text boxes and drop-down lists are fine, but you might want to use other things that can make forms and controls a lot more usable.

Choose sensible defaults for radio buttons and drop-down lists. Also, illustrations often convey information a lot more effectively than words. For example, illustrating types of mobile phones is much less clumsier than describing them.

Input prompts direct users towards actions that are expected of them to fulfill in regard to it. Use them wisely: input prompts can be deleted, and too many input hints will annoy users. Also, the visual clutter might make them simply ignore important information.

6. Understanding of UI

The success of your search depends heavily on your users’ understanding of how the website works, and how the user interface presents various functions of your site. Show it off in easily understood language to prevent misunderstandings. Communicate the benefits of an advanced search system clearly and concisely, then show your visitors that advanced search helps them be way more effective. If your advanced search functionality is integrated in the simple search area, just name the whole tool “Search.” just so your users do not feel like an “Advanced Search” will suggest something that is not for their own benefit.


7. Enhance your Search

No matter the method you choose, there are several ways of enhancing search. Put priority on what you think matches best the search, like the most suitable ones. Add popular queries to the ones you’ve verified, and review the most popular search queries in order to improve the search system. Overall the search system should be improved with whatever miscellaneous method you consider to be helpful, especially if there’s data, knowledge or analysis to support it.


In this article we did a brief review of the features that would help improve the effectiveness of search in ecommerce design. There are several factors that contribute to a pleasant environment and design but the ones overviewed today should cover the broad basics of search in regard to effectiveness of an ecommerce digital shop.

Feature image curtsey of Oykun Yilmaz

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.