Strong search functionality will be pivotal in your customers’ digital shopping experiences this holiday season. Why? More than half of your customers rely more on search than navigation menus to discover the products on your site. Plus, a whopping 72% will filter by product availability (in-store or online) to understand how and when they can receive the products you sell.

Despite the hoopla around image search or voice search, few consumers are interested in these experiences. Especially during the busy holiday season, customers look for a clear path to the products they want and instant answers to their questions about their potential purchase. Tune your search functionality now to ensure that you’re ready for the season with these steps:

First, shore up your data to proactively answer your customers’ pressing questions.

  1. “Is this espresso machine available for pickup today at my local department store?” Implement near-real-time updates to inventory to keep numbers accurate. Pull frequent delta updates from your order management system to ensure that you don’t (A) oversell more than you have available to promise or (B) leave money on the table reserving goods for channels that are underperforming.
  2. “Will this order arrive before we pack up the car for Hanukkah at Grandma’s?” Your order orchestration logic isn’t just for post-purchase processes anymore. Bring it into the shopping experience so customers can see whether items are available for next-day delivery, for instance, or whether they can pick them up at their closest store today. This functionality depends on accurate inventory as well, but it’s time to move these calculations into the pre-purchase experience to accurately set customer expectations.
  3. “Will I be able to find and buy the ‘warming coffee cup’ on Mom’s wish list?” Now is the perfect time to review the search query history in your analytics. Add terms to your product names and descriptions to support changing trends in terminology and reduce the “null results” searches — as long as those terms are related to the products, of course. Check attributes and variants as well, and make sure that products are associated to categories or collections as appropriate. (And make sure that any “null results” pages gracefully redirect your customer to similar items or other possible options.)

Next, see what your search solution can do to help your customers.

  1. Is it time to try genAI in commerce search? Search solutions have leveraged AI for years, but recent advances enable them to use this newer technology to drive better customer experiences. It can interpret natural language requests (not just search term queries) or enhance product data based on product images and customer interactions. Our advice is always to keep a human-led process between genAI and customers, but our suggestions here are behind the scenes and provide opportunity for human validation. It’s a great time to test these new features, but remember our word of warning: Consider them experimental, and test carefully before implementing them widely.
  2. Make your promises prominent. Customers want to understand how — and when — they can get your products into their hands. Pull availability information into search results so customers can filter to show items available in the store near them or to confirm which items will arrive on time for family gatherings. It’s best practice to float these filters to the very top of the list of attributes, where customers most often look for this option.
  3. Make the most of peak traffic. Even if you don’t have the capacity to make changes at this point in the season, the most important thing you can do is make sure you’re tracking everything. Some retailers have as much website and mobile traffic in the last quarter of the year as they do in the rest of the year combined! Put all your measurement practices in place to take advantage of this wealth of data so that you can start the new year with a better understanding of where you can improve. In search, make sure that you’re capturing engagement with search and its features (like filtering), where and when in the customer lifecycle that customers abandon things, and, of course, all the basic search metrics such as null results.

When you’re ready, get in touch so we can talk about how you can leverage the new breed of commerce search and product discovery solutions for your business.