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Site Search Driving Omnichannel Sales


Online shopping is driving more sales and foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores than ever before. In fact, Deloitte expects digital interactions will influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores by the end of 2015 – that’s $2.2 trillion worth of in-store sales that are aided by e-commerce.

What’s more, UPS found nearly a third of shoppers prefer to have an item delivered to a location other than their home. Half of those shoppers choose to “Buy Online Pickup In Store,” (a.k.a. BOPIS), and 45% of those shoppers bought something else at the store while picking up their items.

There’s no doubt BOPIS is driving huge omnichannel potential. But here’s a scary scenario not many think about: What if shoppers can’t find what they’re searching for on your site? How many potential omnichannel buyers are lost in this first step – the initial search?

If a shopper can’t find what he’s looking for, he won’t put an item in his shopping cart, he won’t select BOPIS, he won’t walk into the store and he certainly won’t increase his order value with impulse buys because his search was over the moment he saw: “No Results.” A “no results” search outcome online now has a direct impact on both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales.

Retailers need to make sure they don’t discourage omnichannel buyers right off the bat with poor e-commerce site search. Here is how Sports Authority reduces “no results” searches to generate omnichannel sales.

Sports Authority Drops “No Results” Incidence 87%

Sports Authority is a multichannel retailer with 467 locations in 41 states and Puerto Rico, and 60,000 sporting goods products on its e-commerce site. The sporting goods retailer understands the importance of offering its shoppers omnichannel flexibility with both “add to cart” or “find in store” checkout options. But finding the right products online was once a challenge for Sports Authority customers. A couple years ago, simple searches for items like “red fleece top” would turn up a “no results” page, turning shoppers away from the get-go.

It was imperative for Sports Authority to improve its website’s search solution to make it fast and easy for customers to find what they were looking for, both on site and in store, or risk losing omnichannel sales. By implementing learning-based search technology, which continuously learns from the actions of visitors to deliver the most relevant results possible, Sports Authority now delivers a rich search experience.

On the retailer’s website and tablet site, on-site search now displays relevant results in an autocomplete with graphics drop-down menu from the moment visitors begin typing into the search box. This means customers get to the products they are looking for quickly while viewing the product details they will need to make an informed purchasing decision.

“The advanced autocomplete feature decreases the time shoppers spend searching and increases the number of products the potential customer sees, which in turn, helps generate sales,” said Jason Ostendorf, director of e-commerce operations, Sports Authority. “By improving search relevancy, the learning-based search technology created higher click-through rates, increased conversions, raised order values and quickly dropped the incidence of ‘no results’ by more than 87%.”

By making it significantly easier for a customer to find what she’s looking for online, Sports Authority not only generates online sales, but it also ensures it doesn’t lose potential in-store sales (and impulse buys) by giving shoppers the option to find a product in store.

Digital Moments That Matter

On-site search has never been more important as it now influences both online and brick-and-mortar sales. It’s time for retailers to measure the influences throughout the shopping journey, rather than just at the point of clicking “Buy.”

Jeff Simpson, director of Deloitte Consulting LLP, provides this warning:

"Instead of measuring moments that matter during the shopping journey, retailers continue to focus on measuring the buy button – the point at which they actually have the least influence. Retailers that simply track channel sales and fail to measure the influence of digital along the entire path-to-purchase can miss key indicators of performance and customer behavior.”

Optimized e-commerce search is one of these key digital “moments that matter” along the shopper’s purchase path – one that quickly turns browsers to buyers online, and drives foot traffic in store (for additional sales). Site search is often an omnichannel shopper’s first stop on the purchase path. Make sure it’s not the last by optimizing site search with technology that delivers the most relevant results.

Tim Callan is CMO at SLI Systems, a global e-commerce provider, whose offerings include site search, navigation, merchandsing, mobile product recommendations and user-generated SEO.

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