Site navigation is an essential part of the user experience for ecommerce customers. If you want users to have a positive experience, you need to make it easy for them to find products in a WooCommerce store.
Search functionality is a key piece of the site navigation puzzle, as it allows visitors to quickly find specific products.
While the default WooCommerce configuration comes with basic search abilities, there are ways to expand it to create a more powerful search function.
In this post, we’ll look at home to optimize your WooCommerce search feature to better help your customers find the products they seek.
Role of search on an ecommerce site
The objective of any ecommerce site is to enable the discoverability and ability to purchase products. Not everyone who visits your store will already know what products they want.
Easy product discovery can make the difference in whether someone becomes a customer or leaves your site without placing an order.
Ecommerce site search is a functionality that allows shoppers to search your site using text-based keywords, similar to a search engine like Google. When a customer enters a search, the sire returns a list of matching products.
The searches coming from shoppers can vary drastically in their nature. Some will enter an exact search with a specific product name, SKU, or model number.
Others will enter a type of product like “T-shirts," “laptops," or “utensils." And then there are shoppers that enter problem-based searches seeking a product that solves a certain issue. For example “clean dirty screen."
Customers will also search for information not related to your products. For example, someone could look for general information like your return policy or shipping costs.
What customers expect from an ecommerce site search
Having become accustomed to powerful search engines like Google, it can be easy to take an effective site search for granted. This is clearly reflected in today’s ecommerce customers as many have come to expect more than a simple search function when visiting an online store.
As a result, most of the world’s top ecommerce sites have implemented some form of an advanced search function. Research from Baymard Institute reveals that auto-suggest, autocomplete, or instant search is present on 96% of major ecommerce sites.
Benefits of strong site search
Improved customer experience and longer visits
A good search function makes it easier for shoppers to discover products. Naturally, this leads to a better experience for your customers as it improves the chances they find what they’re looking for.
Conversely, If your site is missing the search feature, or if it is not effective at surfacing products, shoppers can give up and leave your site.
Making it easier for shoppers to find the products they want will also increase the time they spend on your site. In turn, this improved engagement can have a positive impact on your search engine rankings as it signals to Google that your site offers a great user experience.
Data from SearchNode shows that nearly half of ecommerce site revenue comes from on-site searchers. By implementing a strong site search, your store will appeal to the many customers relying on the feature to inform their purchase decisions.
This will help you maximize your conversions.
Another benefit to having a frequently used site search is the ability to collect data. When a visitor enters something into the search field, you gain insight into the type of products the person finds interesting.
In aggregate, this information can help you form a better understanding of your products
You can use this information to create a shopping experience more optimized for conversions. For example, you may notice many visitors searching for one of your products that isn’t prominently featured on your site and decide to start displaying this item on your homepage.
Or you may notice people frequently searching for products that you don’t offer. This can be a sign that these items are worth adding to your assortment.
Native WooCommerce search
WooCommerce comes with product search functionality built-in. While this feature is somewhat useful in surfacing products, it is not the most robust search function.
This is because the native WooCommerce search will only check the product title and description for matching results. As such, variables like short descriptions, attributes, SKUs, reviews, or any other field can’t be used to look up products.
This often leads to shoppers being unable to find products in WooCommerce, causing you to miss out on sales.
For example, if you sell clothing and don’t include product characteristics in the product title, shoppers searching for a specific attribute won’t find the products they're looking for.
You could have several blue variations of T-shirts and someone could search for “blue tops” but none of the items would appear in the results.
Extending site search with WooCommerce plugins
Leveling up the WooCommerce site search is a straightforward process as there are a variety of WordPress plugins that offer advanced search features.
Let’s look at some of the best WooCommerce search plugins and how you can use them to make it easier for shoppers to find products.
Smart WooCommerce Search
Smart WooCommerce Search is a freemium plugin that enables you to expand your WooCommerce search to also look in tags, categories, and other areas of your site. The plugin is quick to set up and it works seamlessly with page-building apps and other popular plugins.
Setting up the plugin
After you download and activate the plugin, you’ll need to determine how you want to implement the enhanced search features. There are two ways you can do it.
The first is to use the plugin to extend the functionality of the default WordPress Search and Product Search widgets. With this approach, your site search will run through the default search widgets but with the features of the Smart Search plugin.
Go to Smart Search > Default. There you’ll see two tabs for WordPress Default Search and WooCommerce Product Search. Each will have the option to enable Smart Search for that particular widget. Simply click the slider to turn on Smart Search.
With that complete, you can also use the Layout and Styling tabs to customize the popup displaying the search results. There you can adjust the picture size, border color, backdrop color, text color, and other display aspects.
Custom Search Widget
The other way to use the plugin is to create a custom widget. Custom widgets have all the plugin features and are implemented by publishing a Smart Search widget.
To create a new widget go to Smart Search > Widgets > Add New.
Next, you’ll need to enter a name for the widget and configure the General settings. Among the settings are options for the search field’s placeholder text, the minimum number of characters customers need to type before seeing results, and whether to show out-of-stock products. There you’ll also have the ability to disable the AJAX popup.
Once you configure the General Settings, make sure to click the blue Save button at the bottom of the page before proceeding to the other widget settings.
You’ll then want to click on the Items to Search Through tab to configure where the search plugin will look for products. By default, new custom widgets will have the following search areas enabled:
- Search in products
- Search in title
- Search in content
- Search in excerpt
In addition to these areas, you can also set the plugin to search within product tags, product categories, and product SKUs. I recommend enabling each of these options as it will help customers surface additional products in their search.
Adding the search bar to your site
When you finish setting up your Smart Search widget, you’ll need to add it to your site. Go to Appearance > Widgets, find Smart Search, and drag it to the widget area where you want it to display.
After you add Smart Search to the widget area, you can use the Select Widget dropdown to choose which of your custom widgets to display. You also have the option to add a title. This can be helpful if you decide to leave the placeholder for the search field blank.
You can also add the widget to your site using shortcodes. Go to Smart Search > Widgets to find the proper shortcode for each of your widgets.
FibeoSearch is the most popular WooCommerce search plugin. It gives users a new AJAX search bar with an autocomplete feature and live search suggestions.
In addition to product titles, the plugin lets you search by SKU, short and long descriptions, and other variables. The plugin can also display the product’s image, price, and SKU in the live search results.
Setting up the plugin
After you activate the plugin, you can configure the plugin’s search bar by going to WooCommerce > FiboSearch > Search bar. There, you can enter your search input placeholder and enable/disable the submit button.
On the right side of the screen, there is a preview window for you to see the changes to the search bar’s design.
For more options, you can check the Show advanced settings slider to see sections for Layout, Colors, and Preloader.
Next, you’ll want to go to the Autocomplete tab to configure the search suggestions. Like the search bar settings, this page contains a preview window for you to visualize the design changes in real time.
By default, FiboSearch enables the display of the featured product image in the results. You also have the option to show the product’s price, description, and SKU in the results preview.
Description may be a little much. But, price won’t take up too much space and can be useful in helping shoppers know if a product is a good match.
Adding the search bar to your site
There are several ways to add the FiboSearch bar to your site. The simplest option is to add the plugin’s menu item to your header menu. For this, you’ll just go to Appearance > Menus and select the appropriate menu.
After that, find FiboSearch from the list of menu items and add it to the Menu structure.
With the layout dropdown, you can choose whether to show the search bar only or to include the icon as well.
Another option is to add FiboSearch to your site using a shortcode. Below are some of the configurations:
- [fibosearch layout="icon"] adds FiboSearch as an icon
- [fibosearch layout="classic"] adds FiboSearch as a search bar
- [fibosearch layout="icon-flexible"]adds FiboSearch as an icon for mobile devices and as a search bar for devices with wider screens.
Keywords aren’t the only way to allow customers to search for products. Faceted search is another navigation feature that allows customers to search and filter using variables known as facets. These facets can be any data point whether it’s category, tags, attributes, rating, or price.
Facets appear on the sidebar of product pages as groups of selectable filters. For example, if your products come in different sizes, you can add size as a facet with options for Small, Medium, Large, XL, and XXL.
Large multi-vendor ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon and eBay provide the best example of advanced facet filtering. With such large catalogs, these sites need to give customers a quick and efficient way to filter results down to the finest details.
For example, the laptops category will contain a wide variety of brands, hard drive sizes, processor types, and other attributes. If someone were to search just for a brand they’ll get a long list of products that may not have the specifications they’re looking for.
With faceted search, shoppers can select and deselect options for different facets to seamlessly browse different types of products. For many sites, the faceted search function updates the product results in real-time.
This means you can enable and disable filters to see new groups of products without having to refresh the page.
Are you making it easy to find products in WooCommerce?
An optimized search feature can make life easier for your customers, helping them to find products in WooCommerce in a shorter amount of time.
Implementing this functionality into your store will convert more visitors into sales and will provide useful insights into your customers’ interests.