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Almost 6 in 10 US shoppers believe that the search box is “extremely important” when they’re shopping on a retailer’s website, mobile site or mobile app, and another 27% consider it “important,” according to the Site Search Survey 2018 from RichRelevance. Underscoring the search box’s importance is the frequency with which shoppers use it: 8 in 10 reported using it when they shop online either often (45%) or always (35%).

Although site search is important across platforms and devices, shoppers are more confident in the results they’re getting when they search on a website than on a mobile platform. As the report details, 81% are satisfied with the results they get when searching on retailer’s websites, compared to 68% when searching on a retailer’s mobile site or mobile app.

And while most (63%) say they haven’t noticed a difference between the search results on their mobile device and those they get on their laptop or desktop, respondents were far more likely to say they get worse (30%) than better (7%) results on their mobile device.

Irrelevant, Inaccurate Results Prove the Most Frustrating

The RichRelevance survey presented respondents with a list of 6 frustrations when using search functionality, asking them to select the one they find to be the greatest annoyance.

Irrelevant product results (e.g. wrong gender) emerged as the most frustrating for a leading 28% of respondents, slightly ahead of the inability to find the product they’re searching for (24%). Perhaps it’s difficult for retailers to generate meaningful results when most site searches are just a single word in length

Meanwhile, the lack of product images ranked as the least annoying frustration, behind bad interfaces, slow results and the search function not recognizing the words used.

The order of frustrations remains steady from a similar survey conducted a couple of years ago, suggesting that shoppers still prioritize the same functionality when conducting site searches.

It remains very important for retailers to optimize the site search function, as almost three-quarters of respondents reported being likely (35%) or very likely (37%) to leave a retail site that doesn’t provide them with good results.

Other Study Highlights

  • Asked if they would like to see search results that are more personalized to them (based on previous shopping behavior) from an online retailer they visit regularly, shoppers were 20% more likely to say no (35%) than yes (28%), with the remainder neutral on the topic. This appears to be a shift from a couple of years ago, when the opposite was true.
  • A majority (52%) of respondents would like a retailer to show them similar or complementary products in stock if they took a picture of something they liked in the retailer’s mobile app.
  • Seven in 10 have not used a voice assistant to find product information or purchase products.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) would not trust any voice assistant to get voice-assisted shopping right.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 1,033 US shoppers ages 18 and older.

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