Posted on | September 7, 2012
Written by | Ian Griffith
An ongoing theme of this column is the discussion of design choices that will set your website apart. A previous column explored the possibilities for the item detail page; we now turn our focus to the search results page. While the potential of the product page is to convert interest into a sale, the search results page seeks to turn a browser into a shopper. Retailers rarely expect referring websites to deliver a customer to a product page and have them proceed directly through the checkout. You want your visitor to look around, to see what else you carry, to raise your average order size, and customers want to spread the shipping cost across more bottles. The concern, however, is that they can’t find something that you have in stock.
Among the problems facing a shopper looking for wine is that they don’t remember the name, or can’t spell it. Ideally your visitor should be able to type an approximation into the search box and be given the correct result. Fuzzy search using a phonetic algorithm is a useful strategy for returning results that don’t exactly match the search term. If wine terms in foreign languages are giving no results, a fuzzy result will get your customers closer to what they are looking for.
Refers to an adaptive navigation based on your customer’s selection that allows for deeper browsing through your inventory using various filters. For wines, spirits and beer it is most common to start the selections with either Category or Country of Origin, although an interesting exception to this rule is being employed by Wine.com on their “wine finder” which leads with Ratings at the top of the list, then Category, followed by Style.
The Wine.com example illustrates a hazard from offering detailed options as the left navigation column can extend well past the standard 25 results offered per page. Garyswine.com and WineLibrary.com both offer a neat solution by packaging long lists of regions into fixed-height boxes that allow for sliding up and down the options. However, while the sites with sliders only allow the user to make a single selection, Wine.com presents checkboxes so multiple selections can be mixed in the results.
This inauspicious reference from Hanzel and Gretel shows shoppers their path to the current set up results. While Breadcrumbs are a secondary navigation feature that can highlight the categorization of a store’s inventory, they also act as an excellent tool for search engine optimization, helping search engines understand the context of a page.
The results themselves are usually preceded at the top of the page with sort options that allow for a reorganization of the results to make more desirable items prominent. Sorts by Price, Name, Rating and Vintage are common. The results themselves follow with a thumbnail of the label and prominent pricing. An interesting trend to notice is the dropping to descriptive text in favor of wine classification.
A compelling search results page relies on the rich classification of your inventory to function well. Have fun deciding whether to combine your Sake styles with wine varieties or to create a separate classification field. If this information doesn’t already exist in your POS system you should consider partnering with a vendor who can match your inventory to their own classifications.
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