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  • Writer's pictureElise Quevedo

The importance of on-site website search in customer experience

We live in an age where e-commerce websites have evolved from a one pager or just a few categories, to hundreds and thousands of products and services within one domain, so if your on-site website search is not done right, you will lose customers!

We live in an era of super fast, we want it now and if we cannot find it within seconds we will go somewhere else.

I always say to clients and people:

“remember, we have all been in the customer service game since we were children without even realizing it. Nearly everything we do in the physical verse, applies to digital."

But many seem to put on this business head and forget the fundamentals of what we want, and it all starts with us. So something as simple as a website search box, all of a sudden becomes a lot more relevant and important.

What I have never understood is how this is still something that is always or at least it was, at the bottom of the list for companies, that is why I was very pleased that Visionary Marketing conducted a survey of 300 UK and France senior marketing professionals investigating the impact of Website search on customer experience (CX) on behalf of Yext. (a global technology company operating in the area of online brand management. It offers brand updates using its cloud-based network of apps, search engines and other facilities.)

And a few days ago, I took part on a great live roundtable with leading UK voices to debate the findings and discuss what they mean for marketers and customer experience.

The roundtable was led by Adrian Swinscoe, customer experience advisor, author, speaker, workshop leader and Punk CX frontman.

Swinscoe told a story about how he was greeted by ~58 different variations of the same picture when he typed in 'customer service' into the on-site search bar of a major European clothing retailer. "I didn't expect to be faced with these sort of pictures when I simply typed in customer service into the search bar.” he said.

I also shared my own personal experience from the previous day, as before I was recording a preview video, I wanted to buy something from a website I have not purchased from in a few years (I will not name and shame). I wanted the help section because I could not find what I needed.

It was a disaster! There was nothing under help, it literally said “no result”; yes, they had a FAQ link at the bottom of the page, but not extensive enough, so I wanted a link to find the help options as I could also not see a “help” button anywhere.

So what was the impact of that on-site website search? They have lost me as a customer as I ended up going to a different website for a purchase.

Pause for a second, shouldn’t this trigger an alarm bell? Is losing customers positive or negative? How many customers are you losing because their search needs are not being met?

I’m a believer that search plus help and live chat are paramount on e-commerce nowadays. Or on any website that has too many items that are not labeled or are too complex to navigate.

Shortly after we shared these stories we got comments of people who had gone onto a website and tried to do a search on help, and they got similar answers. Food for thought? Are we seeing a trend here?

First impressions on the report (PDF access here)

First of all, it was very comprehensive, so well done to the Visionary Marketing team and for the research.

I was both intrigued and surprised with some of the stats:

  • 94+% think that their visitors are resorting to other means when the quality of the results that they get from the Website search feature of their website is deemed poor or unsatisfactory.

  • 79+% think a better search experience will improve visitors’ level of trust in their company.

  • 70+% think a better search experience will have a positive impact on a visitor’s propensity to buy from their company.

  • 70+% are convinced that Website search is fairly or very strategic.

  • 63+% think that visitors are using the “Website search” function of their company’s website(s) to find information.

  • 45+% think their visitors are fairly or very frequently frustrated with “Website search” results.

Paradoxically, however, their research also found that over 81% of UK marketers find their website search engines fairly or very satisfactory.

For me this finding is the one that leaves me the most perplexed. Are we back to all talk no action? Studies show that 6 out of 10 customers on average are frustrated with onsite search results, so how can so many marketers be this happy or satisfied?

The report also touches base on how Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of digital transformation across all industries, and whilst this is true not everyone is taking action.

More numbers that stood out for me, is that on the report is says that inthe UK, 66% complain that the Website search is either unrelated or doesn’t understand the question and the numbers in France are even higher with 102%.

I have always said, the biggest challenge is action taking and marketers are on average limited by the C-Level decision makers.

What I found, based on personal experience, is that lots of meetings happen, lots of strategy is written down, lots of basically “blah blah blahhh”, but when it comes to action they don’t actually do anything.

Think back to what I shared earlier, remember we are all customers first, not business people. We are all consumers. It is time to evolve, pay attention to detail and above all, take action.

The roundtable voices were:

Led by:


If you missed the live session, you can watch the replay here:

Overall, this was an inspiring and insightful discussion on the role of on-site website search.

Let’s be the leaders that get others to highlight this issue even more. After all, customer experience is about the experience!

p.s. Visionary Marketing will be releasing a WhitePaper combining their research and our discussion. Stay tuned for that release!

Elise Quevedo

Author, Advisor, Storyteller

Named Top 50 Women in Tech Influencers 2021


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