Testing Shopware: An In-Depth Look at the Open-Source Platform’s Site Search  

Testing Shopware: An In-Depth Look at the Open-Source Platform’s Site Search

At Prefixbox, we want to ensure Ecommerce retailers offer the best possible online shopping experience, and this starts with search.  

Many Ecommerce businesses set up their stores on Shopware, so we looked at its search functionality and created a guide to help you optimize Shopware for maximum performance

In this guide, you’ll find: 

  • Insight into Shopware’s product import process 
  • A checklist of essential search features (and an in-depth look at them) 
  • Best practices to optimize your Shopware search solution 

Let’s get started.  

Shopware Site Search Test Results

Shopware’s Dockware PLAY platform is the free, community-based version they offer. It has a basic search solution that takes time to set up, but the community behind it makes it possible to enhance and improve if you take the time to implement best practices and additional features. 

Below, we shared our experience using Shopware and outlined the steps you can take to optimize your store

What is Shopware? A Quick Summary


Shopware is an open commerce platform that many businesses use to build their online stores. 

The technology is open-source and uses an MIT license. Like Magento and many other Ecommerce platforms, it can be shaped and formed by the community and developers that use it

Tens of thousands of online stores use Shopware, including big brands, and it is most prevalent in Germany. Most notably, Euronics, Jacques Lemans, Tigha, Discovery Channel EU, Lufthansa Cocktail, the Mercedes Benz Classic Store, and Oktoberfest use the platform.

Shopware was established as early as 2000 in Germany and has been open source since 2016. In its over 20-year history, Shopware has garnered a strong community behind it. 

But what we really want to know is…  

How Does Shopware’s On-site Search Work and Perform?


To answer this question, a Prefixbox developer set up an online store using the demo version of Shopware so we could get first-hand insight into its functionality. 

Preparing Shopware for Testing


We didn’t plan to include a section on the set-up process; however, we ran into a few issues while setting up our store and couldn’t find much documentation addressing them online. 

We’ve outlined our experience with the set-up process and shared ways we overcame the difficulties to help other stores save time. 

Before you set up your shop, it’s important to know… 

Importing a Large Number of Products Takes Time


For this test, we used an existing product feed from an online consumer electronics store. The feed was complete with about 100,000 products and included product attributes and images. 

For our purposes, we needed a Shopware environment that had already been set up. Shopware provides this environment via Docker, which has multiple versions. The most popular of these is the Dockware PLAY edition, which provides the easiest, fastest solution for testing. 

Building the Docker environment was simple: it’s a popular task among developers and many free resources are available. 

After installing the Dockware PLAY environment, we got three endpoints to access it via browser: 

  • {domain}/adminer.php – We can access the underlying relational database, write queries, edit tables, columns, and rows here. 
  • {domain}/admin – We can access the admin panel to set up the entire store, upload, manage and maintain it here. 
  • {domain} – We can access the front-end of the online store here. 

The default environment includes a basic theme, some dummy data, and products with the web shop. However, we got rid of most of this to monitor the few remaining modified products in the database through the admin panel. 

After a quick overview, we looked for a convenient way to import our database of about 100K products. By default, you can only upload products individually in the admin panel; however, we discovered there is also an option to import or export multiple products at once

Unfortunately, the bulk import/export process was not as straightforward as we’d hoped. Our first attempts to import products were unsuccessful, and we couldn’t find much documentation about why this was happening online. 

After a lengthy trial and error process, we discovered Shopware could not import our products because our product naming convention didn’t match what Shopware used in their product database. Upper and lowercase sensitivity was causing a problem in a GUID. 

So, we had to find a way to change the format of all our product names from DisplayText to display_text or displaytext. 

Eventually, we wrote a program that converted our product feed into a properly formatted CSV for categories and products. This resulted in several rounds of generation, code correction, uploading, and then waiting for potential errors. After resolving some inexplicable invalid format errors, we found a way for Shopware’s import function to process our products and were finally able to start uploading categories to the database. 

We wrote a program that converted our product feed into a properly formatted CSV for categories and products. After resolving some inexplicable invalid format errors, we found a way for Shopware’s import function to process our products and were finally able to start uploading categories to the database. 

There, we ran into a second round of problems, because… 

Batch Sizes Matter When Importing


We quickly realized that uploaded categories don’t automatically appear in the shop; you must index them first. This is possible through the admin panel and could be done relatively quickly for our roughly 1300 categories by uploading batches of 50. 

We initially tried uploading our 100,000 products in a 40 MB CSV file but kept getting an unexplained timeout notification. After another lengthy investigation, we found out the engine begins indexing the products during the import procedure, and after a few hundred items, it permanently times out. 

This is how we eventually realized we could only import batches of 50, and a developer later confirmed this is a known issue. That developer let us know the only way around this is to use a backend-facing API, which allows us to write directly in the database. 

We hoped there would be a little more documentation regarding the API; however, we eventually figured it out: all data imported this way must be againindexed manually, which wasn’t feasible with 100K+ products and 1300 categories. 

So, next up on our list of challenges was finding a proper batch size that could be indexed. We thought we could trigger indexing from the admin panel with the right queue message. However, without documentation available, we found this option to be a dead end. 

We decided to start importing different batch sizes until we found the right one. 

We started importing batches of 2000, which was a painstakingly slow process with its own set of challenges. Eventually we figured out products could be imported in batches of 50

Matching Images to Products


Once we uploaded our products, we had to match their respective images to them (we couldn’t assign IDs to existing images beforehand). 

Our images were linked to the products in multiple tables, so we had to test them one by one to find the minimum viable input. 

In doing so, we encountered inconsistent error messages. We eventually managed to upload and link images to products in tables where they weren’t previously displayed. Then we ran another indexing. We expected this to be slow, but it just didn’t run. 

We circled back to the beginning to experiment with batch sizes again; smaller batch sizes made indexing possible, but it was a very slow process. 

Once we finished uploading our products, we turned our attention to design. 

Modifying the Design


Finally, after weeks of work, we wanted to tweak the design slightly. This is another part of Shopware that isn’t well documented. We found documentation for a previous version, but it required thorough user knowledge of PHP, CSS, and HTML. 

Since we are not PHP developers, we looked for built-in themes we could use. These themes (and extensions) are available in the Shopware admin panel. You need to sign in with a Shopware account; we already had one because, like Shopware Demo, they provide a trial for anyone who wants to test the engine. That said, we couldn’t log in, which another developer explained was because ‘it’s not possible from a container.’ 

Thanks to the helpful Shopware developer community, we realized we ultimately couldn’t touch the design in our current test environment. This is where the experiment ended for our developer. 

Shopware Set-Up Summary


Based on our experience setting up a store with Shopware, our developer found Shopware’s non-Enterprise version to be a solution for those running a simple online store. When it comes to bigger businesses, the setup process requires a lot more time and resources to get everything up and running.   

Testing Shopware’s Search Features


Once we set up our demo store, we were ready to start testing the search function. 

First, we created a checklist of search features that matter most. Then, we took an in-depth look at their functionality

Checklist: Essential Search Features

  • Autocomplete
  • Search Engine
  • Zero Result Pages
  • Mobile Optimization

We’ve outlined our findings below and suggested best practices you can use to build upon Shopware’s existing features.  

If you want to ensure your Shopware search solution is fully optimized, get your checklist ready, and let’s dive in.  

Autocomplete


Autocomplete is one most impactful features of any onsite search solution. Autocomplete functions within the search bar, which is usually located at the top of the page. 

At the very least, all search bars should have an autocomplete function that deciphers user intent and provides relevant keyword and product suggestions. If equipped with the right features, autocomplete is a powerful tool that guides shoppers to desired items. 

To see how well Shopware’s autocomplete performs, we made another checklist of autocomplete features we find most important

Checklist: Essential Autocomplete Features

  • Product Suggestions
  • Typo Tolerance
  • Layout
  • Accurate Rankings
  • Mobile Optimization

Let’s break it down. 

Keyword and Product Suggestions


Keyword and product suggestions are a staple feature in an autocomplete. They must be relevant and appear quickly. 

In the Shopware demo store, autocomplete product suggestions appear after three keystrokes, which is slower than the industry standard. 

If you are using the community version of Shopware, it is important to be aware of this because shoppers expect to see results immediately upon clicking in the search box. 

Furthermore, Shopware’s autocomplete results appear in the typical dropdown style. As you can see below, we also see basic product information (in this case price, which is a default setting) and an option at the bottom to continue to the full results page. 

Shopware Search Autocomplete Feature Example

The dropdown results include relevant product recommendations, but we can see Shopware’s store is missing keyword suggestions, which are essential for an optimized autocomplete. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

PROVIDE KEYWORD SUGGESTIONS

In addition to showing product suggestions in the drop-down menu, keyword suggestions help shoppers navigate to accurate, desired results.

When shoppers visit websites on a desktop device, 50% click keyword suggestions, 5% click product recommendations, and 45% just hit enter. Keywords guide shoppers to high-quality results on the Search Results Page,so it’s important to display relevant results quickly to improve the user experience on your website.

An easy way to show shoppers keyword and product suggestions is to use a 2-column layout. 

USE A 2-COLUMN LAYOUT

A 2-column layout is an effective, user-friendly way to provide keywords, categories, and product suggestions that help shoppers refine their search within broad categories.

These suggestions enable shoppers to explore a retailer’s catalog, find the products they want to buy, and enhance the shopping experience by providing a clear path to purchase. 

Rossmann is a good example of a store that effectively utilizes a 2-column layout: 

Rossmann's Effective 2 Column Search Autocomplete

When searching for product names, Shopware’s autocomplete provides relevant and accurate recommendations.

Shopware Search Autocomplete Relevancy Accuracy Test

When searching for something other than the product’s name (i.e. a product number), results are accurate as well. As you can see below, the first result is the product with the corresponding number, and the following items are similar.  

Shopware Search Product SKU Accuracy

Number of Suggestions


In the demo store, the dropdown menu displays exactly 10 products, which is in line with our recommended best practice.  

Shopware Search Results Number of Suggestions

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

DISPLAY 10 PRODUCT SUGGESTIONS MAX

Retailers should display a maximum of 10 product suggestions, which means accurate rankings are essential.

As outlined in our autocomplete guide, if your suggestion list is longer than 10 items:  

  • Search time increases as users scroll through them 
  • Off-screen suggestions may be ignored or missed 
  • Users might experience choice paralysis and avoid making a decision instead of wasting time weighing all the options 

Category Suggestions


We were surprised to discover Shopware’s platform doesn’t support category search suggestions, which are very useful for shoppers. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

OFFER CATEGORY SUGGESTIONS

Category suggestions allow shoppers to narrow down broad search queries to specific items directly within the search box. For example, a shopper searching for headphones can easily specify Bluetooth, sports, or wireless headphones. 

Category search suggestions save time, provide customers with a clear path to purchase, and are an effective way to increase the user experience in your store.

To see how simple and useful this feature is, look at how IKEA’s autocomplete offers categories related to a shopper’s query: 

Ikea's Search AutoComplete Category Suggestions

Category suggestions are effective on search result pages too. If you’re looking to enhance the user experience in your store, we recommend offering them to shoppers. 

Typo Tolerance


A prerequisite for site search usability is a strong error tolerance for typos, so we wanted to see how well Shopware handles misspelled queries. 

Shopware’s autocomplete handles misspellings fairly well; in most cases, you can get relevant results even when queries contain multiple spelling errors. 

Shopware Site Search Typo Correction

Autocomplete also handles special characters well:  

When we replaced special characters with regular letters, the feature continued to work effectively. However, you can see below that the first results are based on exact text matches rather than an understanding of user intent. 

Shopware Site Search Special Character Handling

That said, Shopware provides relevant results when shoppers misspell their search queries, which shows us their typo tolerance feature is effective and is in line with our recommended best practice.

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

MAKE SURE YOUR SEARCH IS TYPO TOLERANT

Advanced typo tolerance features that recognize spelling mistakes and present shoppers with relevant products, categories, and keywords decrease zero result search rate and ensure shoppers can easily navigate their path to purchase.

As explained in this guide on choosing an enterprise Ecommerce search provider:

 “A typo rate somewhere between 1 in 4 and 3 in 4 might seem extremely high, but with keyboards, fast typing, the prominence of typo-tolerant search engines, and spell checking, it is possible because we hardly pay attention to spelling anymore.

If your site search engine can’t tolerate typos – as in, recognize them and recommend another search, or even better, show results for the correctly spelled keyword instead of returning zero results – you risk driving your customer away.”

Layout


Shopware’s basic autocomplete layout is a standard, one-column list that appears in the drop-down window. 

Shopware's One-column Search Autocomplete Layout

If you look closely at the image above, you can see the list has product names cut short. This is something we recommend avoiding. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION 

DISPLAY FULL PRODUCT NAMES

To prevent confusion with shoppers who may not know what they’re clicking on if a part of a product name is missing, it is important to display full product names in autocomplete dropdown lists.

Showing full product names is one way to generate more revenue in your store. 

Many suggestions, including long or multiple keywords, won’t be able to fit in their row, given the limited screen size and that you must use a big enough font for readability.

However, if you shorten the suggestion by including “…” at the end, you may confuse customers who might not know what they’re clicking on when part of the information is missing.

So how do you solve this problem?

KEEP VISUAL NOISE TO A MINIMUM

While it’s important to include keyword and product suggestions, prices, and photos where relevant, we suggest keeping your autocomplete simple, straightforward, and distraction-free.

Use text wrapping and expand suggestions to multiple rows as needed, even if this means fewer will be visible.

With modern on-site search solutions, the suggestion field can contain a large variety of elements like text, prices, photos, short descriptions, etc.

While these attributes help shoppers, be careful not to include too many additional elements. This can overwhelm shoppers, take focus away from the actual suggestions, and confuse customers more than it helps them.

Hovering Feature for Product Recommendations


Shopware’s autocomplete doesn’t offer shoppers a way to see if the item they click on is the product they intend to purchase. This can be dangerous because shoppers might grow frustrated if they click on the wrong product without realizing it. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

HIGHLIGHT PRODUCTS WITH KEYWORD HOVER 

When presenting shoppers with any results list, you can show shoppers their clicks will take them to the correct product page by highlighting the area the mouse hovers over.

Our Autocomplete Search Best Practices guide says:

“When a shopper is browsing suggestions, you should indicate which product the user’s mouse is hovering over. Or, if shoppers are using keyboard navigation, they must be able to see which suggestion is active. 
 
This provides clarity and helps eliminate mistakes, like choosing the wrong suggestion and having to go back. 
 
You may also offer a hand cursor to signal shoppers can click on suggestions to be taken to a result page.”

A state-of-the-art solution includes dynamic keyword hovering, an advanced feature that provides additional, relevant product suggestions to shoppers as they hover over a specific keyword in the search box. Dynamic keyword hovering is one way to take full advantage of autocomplete because it allows shoppers to see more results without taking up additional screen space. 

Price, Images, and Discounts


Shopware’s autocomplete results in the dropdown menu include images and prices for the individual product. The images are small and resized to match the text, but in most cases can be understood. 

We did not set discounts in our test store, so we don’t have information about whether or not they’re displayed in the default version. However, based on the layout of the results bar, it seems unlikely. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

SHOWCASE DISCOUNTS

Showing discounts in the autocomplete dropdown menu can encourage shoppers to make a purchase or explore areas of your catalog they may have missed.

Praktiker doesn’t use Shopware, but they do a great job displaying currently discounted products in their autocomplete suggestions.

Take a look:  

Praktiker Search Autocomplete Including Price Discounts

Relevance


We saw that Shopware provides relevant product suggestions when we looked at their typo tolerance feature. Shopware seems to prioritize exact text matches over relevance or popularity score, but we aren’t exactly sure how Shopware’s autocomplete decides on relevancy. 

Shopware exact match search prioritization

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

ACCURATELY RANK RESULTS

To best provide an accurate hierarchy of results, autocomplete should be capable of deciphering user intent instead of simply text-matching keywords in a product name or description.

As mentioned in our guide on choosing an  enterprise Ecommerce search provider, there are many ways to go about providing shoppers with relevant results.

As you can see in the link, one way is to implement a feature that leverages AI to predict user intent. Intent-based recommendations “guide shoppers through their path to purchase by suggesting searches that prevent zero results search pages.” 

If you’re using Shopware, you can custom-develop a feature to decipher user intent or find a third-party provider to help optimize your search solution.

As we wrap up this section, you should be well-prepared to assess and optimize your autocomplete feature so let’s switch gears and look at another important aspect of Shopware’s search solution.

Site Search Engine


An optimized search engine is critical to streamlining the shopping experience. When equipped with the right features, the search engine is a powerful tool for increasing conversions and revenue in your store.

We looked at a few key components of Shopware’s search engine and outlined best practices you can use to improve the shopping journey and, in turn, maximize business performance.

Facets and Filters


Filtering is essential to Ecommerce stores. Filters prevent shoppers from getting overwhelmed with endless results by allowing them to select desired product attributes. 

We only found one filter in the demo version of Shopware: a price range filter. 

Shopware Faceted Filtering Example

Dynamic filters and additional faceted filters were not present. 

Let’s look at the difference between dynamic and faceted filtering and see how implementing these features can add to the success of your online store. 

Faceted Filtering


Faceted filtering allows shoppers to find desired items by specifying preferred product attributes like brand name or price. Usually, the filters appear and disappear with each refined search as the suggestions in the pool of results decrease. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

OFFER RELEVANT FACETED FILTERS

Faceted filters help narrow down search results based on desired product attributes and improve the user experience in your online store.

If you’re wondering which filters to add, here are some suggestions:

  • Brand
  • Price (or price range)
  • User Ratings
  • Color
  • Material
  • Size
  • Popularity

We recommend displaying ecommerce search filters on the left-hand side of the SERP so shoppers can find them easily and efficiently navigate to desired results. 

Dynamic Filtering


Dynamic filtering means a store’s filters change dynamically based on the search query instead of displaying standard, static filtersFor example, if someone searches for shoes, they can filter results by size, and if they search for a laptop, they can filter results by processing power or other relevant specifications. 

As we mentioned, from our limited test, Shopware’s filters don’t seem to be dynamic. 

Dynamic filters help shoppers avoid dead-ends; for every executed search, filters change to make sure no combination leads to a zero result search page by only presenting available options.

If you’re selling shirts that come in many colors but you currently have no green shirts in store, two things can happen: 

  1. Shoppers select the “green” filter and land on a zero result search page.
  2. Dynamic filtering automatically hides the “green” filter option and only shows red and blue.

Dynamic filters prevent shoppers from growing frustrated with narrowing down results to products that aren’t available.

Faceted and dynamic filtering are different but work hand and hand; they both effectively present shoppers with desired items and prevent zero result search pages.

Accuracy


We discovered something interesting while testing for accuracy. 

We wanted to try searching for a product using its serial number. As you can see below, despite having that product (with the same serial number) in our cart, Shopware’s demo store search engine couldn’t find the product using the number we searched for. 

Shopware Shopping Cart Product SKU Search

While we previously saw Shopware’s autocomplete could analyze serial numbers and suggest relevant results, it seems this is not the case for the search engine. 

This tells us the default search engine most likely only checks for product names when performing the search, or at the very least, it seems to leave out some product attributes. 

This can most likely be amended by implementing a third-party on-site search solution. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

IMPLEMENT A GOOD PRODUCT RANKING ALGORITHM

One way to ensure an accurate hierarchy of results is to use a ranking system that places relevant items on the search engine results page, regardless of what shoppers type in the search bar. 

Most solutions only rank products according to the number of times they’ve been ordered, which can lead to inaccurate rankings.

A good ranking algorithm usually considers popularity scores and relevance. Popularity scores considers product page views, search engine result page (SERP) clicks, cart actions, and the number of orders.

Synonyms


The Shopware demo store does not provide synonym mining and management tools, which means it is not optimized for synonyms. 

It’s important to note that this is an advanced-level feature, so it makes sense that a standard Ecommerce platform doesn’t have it. 

However, synonym management is still an important feature on our checklist and is included in this Ecommerce site search best practices guide.  

Optimizing synonyms reduces zero results rate and increases conversion rate.

Dead-end searches often occur when a shopper searches for a brand you don’t stock or if their query has a common misspelling. Instead of not showing any results, you can use synonyms to show relevant products from similar brands

For businesses with unknown vocabulary or many synonyms for their products, synonym management is a game-changer. 

If you’re wondering how to handle synonyms in your store, you can use advanced synonym mining and management tools to: 

  1. Find terms for which results can be improved with synonym management 
  2. Review the performance of search terms and products with synonyms 
  3. Customize synonym mining configuration settings 
  4. Reload the synonym database to update search indexes  

Synonym mining and management may seem daunting, but it’s an incredibly effective way to decrease zero result pages and increase conversion rate and revenue

Next, let’s take a look at what your online store can do to keep shoppers in the purchase flow if they are unable to find products on a search engines result page.

Zero Result Search Pages


Landing on a zero result search page is one of the most frustrating aspects of the online shopping experience.

While you can significantly decrease zero result rate by optimizing your search solution, shoppers will land on a zero result page at some point, so it’s crucial to handle them effectively. 

Landing on a zero result search page that doesn’t provide alternate products or information on what to do next can make shoppers feel like they’ve lost control over their shopping experience.

Well-handled zero result search pages re-route shoppers to desired products and keep them in the purchase flow. Alternatively, poorly handled zero result pages cause shoppers to leave your site and go to your competition instead. 

We looked at how Shopware handles zero result search pages and recommended best practices to help you keep shoppers satisfied and engaged. 

Relevant Product Suggestions


Zero results search pages in Shopware’s default demo store do not offer alternative product suggestions.  

As you can see in the screenshot, we entered a random phrase, but found that all zero result searches had the same outcome. 

Shopware Site Search Zero Result Pages

Instead of allowing shoppers to arrive at a dead end, there are many ways to help them find desired products.  

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

OPTIMIZE ZERO RESULT SEARCH PAGES

If a shopper encounters a zero results search page:

  • Clearly explain what happened 
  • Always take the blame 
  • Provide alternatives  
  • Suggest similar results

To learn more about approaching zero result search pages and how you can implement these recommendations, check out these effective no results page examples

Related Searches


A powerful way to help shoppers navigate away from no result search pages is to provide Related Searches. This feature offers shoppers suggestions for related keywords and related products and is an effective way to suggest similar items to shoppers. 

Related Searches is not part of Shopware but can be a great asset to store owners.  

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

PROVIDE DATA-DRIVEN RECOMMENDATIONS

Data-driven keyword and product recommendations help shoppers find the items they’re looking for and products that complement their original search.

Related Keywords


When shoppers land on zero result search pages, we recommend using Related Keywords to help shoppers reformulate their query with just one click. 

Look at how Nordstrom handles this simply and effectively:

Nordstrom Related Keywords Example

Related Products


Even better than related keywords are showing shoppers related products based on their initial query.

Build.com offers a good example, take a look: 

As you can see, suggesting products related to the initial query allow shoppers to seamlessly continue their shopping journey instead of leaving them at a dead end and forcing them to re-execute their search. 

There are many reasons shoppers end up on zero result search pages. When setting up your online store, be sure to implement the best practices above to keep shoppers engaged throughout their shopping journey, especially if you have what they’re looking for in stock. 

Once we finished looking at the functionality of Shopware’s main search features, we wanted to see how Shopware’s search performed on mobile devices.

Mobile Optimization


Every year, an increasing number of shoppers make purchases on the small screen, so it’s crucial to ensure your online store is optimized for mobile devices. 

We looked at Shopware’s mobile user interface and laid out tips to help you optimize search in your mobile store. 

Let’s get to it. 

Search Placement


Shopware’s search bar (usually accompanied by a magnifying glass icon) can be found at the top of webpages. Shopware uses a standard layout that is clearly visible and easily accessible, which is in line with our recommended best practice. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

PROMINENTLY PLACE YOUR SEARCH BAR

Your mobile Ecommerce store should prominently place the search box at the top of the page in the app and on the webpage version.

Search on mobile is critical. There aren’t many navigation options on phones, so the search box is the best way to help shoppers find what they’re looking for; good placement is paramount. 

Number of Recommendations


Next, let’s look at product recommendations. 

On mobile devices, Shopware’s product recommendations fill the entire screen and require you to scroll to view all of them. 

Shopware Mobile Search Autocomplete Number of Product Recommendations

We can’t see the full names of suggested products, which may confuse the customer and cause them to click on an undesired item because information missing. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION

LIMIT CONTENT TO WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT

Mobile screens don’t allow for much text or visuals, so ensure the text and images add value to your shop. Limit content on mobile sites to only what’s essential to ensure quick page-load times and uncluttered pages.

In our mobile search box optimization guide, we suggest keeping the information for each product at a minimum; a photo, the product name, and the price are enough. You can include discounts and product descriptions but keep descriptions as short as possible, and make sure product images are small for quick load times. 

Search Results Layout


Search engine results pages should be well-formatted with products that load quickly and are ranked accurately. 

In Shopware’s mobile store, results are displayed in a single column and separated into pages. We were happy to see their search results layout adhered to most of our best practice recommendations. 

PREFIXBOX RECOMMENDATION 

CLEARLY DISPLAY SEARCH RESULTS

  • Provide clear tiles
  • Use large, high-quality images
  • Consider implementing quick-view windows with add-to-cart options
  • Show item prices and sale prices if you offer discounts
  • Implement paging

Shopware effectively uses paging, which is displaying search results on multiple pages so users can easily explore product options.  

The alternative to paging is infinite scrolling, which makes tracking search engine performance more difficult. Segmenting results by pages is more intuitive to the user, and offering fewer results per page creates a faster, less overwhelming shopping experience. 

Shopware clearly displays the number of results pages and makes sure the first result is at least partially visible, which effectively indicates the user can scroll down

Shopware Search Results Product Number Paging

The only thing missing here is text wrapping, which means we can’t see full product names. As we mentioned before, this can be confusing and lead to misclicks if you have many similar products in your store. 

Shopware Mobile Search Product Name Wrapping

The last thing we wanted to check for mobile Search Placement Layout is landscape mode. 

Shopware’s landscape mode handles the perspective change very well by changing the layout and including a grid. 

However, we noticed landscape mode accidentally causes product names to disappear.  

Shopware Product Search Autocomplete Landscape Mode

When setting up your online shop, make sure to test landscape mode to verify that product names appear for your shoppers. 

As we reach the end of our findings in Shopware’s mobile store, you should be ready to provide the best shopping experience for all visitors to your site, regardless of platform.

Conclusion


First of all, it’s important to reiterate that we only tested the Dockware PLAY version of Shopware for its Ecommerce site-search functionality. 

We described our experience setting up the platform for the test, did a thorough review of Shopware’s search features to test functionality, and provided best practices to help you optimize your Shopware search solution. 

Overall, we found the free Dockware Play version of Shopware to have a sufficient search when testing the basic functionality, like identifying typos or providing autocomplete suggestions. That said, we believe that if you’re looking for an industry-standard solution, you will need to further optimize your Shopware store with a custom solution or one from a third-party provider. 

When it comes to Enterprise size businesses, it will probably take a while to get everything up and running. However, taking time to implement the best practices above will ensure your store is fully optimized and set up for success. 

Because Shopware is an open-source platform with dedicated developers and time, optimizing the search solution is possible and can be made easier with the third-party extensions offered in the Shopware Store

Lastly, it’s important to mention that Shopware offers an Enterprise version of the platform, which includes many advanced features that make it easier to optimize your search solution. However, based on Shopware’s Enterprise Search configuration video, it appears this version can also be improved with the best practices and features recommended in this article. 

Rebecca Pacun
Rebecca PacunCopywriter – Prefixbox

Rebecca is the Copywriter at Prefixbox, a leading Search and Discovery solution for Enterprise Ecommerce retailers. Originally from California, Rebecca works at Prefixbox’s office in Madrid.

Intensive International Expansion by New Sales Team at Prefixbox

Intensive International Expansion by New Sales Team at Prefixbox

Budapest, Hungary – 1 December 2021

Prefixbox, the Gartner-listed Digital Product Discovery provider, welcomes Árpád Deák, VP of Sales and COO, to accelerate their growth by building a new sales team, entering into new regions, and leading the company’s business development strategy. 

Prefixbox DACH Sales Team

Deák brings 20+ years of sales and management experience to the table. Most recently as the RVP Sales & Growth at Emarsys, an omnichannel customer engagement platform, he was responsible for new business development and growth of existing clients’ portfolio across Central and Southern Europe.  

We are very excited to have Árpád on board. The combination of his experience in international expansion, sales organization building, and new business strategy is what Prefixbox needs for the dynamic scaling of the organization.” – said István Simon, CEO, and Founder of Prefixbox. 

I am thrilled to join Prefixbox at this stage of its growth, as our innovative products and first-class customer service perfectly position us to help our clients gain a competitive advantage in the fast-moving eCommerce market.” – stated Árpád Deák, new VP of Sales and COO.  

Germany being the next step in the expansion, Michael Alber, who has extensive B2B sales experience in the DACH-region, joins the team as a Senior Sales Executive. 

About Prefixbox 

Prefixbox is a product discovery provider with solutions to improve eCommerce stores’ search, browse, and merchandising capabilities. By enabling shoppers to find the products they’re looking for, Prefixbox boosts online revenue, increases conversion rates, and improves the end user’s shopping experience.  

Headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, with regional offices in Germany, Austria, and Poland, Prefixbox operates in nine countries, providing search solutions for 60+ clients including eObuwie, Rossmann, Auchan, Carrefour, Bauhaus, MediaMarkt and Praktiker.

More information: 

Paige Tyrrell 
Chief Marketing Officer 

paige@prefixbox.com 
+1 713 701 5030  

www.prefixbox.com 

14 eCommerce Merchandising Strategies You Can Implement in 2022 (+ Examples)

14 eCommerce Merchandising Strategies You Can Implement in 2022 (+ Examples)

Traditional retailers (brick and mortar stores) have used digital merchandising strategies for ages, and eCommerce seems to be at a disadvantage. But you can actually learn how to implement their strategic techniques into your eCommerce store – with the help of technology and a little creativity.

In this guide to eCommerce merchandising, you will learn:

  • how to convince visitors to make multiple purchases
  • how to guide shoppers to the products you want them to see
  • offer them exactly what they want at exactly the right moment

Let’s get into it!

First, you have to understand the importance of these strategies. Millennials, the most important age group for most eCommerce sites, say they make 60% of their purchase online.

Additionally, 44% of all consumers say they will become repeat buyers if they have a personalized shopping experience. And of course, the pandemic only accelerated the shift to online retail – a trend that is here to stay.

This only makes the competition stronger, so you need to use the right techniques to engage your customers.

As always, we will start at the basics – then rapidly dive into methods you can implement right away.

Let’s start with the question…

What Is eCommerce Merchandising?


We can find a nice, basic definition from PracticalEcommerce, where they say

Ecommerce merchandising is the art and science of displaying products or offers on a website with the goal of increasing sales

This is a solid definition, but in order to make use of it, we will have to refine it and focus on the differences between offline and online merchandising in more depth than just that the latter is done on a website.

More specifically, in our opinion, eCommerce merchandising is a process of effectively highlighting the products you want shoppers to see and purchase without interfering, or interrupting, their shopping journey.

Ecommerce merchandising is a complex field of eCommerce itself, incorporating many methods, best practices, and strategies from marketing, UX, website design, sales, automation, and more.

In this article, we aim to gather the most important ones in one place for you; to create a guide that you can come back to and use as a sort of cheat sheet that answers the important questions: “what is product merchandising?” and “how can I use it to boost revenue in my online store?”

But first, there is a very important aspect we need to tackle…

How to Successfully Cross-Sell


Digital Merchandising can be used to cross-sell, so let’s first take a look at the difference between cross-selling and upselling.

Take the classic example:

  • “Would you like larger fries?” – This is upselling.
  • “Do you want fries with that?” – This is cross-selling.
Cross-Sell Campaign Example by McDonalds
McDonalds actually built an entire marketing campaign on this widely known phrase. We recommend checking it out.

With upselling, you simply take a product the customer already committed to and offer a bigger, more complex, more expensive version of it.

However, with cross-selling, you take the chosen product into consideration, and offer the customer something else that they are likely to buy in addition.

The key here is to consider the original intent.
In this case, this means products that the customer searched for on the site.

To make relevant suggestions and seamlessly guide shoppers, you can leverage many different strategies in addition to a “recommended products” section. We will cover many of these strategies right here if you scroll down.

Without wasting any more words, let’s dive into the basics.

This is where you have to start.

The Basics of eCommerce Merchandising


Before we get into the online merchandising strategies that you can use, here we will go through a few of the basic concepts.

Without wasting words, let’s start with…

Design Your Store Layout Wisely


First impressions have lasting effects – and in the case of websites, you only have a fraction of a second to make them. Somewhere between 0.05 and 0.1 seconds to be exact.

In order to make the best impression, and guide the user from the start, you must design your site with a merchandising focus.

Some of the essentials:

Some of the essentials:

  • Use large imagery with contrasting colors, high resolution and clear purpose.
  • Make navigation instinctive: put it where they would look for it, and make it very easy to use.
  • Make your search bar noticeable and make sure it has predictive search.
  • Make the layout simple
  • Promote the best-selling products.
  • Promote your current discounts, sales, campaigns.
  • Promote the highest-rated products.
  • Make content personalized if you can.
  • Avoid automated carousels (but use non-automated ones wisely).
  • Make sure your website displays properly across all screens and mobile devices.

Remember: with visual content, you have to replace the feeling of in-person shopping,
where customers can wander around a store, pick up the products, feel their texture, smell them and so on. You have one sense to use instead of four.

Product Grouping


The best place for product groupings are on custom search result landing pages, which you can leverage in marketing campaigns.

Keep in mind that if you are using faceted search, your customer will be quickly able to create custom groupings on the search results page based on all of the available attributes, like features, size, color, brand, and so on.

Suggesting related products


If you’re looking for further ways to cross-sell, suggesting related products or other popular products is a great option.

It is reasonable to assume that people shopping for certain products are more likely to take a certain cross-sell. For example, those looking for headphones will be more open to headphone chargers and cases.

These are best placed at the bottom of the search results page so that you don’t interfere in the buying journey, but instead complement it.

Learn more about the most important related search features to increase conversion rate & revenue by 6%.

Branding with visuals


Visuals are of course very important in guiding the attention of your customers, and they also have to be consistent across your entire site and with your established brand.

This means that you have to find visuals that represent your brand identity and at the same time not only catch the eyes of visitors but also accomplish the task of presenting your products and offers in an easily comprehensible way.

Depending on the type of product you sell, you can implement a bunch of different approaches to visual merchandising.

  • You can use demos if you have a virtual product.
  • Or 360-degree photography to showcase your products better.
  • You can also include your social media channels, including posts with branded hashtags to show your customers what others think and how they use your product.

Personalization and Online Merchandising


Personalizing what a visitor sees on your site offers a huge opportunity to increase your average order value (AOV).

As a first step, you can customize their experience based on simple demographic information, location, and season.

You can also recommend products and offers based on their history on your site, their previous purchases. Even better if they can create wish lists and if you are paying attention to abandoned carts – and the items in them.

Based on this information you can also create great personalized automated e-mail and advertising campaigns, but we will talk about those in another article.

By changing what your visitors and customers actually see on your site based on what you know about them you are likely to elevate their overall shopping experience.

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eCommerce Merchandising Strategies and Visual Merchandising tips for Your Online Store


It is time to have a look at some online merchandising strategies using the basic techniques mentioned above and see how to apply them.

Here are 15 digital merchandising strategies for retail stores, with examples…

1. Home Page Merchandising


Your home page is one of the most important pages on your site and deserves special care.

Most shoppers will land here first, so it doesn’t just make a first impression, but it also gives you a great opportunity to guide your potential customers from the very beginning of their shopping journey.

Include your most important offer at the top.

One of the most effective strategies to go by – which is also easy to do – is to pick an offer that the majority of your potential customers would find attractive, and include it right there, above the fold on the first page.

This could be a seasonal offering, your all-time most popular product, or the highest-rated one.

For Apple, it is usually their latest product:

Apple-eCommerce-Merchandising-Example

Basically, use your home page as brick and mortar stores use their windows to showcase their best products and invite in would-be customers.

Personalize the products you feature.

Below the single most important offer, you can start showcasing individual products – and as we have already talked about this, you should always personalize what you show.

Based on information about your users, set different criteria on what to display there to increase your chances of offering something truly personally relevant.

If you offer free shipping, show it right away.

Shipping costs are among the most common causes of shopping cart abandonment. Thus offering free shipping is a great strategy to convince more visitors to convert into customers – given that you can integrate the cost of shipping into the products anyway.

But it is also important to actually tell your customers that their orders are shipped free. One way you can do this is by placing a banner on your home page, so it can be one of the first things they notice.

Homepage Storytelling


Overall it is a good idea to give your homepage a structure, and for that, you can use the basics of storytelling.

  1. First, tell the most important information, with text and also visually. Make your brand clear: show who you are, what kind of products you sell, and what solutions you offer.
  2. Then comes the more specific information, like free shipping, your current special offers. As they scroll down, the information can get more detailed and guide them to specific categories, offers, or discounts even.
  3. Then, you have to reinforce why they should trust you – include testimonials, ratings, user product reviews, user-generated content as social proof, important badges, and so on.

Treat your homepage the same way you would introduce your brand to anyone if you wanted to make it extremely appealing. This is one of the most important rules of visual merchandising.

2. Site-Search Merchandising


We have already talked much about searchandising, i.e. using your site search engine for merchandising.

To recap some of the most important lessons from our previous guide:

  • Boost the products that bring you the most revenue: it makes sense to include products on the top of the results that are the most popular, the highest-rated, or simply the highest margin.
  • Optimize your no results pages by including some information on how the user might find what they are looking for, and also some personalizefild recommendations.
  • Personalize the search results: based on user history, you can place products at the top that are more likely to be relevant for them.
  • Use images: instead of just text results, display the most important information on the search result page, including visuals.
  • Use NLP search autocomplete – and if you can, include visuals right there, even before they hit enter.
  • Use promotional badges on your results to highlight ongoing promotions, offers, discounts.
  • And if you can, use faceted search, which greatly improves the shopping experience and makes the entire process faster.

Take a look at the Adore Beauty website, giving you instant results with visuals using autocomplete:

Search AutoComplete as Site-Search Merchandising Example

Learn more about the typical health & beauty challenges in eCommerce and important search features to increase conversion rate & revenue by 6%.

Also, intent clarification can be a great way to guide users to relevant offerings when their entered terms are too broad.

For example, if they search for headphones, there might be hundreds in this category, so you can offer them subsets of results like “Bluetooth” or “wireless” to narrow down the search.

3. Category Based Merchandising


Before setting out to design your category pages, take a moment and investigate how the most popular stores in your niche do theirs.

Best practices are always good to follow, and in most cases, you will find that category pages are informative. They display not only product names and images, but also some of the most basic information that could be deal-breakers for the customers, like the price, shipping information, and some of the most important attributes.

To make it easier to find specific products, if you have a wider range of offerings, include faceted search options on the category pages. Make sure that these options match the attributes in that specific category – this could be anything like brand, size, price range, release date, and so on.

Category Based Merchandising Example by boohoo
A nice example from boohoo, with a result page that features a lot of basic information, discount and uses faceted search.

4. Product Page Merchandising (With Visual Details)


Brick and mortar stores have a major advantage compared to online retailers. If you personally visit a store, you can see the products better, and you can touch, hold, and even smell them. You get a much more personal, immersive shopping experience, which in turn gives you more confidence to actually make a purchase.

There are a few ways you can allow your customers to inspect the products more closely on an eCommerce website:

  • One is using 360-degree product photos, so the customers can look at your products from every angle.
  • Using very high-quality zoomable photos allows for a closer inspection of the details.
  • Close-ups of the most important features help with answering some of the questions they might have about the product, like what features or accessories it has.
  • Photos depicting the products in use help with reinforcing the mental image they create, imagining how they will use it. (Best if you have user-generated content for this!)
  • Product videos are even better at this as they are more immersing, and can showcase the product in use and in a variety of ways.

At the Milk Bar, even for simple cakes, they include a large number of high-quality and close-up photos with many angles to awaken your appetite:

5. Collection-Based Merchandising


Grouping relevant products on a custom landing page is always a good way to cross-sell your offerings.

Let’s say you have an eCommerce business that sells clothes. Most people will of course search by categories and attributes – for shoes to wear in the fall that are waterproof or hoodies that are a certain size and color, and so on.

But many of them will look for certain styles. If there are clothes in your store displaying, for example, pop culture themes, this is a great opportunity to create collections. This way fans of a franchise like Star Wars or Marvel can browse these themed products together.

Also, if you feature multiple collections, make sure you create a category page for them, where people can easily browse through them.

A great and simple example could be Amazon, where if you go to the toys section, you can find the products grouped by the characters or brands they are based on:

Collection Based Merchandising Example by Amazon

6. Featured Products and Collection-Based Merchandising


To tie into homepage merchandising: besides personalized products, you can also display your most popular collection on your home page.

The top of the page should in general be a hero shot of one specific offering, however, if you want to display multiple products and collections above the fold, you can do that.

A slider, especially an automatic slider, is something in this case that you should avoid: they generally perform poorly and are frustrating for the users. But you can make use of tiles, for example, and display collections in addition to your top products.

This way you can trigger multiple different selling points, aimed at different segments and likely have a greater chance of showing the new visitors something they might be interested in right at the start.

Featured Products and Collection-Based Merchandising Example
Over the Moon introduces visitors to a collection right away on the home page – likely based on customer behavior.

7. Simple Product Merchandising Focus


If you have a smaller range of offerings, you might want to opt for focusing on a single one on your homepage. This is also a good strategy if your eCommerce business is new and you have a limited budget to publicize them.

Luckily focusing on a single product or unique type of product also means that you can use a website design that is much simpler.

A great example is the swimwear company KIINI. They have a very limited number of products, all in the same style. On the site, you are greeted simply by a hero image, and clicking through that you get to the single category page, showcasing their swimwear in different colors. It’s very simple – and very effective, useful for maintaining a consistent brand image.

Simple Product Digital Merchandising Focus Example

Rotate Your Highlighted Products for Returning Visitors


If you have a high number of repeat customers and a wide product range, a basic eCommerce merchandising strategy is to simply rotate your homepage visuals and highlighted products (if you don’t use personalization).

This can of course be simply automated: you just have to set the parameter for how often you want to show returning visitors different content on your site.

This can of course be simply automated: you just have to set the parameter for how often you want to show returning visitors different content on your site.

Just consider that even traditional stores use this technique. Not just by simply changing what is in the window – grocery stores sometimes switch up rows or change the location of sections to force their customers to look at more products while they search for what they originally wanted.

9. Cross-Selling In the Shopping Cart


Your shopping cart is an ideal place for cross-selling products. This works especially well with accessories. (Remember the “do you want fries with that?” method).

When a customer looks in their cart to check the items, overall price, shipping, and other details, eCommerce merchants have a unique opportunity to offer related, or complementary products, as you know in real-time from the contents of the cart what they are interested in.

When a customer looks in their cart to check the items, overall price, shipping, and other details, eCommerce merchants have a unique opportunity to offer related, or complementary products, as you know in real-time from the contents of the cart what they are interested in.

A good example here is Croniche – right after you put something in your cart, they offer relevant, similar products or accessories based on your choice.

Cross-Selling In the Shopping Cart Example as Digital Merchandising Strategy

10. Use Customer Data to Your Advantage


Customer data is the simple greatest asset for any company, and here, eCommerce stores have an advantage!

Your eCommerce site (and search) will likely be able to gather a lot of valuable data about customer behavior.

So, if you haven’t yet, enable Google Analytics on your site. The customer data you can gather will allow you to look at the paths your users and customers follow, so you can optimize your site to better guide them.

So, if you haven’t yet, enable Google Analytics on your site. The customer data you can gather will allow you to look at the paths your users and customers follow, so you can optimize your site to better guide them.

You will discover common exit pages, which you can optimize to boost sales.

Ecommerce merchandising, like most of eCommerce, is heavily based on data, so the more you can collect and analyze, the better you can optimize.

Use Customer Data for Digital Merchandising Strategy Example

11. Spark Loyalty in Return Customers


If you want your customers to make multiple purchases in your store, return often and check out your new products or reorder the ones they run out of, you have to focus on building loyalty.

The basics of loyalty have to do with the entire shopping experience: it should be fast, convenient, and with no unnecessary interruptions. This will make your customers love your store and continually return.

You can also encourage your existing customers to make more purchases if you implement loyalty programs – even simple ones, like point-based systems that can be redeemed for discounts or giving away one-time discount codes on birthdays. All of these can usually be done with a few simple add-ons.

You can also encourage your existing customers to make more purchases if you implement loyalty programs – even simple ones, like point-based systems that can be redeemed for discounts or giving away one-time discount codes on birthdays. All of these can usually be done with a few simple add-ons.

Also, look into creating special offers for products that are most often left in an abandoned cart, or the ones that are most prevalent on wish lists.

IKEA likes to really immerse you in its loyalty programs, giving you members-only offers. We borrowed this example from Antavo, where you can learn a lot more about customer loyalty.

12. Use as Many Decision Reinforcing Elements as You Can


Displaying products in an inviting way and providing discounts is not always enough to convince shoppers to make a purchasing decision.

You have to make sure that your would-be customers trust you with their money and that they feel good about their decision to make a purchase.

To do this, you can utilize a wide range of elements that encourage them, such as:

  • Product reviews, most importantly the ones that talk about the benefits of using your product.
  • User-generated content that shows actual people are using your product – and they are happy with it.
  • Ratings, preferably with some visual element, like five golden stars.
  • Expert proof: find some influencers in your niche, preferably professionals, who can test your product and give reviews.
  • Use numbers: show how many people have already bought this product, how many viewed it in the past few days, how many put it on their wish list and so on. Sometimes just displaying how many are in stock can incentivize a purchase.

Many of these can be displayed even on your search result pages – so go on and include them.

Reviews are used on a product page at Italic.com, making sure that you make the right decision.

13. Use Banners on Search Result Pages


Banners might not be the best form of advertising in a brick-and-mortar store, but they can be effectively used on your online store.

These enable you to highlight promotional periods or specific products or brands outside of the search results so that you can inform shoppers of certain messages without interrupting their searching journey.

This is, of course, best used when you display banners on relevant results pages, so make sure you use an on-site search solution that allows for this level of customization.

These are highly effective during seasonal sales or promotional periods like Black Friday to boost sales of certain products, highlight bundle offers, or inform shoppers of limited-time offers.

14. Redirecting Searches to Landing Pages


There can be certain situations in which a shopper searches for information about your store and not for a specific product. When this happens, you don’t want to take them to a no results page, but instead, redirect them to an informational page.

The most common example is if they search for opening times, contact information, or the location of the store. In these cases, you can redirect the users directly to the relevant page of your site containing the needed information.

Conclusion: What is the Best eCommerce Merchandising Strategy?


Modern eCommerce merchandising is complex to break down into specific strategies and techniques to use. The best thing for you, as a merchant, to do is to take a holistic view and try to implement various techniques that make sense for your brand and business strategy.

In regards to online merchandising, eCommerce businesses do have a few disadvantages compared to traditional brick and mortar stores – but you can rarely find anything that can’t be replaced with technology and some creativity.

Up- and cross-selling techniques, using customer data wisely, designing your category, product, and search result pages are all very important steps in even the simplest of online stores.

There is only one question: where will you start?

Paige TyrrellHead of Marketing – Prefixbox

Paige is the Head of Marketing at Prefixbox, a leading eCommerce site search solution. She’s an American who’s been living in Budapest since 2017 and loves giving #alwayslearning sessions to help people optimize their online stores.

Gartner Enterprise Search Solution Prefixbox Recognized in Gartner’s 2021 Market Guide for Digital Commerce Search

Gartner Enterprise Search Solution Prefixbox Recognized in Gartner’s 2021 Market Guide for Digital Commerce Search

Budapest, Hungary – 26 August 2021

Prefixbox Semantic Search Engine and product discovery modules are recognized in Gartner’s 2021 Market Guide for Digital Commerce Search; a guide highlighting trends and advancing innovations in the eCommerce search sector.

Gartner’s new report identifies personalization, AI-enhanced relevance and semantic search as key trends for eCommerce leaders to leverage in their site search – all of which are included in Prefixbox’s search modules: Autocomplete, Related Searches and the Semantic Search Engine.

Prefixbox’s Autocomplete leverages AI (NLP, NLU) and personalization in the suggestions, while the Semantic Search Engine enables retailers to further understand their clients and continually improve the relevance of suggestions by leveraging features like re-ranking and tuning, synonym mining and Speller. Additionally, it has Merchandising capabilities, a Brand Promotion platform to enhance retailer/brand collaboration to drive revenue, and visual product recommendations. All of the Prefixbox modules are backed by A/B testing and supported by a robust Search Analytics platform.

We are happy to be recognized by Gartner for our forward-thinking work. We aim to constantly meet retailers’ needs and exceed their expectations, which is why we’ve spent so much time developing our Semantic Search Engine to be one of the best in the industry” – summarizes Istvan Simon, Prefixbox CEO and Founder.

Subscribers can find a copy of Gartner’s 2021 Market Guide for Digital Commerce Search here.

About Prefixbox
Prefixbox provides easy-to-integrate AI-powered eCommerce search solutions to fit the needs of medium and enterprise eTailers. Their data-driven search modules learn from user behaviour and are proven to significantly improve user experience and increase revenue and conversion rates for retailers.

Headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, with regional offices in Poland, Germany, and Austria. Prefixbox operates in nine countries, providing search solutions for 60+ clients including Rossmann, Auchan, Bauhaus, MediaMarkt and Praktiker. For more information, please visit www.prefixbox.com.

Gartner Disclaimer
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Learn more about the most important eCommerce search engine features to increase conversion rate by 15% & revenue by 47%.

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15 Common Online Shopping Problems Causing Revenue Loss for Your Business (+ How To Fix or Avoid Them)

15 Common Online Shopping Problems Causing Revenue Loss for Your Business (+ How To Fix or Avoid Them)

There can be a million reasons why people don’t buy from a website, but statistically speaking, you only need to identify and fix a few of those reasons to get back most of the revenue you’re currently missing out on.

In this article, we are going to show you the most common mistakes, like

  • Not personalizing your site properly
  • Confusing product benefits with product features
  • Not trusting your own product
  • Hiding your real prices

Let us start!

Online Shopping Problems of eCommerce Stores

If you take all of the steps we recommend, you will likely be able to cut your abandonment rates down to a fraction of what you’re currently experiencing.

The most important online shopping and eCommerce statistics for online retailers


There are hundreds of articles, research papers, and reports out there where you can find up-to-date statistics on eCommerce sites. But this isn’t one of them, so here we will only be focusing on a few universal, key stats that will help put the most common online shopping problems into context.

For starters, Forrester Research tells us that around 50%of potential sales are lost simply because visitors are unable to find what they are looking for on eCommerce sites. Also, at least 45% of US customers will abandon a purchase if they have a question about the product or the shopping process and aren’t able to easily find the answer.

What these numbers tell us is that it’s essential for online shoppers to find everything quickly and easily in order to enable them to make a purchase, and increase your sales and revenue.

We also know that, according to Business2Community, around 86% of online shoppers are willing to pay more for a smoother, better shopping experience, and 49% of them are likely to impulse buy when they receive one.

There are a lot of very simple ways to provide this, many of which we will be talking about in this article.

Let’s start by keeping these in mind – and the fact that a good user and customer, experience is probably the most important thing for online merchants.

Let’s see how most people fail.

Why Online Shoppers Don’t Buy From a Website: The 15 Most Common Online Shopping Problems


1. Unprofessional, Dated Design


Visuals always provide the first, and often most important impression, either when we see a person for the first time, or visit a website. A negative impression can often deter your customers from making a purchase, even if your store is completely legitimate otherwise.

And you don’t have much time to convince your potential customers: first visual impressions are formed in 0.05-0.1 seconds.

An online store with an appearance that is obviously unprofessional is not inviting to customers. If your design is clearly dated, falls apart, images are missing, buttons are nowhere to be found – customers will be reluctant to engage with your site.

unprofessional outdated online store design

Apart from negatively affecting user and customer experience, this kind of appearance also sends a message. It signals that you either can’t update or repair your site, which implies your business is struggling. This has its own implications for the customer, but the other option is way worse: you may just not care. And no one will be eager to buy from a business that doesn’t bother to appear trustworthy.

A clean, well-designed site rewards the customer with a sleek experience.

One of the most important places where a good design can make or break a sale is your results page, so make sure to check out the best practices in our Search Results Page Design guide!

The solution: pay attention to keeping your design up-to-date, user-friendly and easy to handle.

2. Having a Poor On-site Search Engine


This is probably one of the most overlooked features in the eCommerce customer experience. This is why we should break it down a little.

How can site search experience be ruined?

No data-based product suggestions


A good site-search solution should be able to track customer behavior and adapt to it. If on-site behavior is not tracked, the customer will see irrelevant products in their searches, solely based on the provided keywords, not even taking popularity or current discounts into account.

No data-based product suggestions in site search

Search Autocomplete is not typo tolerant


Typo-tolerance is increasingly important when more and more consumers are shopping online from their mobile devices – where typos are very common. Many times they don’t even realize their mistakes; they just take a quick look at the 0-result page they are presented with and conclude that the desired product is not in the store.

So, make sure your on-site search can tolerate typos and still yield relevant results! A good autocomplete solution can also prevent potential typos – on our blog, you can read about this and more search box optimization methods.

Autocomplete is too slow


As we have stated before on the blog, “by making search faster and ensuring relevant results, autocomplete will decrease exit rate, increase conversion rate and likely even your average order value.”

If you want to know how to achieve faster autocomplete results, check out our Autocomplete Search Best Practices guide.

No category suggestions, photos or prices during sales events


When there are discounts or other sales going on, the on-site search tool you use should be able to distinguish these items and not only rank them in better positions, but also highlight the fact that there is something special going on – for example with photos, badges or other eye-catching digital merchandising solutions.

Wrong handling of singular/plural words


Just as with typos, singular and plural forms should be understood by the on-site search engine. Otherwise, you will lose customers who, after only one search will decide to look elsewhere while the product they want is right there – it’s just not displayed because the search solution is not “smart” enough.

Not handling zero results pages as opportunities


“No results found” pages are actually a great opportunity to impress your potential customers. There are many great things you can do when no product matches the search query: provide tips, suggest similar results, or provide alternative ways for them to engage with you.

Check out our full guide for zero result page optimization for a ton of best practices.

The solution: Treat your site search solution as a great opportunity for engaging with users and offering them relevant products,

Learn more about the most important search autocomplete features to decrease zero-result pages by 31% and increase cart value by 19%.

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3. Bad User Experience


The deterioration of user experience is usually related to elements that shouldn’t be noticed by the user in the first place.

In design, this could mean that your site is not mobile-friendly and falls apart on a small screen. A quick glance at the stats: according to recent studies, in 2021 we will reach a point where 54% of all retail eCommerce will be conducted on mobile devices.

Or maybe your site is crammed with irrelevant pop-ups and automatic carousels that serve little purpose as they are not personalized, but instead, just distract the user.

Normally, navigation, up-sells, relevant product offers, and such should be presented to the user in a natural way; not by interrupting their experience, but enhancing it.

And then there are the potential technical issues like timeout errors and website crashes. There are very few more irritating experiences than a website breaking down in the middle of a check-out process.

According to statistics, 73% of mobile internet users are familiar with slow-loading websites – and 53% of the visitors are likely to just leave a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Ideal page loading time for online stores is less than 200 ms

This is especially bad news for two reasons. One is that the average website takes 8-11 seconds to load. The other: while visitors will have a bad experience, a slow website will also cause you to drop lower in Google’s rankings now that they introduced the Core Web Vitals as official ranking factors as of June 2021.

The solution: make sure that your hosting provider is up to the job and that you have the appropriate service for the number of visitors your site experiences at peak volume.

4. The Lack of Personalization


If you provide a personalized shopping experience, you have a much better chance of converting your visitors to customers, simply because you can show them products they are actually interested in instead of showcasing your entire product range.

There are many ways to go about this. Most sites that use personalization use data from a user’s previous behavior and offer them products that are similar, or relevant, to the ones they previously viewed or bought.

An even better way is to use an on-site search solution that tracks the behavior of the customer in real-time, and ranks the search results according to their assumed needs.

Lack of personalization in eCommerce store's site search results

If you don’t use personalization, you are giving the potential customer more tasks to complete, lengthening the shopping process, and even risk invoking the ‘paradox of choice’. All of which cause fewer users to reach their desired products and consequently the check-out; increasing cart abandonment rates.

The solution: personalize as much as you can – even on search result pages.

Learn more about the most important eCommerce search engine features to increase conversion rate by 15% & revenue by 47%.

5. Missing or Unclear Product Information


When you introduce a product to your would-be customers, you can break down the information into two basic categories: product features and product benefits.

We will deal with the benefits in the next point, so let’s start by looking at product features.

Product features include all the dry information about how the product works, looks, how big it is, how fast it is, warranties, and so on.

Forrester tells us that in the US, 45% of customers are likely to abandon a purchase if they are not able to find an answer for their questions immediately.

Missing or Unclear product information on the product page of an eCommerce store

So it’s essential you pay attention to what your customers ask – either via chat, phone, in person, or by analyzing the search queries they execute on your site.

Make sure that all the attributes you display are clear and understandable: that values are spelled correctly can be easily understood and navigated. Regional preferences might also come into play, like the different spelling of ‘color’ in the US and UK, the imperial vs. metric systems, and so on.

The solution: make sure to include all available information on the product page, including frequently asked questions.

Now, onto the benefits…

6. Bad / No persuasive sales copy


How is your product going to make my life better?

Besides the numbers and attributes, shoppers want to know more about the product they’re considering purchasing: if it will provide more free time, alleviate pain, help me feel better in some way. They want to know how it will make them feel.

They also want to know why your solution is better than the other ones they could easily purchase on another site, and why they should buy it now instead of next month.

The solution: pay attention to your sales copy, even if you only use the most basic techniques. Think with the head of your customers.

7. Missing or fake product reviews


Besides the fact that fake product reviews are lazy and outright lies, they also tend to be very obvious. The reason for this is that they are written by you or your team, and not the customers, and more often than not they won’t sound genuine.

The solution: Let your customers review and rate your products – and if the reviews are bad, check what is wrong instead of covering it up, because they will quickly erode trust in your brand and become one of the reasons why customers don’t buy from you.

8. Too Complex Check-out process


In the past years, nearly all research into cart abandonment rates confirmed that the third most common reason – after high/unexpected prices and forced account creation – people abandon their cart is that the checkout process is too complex.

Most eTailers don’t take this essential fact into account: people are only willing to go through a complex process if the perceived value of the product they want to buy is very high.

In the case of complex products where the customer spends a great amount of time researching, comparing prices, finding the most suitable solution, a complex check-out can be fully warranted and in itself can serve as a catalyst for the IKEA effect.

But if they want to buy small appliances, food, clothes, or other relatively low-value, everyday products, they expect a very simple, very fast checkout.

The solution: tailor your check-out process for the needs of the customer – for simple products, provide simple check-out.

Payment failures (and uncertainty)


You have been entering your billing information after checking the 10 items in your cart, checking the shipping methods, and everything seems to be in order. You click on the check-out button – and nothing happens. The site crashes.

Too Complex Check-out process in eCommerce

Is the order placed? Did your final click go through? Is the payment processed? Is it in limbo somewhere?

Has this ever happened to you?

If yes, you can quickly place yourself in the shoes of a customer who encounters payment failures.

The result is often confusion, frustration, angry emails in the support inbox, and abandonment of the purchase.

The solution: always make sure that online shoppers are able to pay safely and securely on your site – that the service doesn’t crash, payments are processed properly and orders are undoubtedly placed and can be tracked at the same time.

And while you are processing all of this data, make sure there is no…

10. Lack of Security and Privacy Leaks


There are few events that are more damaging to online retailers than data leaks. Every year there are thousands, if not millions of these, ranging from small eCommerce sites being hacked by backdoor-exploiting bots to large scandals. Within the first few months of 2021 there was information about hacks that leaked millions of user data from companies and services like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Parler, Pixlr, T-Mobile, Microsoft Exchange, ClubHouse, and GEICO – the list goes on.

Lack of Security and Privacy Leaks

The solution: never sell products without offering a guarantee – it will seem suspicious and plant uncertainty in the would-be customer’s mind.

12. Additional charges


I have already mentioned the first universal reason behind cart abandonment: it’s when users at the end of a check-out process are faced with unexpected, or unexpectedly high charges.

Not communicating your prices clearly can greatly diminish eCommerce sales. But the solution, luckily, is very simple.

The solution: Always display the full price, and include tax and all additional prices in it. Indicate the shipping prices throughout the process, not only at the check-out. And don’t have any hidden charges.

It’s that simple

(Of course, some regional factors may come into play if your online store markets to international customers – count shipping costs and customs accordingly.)

13. Poor Tracking, Logistics and Long Delivery


When we look at shipping, price is important (and communicating it properly is even more so), but logistics and shipping times are also a major concern.

Order tracking systems can solve issues with uncertainty most of the time, if they are accurate.

The solution: if a customer knows how many days are left until their package arrives when it will be delivered, where it currently is, they are much more likely to be satisfied with this purchase and become repeat customers.

14. Not having a flexible return policy


Just as with guarantees, the only reason for not making your return policies as flexible as they can be is if you don’t trust your own product.

But if you do, these policies build trust and make things much easier for those few customers who will actually return something – which means you have a better chance of retaining them as customers.

The solution: make your return policy as flexible as you can. If your product and services are reliably good, you will rarely ever have to handle returns.

15. Lack of Support and No Live Chat opportunity


If you don’t provide support for your customers, you are not only depriving help from those who already purchased something from you, but you could also be alienating would-be customers.

Would-be customers have a lot of questions, especially if your product descriptions and attributes are not properly provided. If they receive poor customer service, they will just turn away and not make the purchase in the first place.

It’s also worth noting that “57% of customers would rather contact companies via digital media such as email or social media rather than use voice-based customer support”, as per Ameyo’s study.

The solution: setting up a support email address and a live on-site/Messenger chat in your online store, which can be done in a few hours at most, will greatly enhance your user experience.

Conclusions: Make it Easy to Shop Online


Providing a better user, and customer, experience is the key to increasing sales volume and revenue – and most of it boils down to thinking like your customer.

You don’t even have to try hard, just look at the statistics of your own site, and the messages and questions you directly receive from customers.

With a little effort, you will have a complete picture of their needs, problems, and expectations.

The next step is just to act on these insights.

Paige TyrrellHead of Marketing – Prefixbox

Paige is the Head of Marketing at Prefixbox, a leading eCommerce site search solution. She’s an American who’s been living in Budapest since 2017 and loves giving #alwayslearning sessions to help people optimize their online stores.