While on-demand grocery shopping and convenience delivery aren’t new – Instacart started in 2012 – COVID-19 has reshaped the way the average person thinks about their grocery experience and many more have turned to online options for grocery store pickup or delivery.
There is no doubt that virtual grocery shopping has many benefits – there is the convenience factor, it saves customers time, it reduces the risk of impulse purchases and it is a safer option for customers. who are wary of foreign travel in public places during a pandemic. Although the online grocery segment has matured, there are still many opportunities for growth, especially in the area of shopping experience and on-site search.
In e-commerce, nearly 42% of online shoppers begin their buying journey by heading straight to the search bar. These customers know what they want and they will abandon a site if they can’t find it. Additionally, Internet users are 1.8% more likely to convert than regular buyers. The same customer behavior can also be applied to online grocery shoppers. Creating robust site search is often overlooked by grocery delivery brands of all sizes, even though it’s one of the most crucial elements of sales conversion.
One of the reasons research has been deprioritized could be simple: research is extremely complex. Customer intent can be extremely difficult to match with search results, and small differences in query construction can be lost on search engines. For example, a search for “dairy-free milk” or “dairy-free milk” can sometimes lead to different results. A human knows exactly what is being searched for, but search engines often don’t.
Beyond basic query understanding, there are many other features that online grocery merchants can add to improve the site search experience. We’ve compiled a list of five site search elements to consider.
Locate store selections
Grocery delivery platforms have a unique challenge that other e-commerce platforms don’t: store location. On-demand grocery services typically deliver products directly from a nearby store instead of a warehouse, so a location’s inventory must rely on individual store data. What’s in stock at a regional grocery store may not be available in another state, or even across town for that matter. Disregarding regional store data makes it difficult for users to find the products they are looking for, while also making it difficult for shoppers to fill orders.
Make your online inventory flawless
Your online grocery store shelves should be as spotless and organized as they are inside the retail store before the doors open each morning.
When it comes to search, your index should be up-to-date with clear titles, descriptions, and other information like prices and discounts. Test it to make sure customers get the results they’re looking for. For example, if someone searched for “flapjacks” and someone else searched for “pancakes”, they would end up in the same place. Some search solutions require you to create synonyms to handle these kinds of queries, but newer AI-powered search solutions handle common synonyms without any training required.
Have up-to-date inventory management for your online customers to avoid the dreaded “out of stock” message as much as possible. If something runs low in inventory, let online shoppers know so they can plan accordingly.
Relevance and its relationship to recommended replacements
How many times has this happened? A customer is paying online and is in the process of approving recommended replacements for their groceries, but none of the recommendations appear to match the desired items. Instead of a different brand of fresh blueberries, they are recommended frozen. Instead of La Croix, they’re kind of really recommended.
Relevance is the extent to which product results match a customer’s query and the intent behind the query. Common on-site search engines use complex rules or keyword-based algorithms to determine the relevance of a query, which can be laborious on the backend. Fortunately, advancements in AI have removed a lot of manual labor and guesswork from this process.
An online grocery system should be able to quickly learn from customers’ buying behaviors to offer recommendations based on past purchases. This way, grocers can customize their online merchandising to show better results. However, they often neglect personalization in search results and product ranking.
We’re creatures of habit, so when a regular customer searches for milk, their past purchases and browsing history should rank their previous selections above other results, for example. If a customer is a regular Ben & Jerry’s customer, make sure their Cherry Garcia ranks higher than Häagen-Dazs or Talenti.
Pay attention to facets and filters
A surefire way for a website manager to amplify site search is to take advantage of filters and faceted search. While the two features are similar in that they help a client refine queries and find results faster, there are some big differences.
Filters refer to broader categories such as dairy, deli, fresh produce, bakery, or frozen. Think of it like the aisles of a physical grocery store. Using filters is one of the first steps in refining a search query.
Facets, on the other hand, are more granular and dynamic than filters. They are generated according to the values of a search and can be modified dynamically according to each search. Facets are perfect when a client wants to refine a selection along multiple dimensions. For example, facets related to milk can include types (whole, skim, 2%, etc.), ingredients (almond, oats, dairy, rice, etc.), or other filters (organic, non-GMO, etc.) .).
In 2022, it’s more important than ever for online grocery platforms to invest in onsite search. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies have made it easy to take some of the guesswork out of search engine amplification. Make this year the year of the powerful on-site grocery search.
Joe Ayyoub, Chief Revenue Officer of Search.io, brings over a decade of e-commerce and search experience to Search.io. Prior to Search.io, Joe was chief account officer at ZineOne. Previously, he was senior vice president of customer experience and partnerships at Unbxd and head of global support operations at Magento Commerce (acquired by Adobe). Joe holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology and an MBA in Finance and E-Business from Golden Gate University.