Since the feature leverages Shopify’s internal search functionality and algorithm, it’s important to fully understanding the behind-the-scenes part of how Shopify search works.
Search plays a key role in how customers find and buy products from your online store — but it’s not the only way shoppers can find products.
The first type of shopper that “arrives” in your online store is the searcher.
These people generally have a fairly specific idea of what they are looking for — and perhaps highly specific.
In some ways, this would be equivalent to someone walking into a store and going directly to the customer service desk and asking where the product is.
To continue the analogy to real life shopping, the customer could ask for something that’s specific yet broad — such as “Where are the women’s shoes?” or varying levels of detail down to something as specific as “Where are the red women’s shoes in size 8 with straps and 3 inch heels?”
In a bricks and mortar store, the employee’s response could be as broad as “Look in the shoe section over there” or as specific as “Aisle 33, left side near the bottom.”
Even better, the employee could offer to take the customer right to a pair of shoes he or she knows would be a good match to what the customer is looking for.
It’s worth noting that search results, just like an employee’s response, can be highly specific or overly broad.
One of the advantages to the “search” customers is, since they already have a specific idea of what they want, they are likely ready to purchase — but only if they can find the product that they’re seeking.
Because of this, it’s vital that your search tool, which is analogous to the employee at the customer service desk, is well “trained” to help users find what they are looking for. When the online shopper types a keyword in the search bar, like “red”, then red products should definitely appear in the results.
As discussed in this guide to Shopify search, product tags and titles affect search results, so these are always good places to start.
For example, a product that has a tag of “red” or a product name like “Ruby red slippers” will ensure it shows up in any search for “red.”
It’s also important to consider alternative search terms that are likely to come up, as noted in that post, such as synonyms, regional name variations or colloquialisms and even misspellings.
The new predictive search feature in Turbo 3 is a key improvement to the search experience since it delivers top results faster using auto-complete, and in a more eye-catching way that displays the product image as well as title and price.
While predictive search and search in general are a great way to help “guide” shoppers who know what they’re looking for to the right product, it’s important to keep in mind that other shoppers have only a general notion of what they’re looking for but prefer to browse.
These folks are comparable to someone who comes into a store and may know, in general, where the clothing and shoes are.
Instead of stopping at the customer service desk, this shopper goes right to the part of the store he or she expects to find the product in, perhaps assisted by signage to guide them.
On the digital side, this approach to shopping is comparable to your Shopify theme’s menus, categories and collections. Shoppers look to the navigation menu and your site organization as a sort of “map” of the the store — and use the names of each menu link as hints or clues as to what might be under each.
Having multiple levels of navigation, which is easier to do with Shopify’s new nested navigation, is a great way to help get shoppers to the right place in your store. Just like the signs stores may hang from the ceiling or at the end of each aisle, your online store’s link labels are like signposts pointing shoppers in the correct direction.
In many cases, people who approach website navigation this way may have a general or focused idea of what they are shopping for, so having a solid navigation hierarchy in place can be a key part of making a sale.
If the grouping of products is non-intuitive or even nonsensical (for example, “shoes” listed under “jewelry”) then the shopper is likely to get annoyed and frustrated.
It’s worth noting that many people tend to favor either using the search box or navigation with menus — and may even goes as far as ignoring the approach that is not their preference, so it’s important to make sure that both your search and navigational elements are well thought out and refined.
Turbo’s advanced megamenu feature is a great tool to accommodate users who prefer to browse by category, because you can display a lot of links and use images to make the categories easier to identify.
You can take advantage of the megemenu’s large dropdown panels to let users see, without clicking or hovering again, some of the subcategories that your store offers — just like a brick and mortar store might use large, broad signs such as “Apparel” and then more specific aisle signage such as “Women’s shoes.”
Another key feature of Turbo that can also play a key role in helping this type of shopper is the multitag filter feature, which allows shoppers to narrow down categories or collections by specific features such as color, size, price or more.
In some ways, multitag filtering is a bit like having a store employee standing next to the shopper who is already in the right store section, helping them narrow down exactly what they are looking for.
There’s yet another type of user — though not necessarily “shopper” — out there too.
Just like “window shoppers” or “just browsing” people in real life, these users might not even be labeled as “shoppers” — at least yet.
In other words, these users typically don’t have a firm idea of what they are looking for and might not even be in the market for your products — or even be your target audience.
That said, browsers can sometimes have the potential to convert since, whether they came to your site via paid advertising or organic links, something at least sparked their interest enough to click through and go have a look.
For these personas, having well thought out “about us” or “how it works” pages can be a key way to showcase your products and company.
This is also a great opportunity to showcase products and services using Shopify theme sections such as slideshows, image with text and featured promotions since you can use these layouts to create eye-catching text and images that draw users in and funnel shoppers to the right location.
In addition, having strong navigation menus, including Turbo’s mega menus, is another way to help these users understand what your store offers and find products that might be relevant to them.
Even if these shoppers don’t end up buying, it can still be valuable to leave a positive impression with them, since they may, at least on some level, have a general interest in your products and may become a potential customer later or even serve as an inadvertent ambassador for your brand by telling friends or family.
Finally, keep in mind that both aisle shoppers and browsers may end up relying on your search box if, as they delve deeper into your store, they aren’t able to find quite what they are looking for just like, in a retail experience, shoppers might “give up” on finding something on their own and asking a store employee.
The analogy of comparing web navigation to a physical store shopping experience in this post is based on a concept from the pivotal web usability book “Don’t Make Me Think.”
Although the exact interpretation has been somewhat adapted to meet the unique needs of Shopify theme users, this title is still a great reference point for anyone looking to create an easy to use website or ecommerce store.