How to optimize your eCommerce store for the search-led customer journey and boost conversion rates

Ellie Ho
Jun 7, 2024
3 min read

Onsite search is long known as a significant contributor to online sales. According to Econsultancy, visitors who perform a search convert at 4.63% - 1.8 times more effectively than the website's average. In one of our case studies, visits with search account for 7% of the website traffic, but have a 6-times better conversion rate than those without search.

People visit an eCommerce store with various intentions. To make them close the deal, online merchants need to meet the distinct intent of different shoppers’ personas. Today, we'll introduce you to some common types of eCommerce customers and focus on how to optimize your website for an eCommerce customer journey with site search.

Basic types of online shoppers

Every eCommerce buyer is different. Some people come with a specific item in mind. Others are making purchasing decisions. Some come to pass the time. From product photos to descriptions to registration and checkout, every aspect of an eCommerce site is critical to its success. Distinct categories of shoppers, on the other hand, rely on different aspects of the site.

Identifying various user types may assist you in conversion rate optimization by creating usable and beneficial experiences for all sorts of customers. The E-Commerce User Experience report series done by Nielsen Norman Group uncovered numerous different categories of shoppers, each with their own set of requirements. Still, we can see that all types of eCommerce shoppers are likely to use the site search in their shopping journey.

Buying intent

A product in mind

What they want

What you should provide

Product focused



  • A replacement for something they already use/research
  • Quickly locate the product in the online store, confirm it’s the right one, and purchase
  • An upsell opportunity, but more likely to continue with the intended purchase
  • Clear & descriptive product names and product images
  • An effective site search and storefront filtering & sorting system
  • Easy access to previously purchased items for simple reorder
  • A streamlined checkout


Low - Medium


  • Stay up to date on the latest trends
  • Check out New arrivals, Best sellers, Hot deals
  • Prepare for future purchases or be at the next shopping trip in person
  • Listings of new, popular, and sale products
  • Easy access to new inventory through related links and recommended products
  • Wishlist and wishlist follow-up


Medium - High

Yes but unclear

  • Collect information about products and prices
  • Learn about new product types or alternatives
  • Surface multiple sites for the best deal
  • Details in product descriptions, images, reviews for comparison purposes
  • Clear and detailed product descriptions
  • Explanation of industry jargon if any
  • User reviews
  • Easy comparison between products
  • Easy-to-edit shopping carts that retain products between visits

Bargain hunters


Yes but highly flexible

  • The best deal possible
  • Clear listed price
  • See how much they are “saving”
  • Ready to spend extra time and money on the site in order to qualify for savings
  • Sale items alongside full-priced inventory
  • A clear section for discounted items
  • Listing product prices and associated discounts and savings
  • Easy coupon redemption or applying discounts automatically when criteria are met

One-time shoppers


Yes, usually gifts, cards

  • Clear site navigation to get to products of interest
  • Clear product descriptions to determine which item best fits their needs.
  • Company information so they can trust the site
  • Simple checkout without signup
  • Clear site navigation
  • Complete product descriptions
  • Clear and trustworthy company information
  • Checkout without registration

Typical shopping behaviors of search-driven customers

Searchers begin their online shopping session with a well-defined product or an idea of the product in mind. As a result, speed plays an important role in sealing a deal. Most shoppers aren't patient enough to look at page 2 of the search results as they expect to get the right product from the first five positions.

They may start searching on external search engines like Google and continue with the internal search if the search engine result pages don't surface what they want. To be honest, it may not be the search systems' fault. A rough estimate from available data on NNG proved that searchers are actually not good at searching. They can misspell the keywords, use wrong grammar, add special characters to the queries, and so on. This makes simple search engines stir up ineffective and irrelevant results, then irritating the online shoppers. However, it is understandable because we can’t expect the shoppers to know the logic and algorithms behind our search engines. Therefore, it's the merchants' responsibility to make the site search smarter so it can process natural language.

online shoppers switch between browsing and searching eCommerce customer journey

Ecommerce shoppers alternate between searching and browsing on occasion. They begin by exploring a website and clicking on menus, categories, and other pages. If the experience is up to their expectations, they will move on to looking for specific things. That's why it's beneficial to have “browsers” look at your website.

These are individuals who choose to spend time on your website, with your business, and with your brand. Your store serves as a source of pleasure and inspiration for them. There's a big chance you can convert these browsers into buyers. They'll be more likely to think of your site – or your business – when they're ready to buy if they have a continuous positive experience with your online store.

On the other hand, people can switch from searching to browsing too. This usually happens when customers search for a broad term, “party dress” for example. They may then be taken to a collection or category page for this kind of product and explore the most well-matched results using filters and sorting options.

With these distinct shopping behaviors, how can you design your internal search to serve your customers to the utmost? Keep scrolling down to discover.

Search optimization tips to enhance the eCommerce customer journey

Must-have backend features of a site search engine

Autocomplete/ Autosuggestion/ Predictive search

This is a feature in which the application predicts the rest of a word a user is typing and thus completes it automatically. The autocomplete results are shown on a dropdown called the Instant search widget.

Site-wide search/ Content Search/ Federated Search/ Universal Search

This allows shoppers to search many data sources, including product data (SKUs, metafields, tags, etc) and non-product data in various forms (how-to guides, pages, blog posts), at the same time.

basic search features that can increase store conversions eCommerce customer journey

Spell check and Fallback Search (“Did you mean” Suggestions)

Spell check helps to return the correct search results for misspelled keywords with a minimal number of mistyped letters.

Fallback search is the act of offering alternative query suggestions that show up at the top of a search results page. Most often found on zero-result pages.

Search stemming and Case sensitivity

Search stemming takes into account the common stem of different words to yield results for keywords with the same stem.

Case sensitivity allows the search engine to treat uppercase and lowercase as equivalent.


Redirect is to direct shoppers to a certain page on specific keywords instead of showing results.

Synonyms and Stop words

Synonyms are words that have search results tied together. It makes search results come back for products that might not have one of the words in its searchable data,

Stop words are words that are filtered out, “ignored”, or “muted” from the search data.

Natural Language Processing (Semantic Search)

Natural language processing is to determine customer search intent and context, with features like measurement detection, character recognition, product typing, and more.

Facets (Faceted Search or Facet Filters)

Faceted search lets users manually refine their searches by multiple dimensions at the same time (e.g. size, color, material, etc.).

| Read more:

Upselling components of eCommerce search

Merchandising (Product Promotion or Boosting Rules)

This feature is to select and prioritize the products you want in the search results. As mentioned above, searchers pay the most attention to the first five positions. Hence, using merchandising is a great way to showcase your best-selling items and get more sales.

Personalization (Personalized Search)

This allows for the promotion of products that a customer has already interacted with. Trending and recently viewed products are promoted to the customer when they click on the search box and activate the search function.

Self-learning Search

It makes use of machine learning capabilities that learn from the search behavior of previous site visitors. The results and experience can then be automatically improved for everyone.

advanced search functions for shopify merchants eCommerce customer journey

Voice search, Visual/ Image search, Geo search

Spoken voice by humans and real-world images can be used to create search commands instead of typing with voice search and visual search.

Geo search is to filter and sort results by location-based queries, by distance, or around specific geographical locations.

| Explore:Useful and practical tips for site search UI/UX

The bottom line

Due to their proportion and the conversion rate, online merchants should improve the whole shopping experience of site searchers. Understanding site searchers and following our suggestions will make sure you are providing the best search service on the eCommerce customer journey.

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Ellie Ho
Content Marketing Specialist
June 17, 2024
7 min read