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Ecommerce SKU search: do you need it on your store?

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

In the world of retail, every business has SKUs. Usually considered an internal reference code, there are, in fact, a number of benefits to supporting ecommerce SKU search on your customer-facing website.

To understand the importance of ecommerce SKU search, you need to start at the very beginning…

The difference between UPCs and SKUs

It’s easy to confuse UPCs and SKUs, but they both serve a unique purpose for your business. Here’s a quick and easy way to tell the difference.

Universal Product Code (or UPC as it’s commonly known), is exactly 12 numbers long and includes a barcode for scanning. UPCs are universal, meaning that if an item is being sold at different retailers, the UPC will always be consistent.

Stock-Keeping Units (or SKUs) are created by the seller to keep track internally of products for sale and are alphanumeric codes only decipherable within your business.

A SKU consists of a series of numbers and/or letters that correspond to each product in your catalog. SKUs are instrumental in keeping track of all your products and inventory accurately, and can help you understand your business in so many other ways.

With these unique alphanumeric elements, you can create a specific code that informs you of each item’s size, color, price, brand, type, and other attributes. These SKUs are created by you, the seller, so there are no set rules to follow, the format just needs to be standardized for all products in your store.

For instance, if you’re selling men’s shoes, the information included in the SKU could be:

  • Brand
  • Size
  • Color

Why is ecommerce SKU search important?

Both retailers and wholesalers should consider having a “search by SKU” option on their website. It’s particularly helpful for customers who might be re-ordering the same product(s) over and over, or customers who want to search for something they saw in a catalog that lists the SKU.

Having ecommerce SKU search capabilities allows these customers to specifically go to the item (in the exact size, color, brand, style, etc.) that they’re searching for and place their order without having to scroll through all the items on your site, or even a particular category.

It saves them the virtual legwork of having to search through all the product variables they don’t want.

The secret to high-converting product displays

ecommerce merchandising high converting product displays

How can you use ecommerce SKU search to improve the shopping experience?

Thanks to all the information stored within your SKU framework, you can use this information for much more than just restocking and analyzing your sales data.

When customers go to an ecommerce store looking for a specific item, they have a high intent to convert (i.e. they’re likely to make a purchase). For these customers, you want to make sure they find what they’re looking for as quickly and easily as possible. That’s why search functionality on your website is instrumental in generating sales.

If a customer goes to your site to search by SKU and the item is unavailable, your search engine should suggest other similar products instead of yielding a zero results page (no one ever likes those).

Can your on-site search autocomplete for SKUs?

Autocomplete searches have become the norm thanks to Google. Customers expect searches to not only predict their queries before they finish typing, but also show them popular searches and easy filtering options.

Depending on what you sell and who you sell to, there’s a good chance you’ll always have customers that shop by SKU or other product codes. Brand-loyal customers will always know what to look for when restocking on their favorite items.

This is where autocomplete comes into play. Having a visual option that shows the results the customer is searching for, as well as similar items or alternative products if certain items are unavailable, can help keep the customer happy (as mentioned above). Not only this, it can also make customers aware of other products they may be interested in, but didn’t know you carried.

Ecommerce SKU search
Sustainable Supply offers ecommerce SKU search

Including ecommerce SKU search on your site

Whichever site search solution you implement on your store, be sure you can customize and control which data fields are searchable. If your customer base is likely to search by SKU, then your site should accommodate that. At the end of the day, what matters most is ensuring your site visitors are able to find (and purchase) the items they’re looking for as effortlessly as possible.

Want to learn more? Check out our ultimate site search guide for more best practices!