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Evaluating Site Search for Top Retailers

Written by: Guest Author

Article // November 13, 2014

As the ecommerce industry grows, large retailers look to best last years holiday sales numbers with improved user experience and targeted online sales. Currently, marketers are finishing up their end-of-year planning for the holiday rush. Websites are starting to buzz with increased shopper traffic, and the time is ticking down for consumers to make purchases. In the next six weeks, shoppers will spend $105 billion with a large portion of that being online.

Searchspring looked at 15 websites of the top online retailers to evaluate their ecommerce optimization this holiday season. We’ll be sharing the benefits and detriments of each retailer’s website to give you tips and tricks to try yourself. We selected multiple retailers from various industries to show trends as well as differentiators used between competitors. Each site was evaluated with similar search tests to ensure fair ratings. The ratings are graded based-on:

  • Search accuracy/relevance
  • Search intelligence
  • Product filtering capabilities
  • Site search user experience
  • No results search facilitation

We’ve rated each variable 1 – 5 with 5 being the best possible rating. Then tallied up the scores to see how each website stacks up.

We evaluated: Amazon, Apple, Staples, Walmart, Dell, Macy’s, GAP, Target, REI, Best Buy, Walgreens, Lowes, Home Depot, Office Depot & Foot Locker


Amazon.com Site Search Evaluation

amazon ecommerce

Amazon.com continued to dominate online shopping in 2014 with broad product offerings, low prices and customized shopping recommendations. What they lack in website flair they make up for with an avalanche of holiday deals. The ubiquity of their online presence in ecommerce almost certainly keeps them atop the heap.

  • 4.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceAmazon has optimized their results heavily. Whether you search for ‘green socks‘ or ‘2004 Toyota Tundra Key Fob‘, you’ll return lists of relevant results.
  • 4.0 – Search intelligenceThe retail giant’s ability to remember their customers is a primary driver for return sales. Amazon leverages user purchase history, popular searches, popular products, customer engagement, and other metrics to continually serve relevant products. Shopper’s usernames are also leveraged to track all activity back to a central record for further merchandising and marketing opportunities.
  • 5.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesRegardless of search terms, Amazon serves up wonderfully in-depth category navigation to help shoppers dive deeper into products without wasted time. Multi-select facets are available for best possible result relevancy.
  • 4.0 – Site search user experienceIt’s hard to fault Amazon’s site search. It’s quick; it’s relevant, it’s flexible enough to search broadly or narrowly. The refinable category navigation is tremendous; it uses keyword rich image-based and text-based links to help shoppers intuitively find items. With the addition of merchandising and recommended items, Amazon makes the experience easy.
  • 3.5 – No results search facilitationThe weakest link in Amazon’s armor is the ‘no results’ page. Some searches pulled ‘no results’ with recommended items based-on keyword usage. Some, like this random search, returned interesting results to say the least.

Site Search Summary

Scoring 21 out of 25 is pretty darn good. We can sit here and get picky about Amazon, but the fact remains that they know how to sell online and should be considered a role model for any ecommerce business looking to improve site performance and sales.

Top Site Search Tip

Look at the location of the search tool within the Amazon.com design. Notice the prevalence and location of the search bar within the header. Amazon knows users who search convert better that those who don’t. So, they want the largest amount of searches possible. Smart.


Apple.com Site Search Evaluation

ecommerce search engines apple

Apple’s had an interesting few years with the loss of their Founder, a harsh battle with Samsung, and a few technical hiccups with new phones. However, they still remain one of the most sought after tech producers in the world. Their website, leaves a bit to be sought after as well. For such a heavy-hitting digital giant, we were truly shocked.

  • 2.0 – Search accuracy/relevanceWELP, crap. Just look at this search. Seriously? Apple… You provide some of the most sophisticated consumer hardware on the planet and a website search for ‘ram’ doesn’t even return products we can buy on the first page. No images, no refinable filters, no ratings, no products, nothing. Try these searches too, ‘memory‘, ‘hard drive‘. It wasn’t until we searched for ‘iphone‘ that we got a hit. The trick is going into the store to find products – https://store.apple.com/us/search, but the UI doesn’t change, so the search seems broken overall.
  • 2.5 – Search intelligenceThe disconnect in search is truly killing this experience. The main site search returns content; the store.apple.com search returns products, independently. These engines should be the same technology, returning the same results with relevancy dialed-in with product and content performance. While the logic makes sense, the usability suffers for the end user.
  • 1.5 – Product filtering capabilitiesHere’s another ouchie – https://store.apple.com/us/ipad/compare. Apple has no category navigation to help shoppers narrow down product results within the purchase process. This page is used to help users identify the right product for them before they start the buying workflow. All of that product data can be used to pair down results in real-time.
  • 2.0 – Site search user experienceThis rating is poor due to the overall lack of self-serving customer support. As a shopper, we had to know about the different searches via domains (shop. vs. www.) and we were forced to navigate irrelevant search results for an alternate route to the product. Plus, their lack of refinable facets to filter results with and their ‘no results’ page don’t do them any justice.
  • 1.0 – No results search facilitationSo, we expected no product results for an ‘android’ search, but we thought Apple to be more clever than that. We didn’t even see a ‘recommended’ product page for Apple replacements. This site wowed us with the lack of thought put into their ecommerce functionality and experience.

Site Search Summary

This website just goes to show, you don’t need to be perfect at ecommerce to succeed (9 out of 25), but it also highlights the areas that could be improved to provide extra revenue. With a few changes, Apple could change the entire flow of their site to help shoppers more effectively. The location of the search tool in the navigation just shows how much Apple has focused on this process. Just having a search bar isn’t good enough anymore.

Top Site Search Tip

For Apple, we recommend unifying the search experience across-the-board. Apple is a clear-cut case for using one centralized technology to capture and respond to consumer interaction within ecommerce. The usability and fragmentation of the experience hurt their impression with me.


Staples.com Site Search Evaluation

staples site search engine

Staples.com has done some work this year. We were happy with the performance of the site, and their decision to move the search bar to the top right in place of the traditional logo placement was a smart move. Bet they see returns from that bold move.

    • 4.0 – Search accuracy/relevanceEach keyword we typed returned good results with the additional ability to refine with category navigation. The search tool understood synonyms and related searches helping me to find the items we needed without the exact keyword. They even ask for search feedback, which is awesome.
    • 4.0 – Search intelligenceStaples does a good job of a few things here. They provide auto-complete in a search; results can be filtered or reordered, results can also be viewed in various layouts with product comparisons, and they have synonyms for users with different keywords. Staples took extra effort to capture our location so they can tell if a product is available for pickup or needs to be ordered for delivery as well. User names are available to help them track purchases and engagement per customer for individual optimization.
    • 4.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesProduct filtering with category navigation is well displayed on Staples.com. Items are easily and quickly paired down with facets. The product view is very flexible as well with various sorting options. Staples has made a great effort to help self-serving shoppers successfully navigate and purchase through their website.
    • 4.0 – Site search user experienceI was able to identify products quickly and easily with their search and navigation. For searches that came up a little short, their navigation easily made up with heightened accuracy. I enjoyed knowing that I could pick up a product from a local store too; that is a great motivator for shoppers to showroom the brick and mortar locations.
    • 2.0 – No results search facilitationFor all the work they did, the ‘no results’ page lacked punch. To give them credit, it took a slew of random words to produce the page, but when I did there were no recommendations of any products.

Site Search Summary

Staples has done a good job optimizing their website experience for shoppers (18 out of 25). Their search and navigation are easy to use, provide good results and offer lots of flexibility. The placement of the search bar should drive increased engagement this holiday season.

Top Site Search Tip

Like other retailers so far, Staples hasn’t spent much time optimizing the failed searches. Shoppers aren’t being recommended any products after a failed search happens. This could be an area for increased revenue and conversion improvements.


Walmart.com Site Search Evaluation

ecommerce search engines walmart

Walmart continues to push their ecommerce performance with enhanced functionality and user experience. The mega-retailer has slowed the development of brick and mortar locations for increased exposure online. The website improvements for this holiday season are clearly geared for higher sales volume.

  • 4.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceEach of our searches returned relevant results with additional facets and sorts for product findability. Our terms generated auto-complete terms that helped with spelling and search accuracy. User accounts are also offered to help manage account history and improved recommendations.
  • 4.5 – Search intelligenceWalmart’s search intelligence worked well also. Using facets like size, color, gender, ratings their product results provide deep visibility into their massive product set. Seemed as if product performance is also used to derive most relevant results as well.
  • 5.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesFiltering products after search was incredibly easy on Walmart’s website. The navigation had additional categories, facets, image-based filters, colors, brand, price, ratings, materials, etc. It’s almost too deep!
  • 4.5 – Site search user experienceOther than some products not having multiple images their website experience was almost perfect. We were able to navigate and search products very easily. The site search bar is very accessible and responsive within the site design as well. Walmart is poised to do very well this holiday season.
  • 3.0 – No results search facilitationAmazingly, they also forgot about the lost searchers. Their no results page offers nothing more than a ‘try again’ message with a store finder. Shoppers looking for specific products will hit this page with no incentive to continue.

Site Search Summary

The Walmart ecommerce team is doing a great job of enhancing their website to improve the shopping experience (21.5 out of 25). It was difficult for us to complain about the features and site search performance as they’ve covered their bases very well this holiday season. We’re excited to see how the new search bar performs in the header of the website.

Top Site Search Tip

Making sure every online shopper is taken care of is extremely difficult. Walmart has made strong advances in site design and user interface this holiday season. Tracking their performance for continual improvements and recommending products in failed searches will be a top priority for them going forward.


Dell.com Site Search Evaluation

ecommerce search engine dell computers

At first, the Dell website looks like something you might find searching for ‘local IT consultants’. Then, you search for something and BANGO. They take ecommerce search to the next level. Searching for ‘laptop’ may only give you a simple product list, but that’s only a part of it. Try a new search looking for ‘desktop, 1TB, Intel Core i7‘ and then click in the search bar. Notice the multi-select, multi-facet drop-down menu within the auto-complete? Not only have they returned relevant products, but also offer refinements within the search bar. Nice work.

  • 4.0 – Search accuracy/relevanceUsing search, Dell.com provided relevant results and enhanced filtering within the search field. The results are streamlined, and each keyword returned easily sortable lists of items.
  • 4.0 – Search intelligenceWith the addition of their new search tool, Dell’s search intelligence seems pretty good. It takes a minute to realize the faceted navigation is contained within the search tool, but once that’s figured out. It’s awesome to filter all results with one feature; it helps clean up the user interface – big time.
  • 3.5 – Product filtering capabilitiesWe’d like to rate this higher for the thought and development that went into the drop-down site search filters, but it did take a few tries to get used to it and it’s a step away from the traditional faceted navigation so we got caught looking for the side bar a few times. A few pop-out tutorials or hints would go a long way in teaching users how it works.
  • 4.0 – Site search user experienceOverall, this search experience is impressive once you learn to use it. The search bar does all the work without the navigation included in the user interface. The results are well layered and clearly labeled. All the information needed is within the product display.
  • 1.0 – No results search facilitationYikes, this is worse than Apple‘s. Apparently, there’s no use in corporate ecommerce to help shoppers with invalid searches. C’mon Dell, let’s up the game some.

Site Search Summary

Initially, the website is outdated, bland, and looks like a local shop (16.5 out of 25). The search functionality improves that experience, but doesn’t fully train you on what to expect, so there’s a learning curve to the way the search works. After a few minutes of figuring it out, it’s actually a really cool concept to search and navigation. We’re very interested to see how Dell performs this holiday season with this new approach.

Top Site Search Tip

Searchspring applauds the bravery Dell has taken to approach site search in a whole new way. Seems like the experience was developed to maintain mobile and desktop shoppers with the same seamless shopping experience as well as feature consolidation for usability. The only thing missing from the new approach is how to interact with it for best results. Shoppers need the training.


Macys.com Site Search Evaluation

search engine macys

Macy’s website is ready for this holiday season. They’ve got lots of features in place to help shoppers make purchases this year. Their search is front and center in the design. The category navigation is deep from the main menu, and the merchandising is already in place for the holidays.

  • 4.0 – Search accuracy/relevanceThe search accuracy for Macy’s works well. We tried broad and long-tail keywords to find products, and both worked well. Their ecommerce team even took the time to match product imagery to faceted colors and styles during search, helping get that extra little bit of relevancy from the results.
  • 4.0 – Search intelligenceUsing synonyms and regional keywords we were able to locate the products we wanted, we also noticed that Macy’s is tracking usernames for individual and aggregate analysis of buying trends, smart. The search doesn’t provide additional rich auto-complete to drive immediate purchases, but we continually returned good results.
  • 4.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesProduct filtering with Macy’s navigation and product options is easy. Products can be filtered by style, size, color, price, in-store and the results can be sorted six different ways for better product findability.
  • 3.0 – Site search user experienceOur experience with the search was pleasant overall, but esthetically we thought it lacked attractive polish. The website looks and feels much like the Macy’s department store, expansive, bland and dated. An upgrade to the design details and customer-facing UI would go a long way in attracting a larger market share.
  • 4.5 – No results search facilitationFinally, a ‘no results page‘ that tries to help people. We looked for a fishing pole knowing they wouldn’t have it or recommend a replacement, but what they did offer was awesome. Macy’s gives shoppers tips for better searches, displays today’s top selling items, highlights your recently viewed items, and even provides unaffiliated ads for the product you searched for to give you additional resources. Talk about customer service.

Site Search Summary

Macy’s has a methodical approach to their ecommerce (19.5 out of 25). It’s clear that they’re dialing-in their products before they attempt redesigns and navigational changes. They’ve paid close attention to conversion details like using the proper product image with color searches and pushing lost searches back into the mix with a good no results page. They could use some help with design, but they’re going in the right direction with usability.

Top Site Search Tip

There’s not much technically wrong with Macy’s search. They’ve done a good job of making product results effective. Our only suggestions would be to add additional functionality to push shoppers into high conversion pages and product sets.


GAP.com Site Search Evaluation

search engine for gap

Landing on GAP’s website, we were expecting something different. Similar to Apple, it’s almost like they forgot about the internet. The top navigation is smashed together. The main navigation is pushed down to the left, and the esthetics of the layout and interface reminded us of an old customized Myspace profile. Everything is disjointed, and nothing is intelligent, what a tragedy.

  • 2.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceGap, you should call us. Really. We’d like to help you with this. The search relevance is about as useful as having a kindergartener bring items to your dressing room as you yell colors out loud. We did better looking at Google results. At least we can filter those.
  • 2.0 – Search intelligenceWell, this is an overscored rating. ‘Search intelligence’ at this juncture isn’t a skillset we can see being used. However, they do have shopper accounts to track individual and aggregate purchasing trends, so here’s an extra point for luck.
  • 0.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesOur lowest scored filtering system. It doesn’t exist. Again, we got better results in Google. Yikes.
  • 1.0 – Site search user experienceWe want to like you Gap – we really do. Your clothes are well-made. Your shipping is quick. Your brick and mortar stores are well done, prices are fair. So, how come your website represents none of that? The site search is hidden! The product results returned are rudimentary. Category filters are non-existent, and images are poor for a high-level retailer. Time to step up.
  • 1.0 – No results search facilitationUgh, just another issue here folks. The results coming back from a failed search is reminiscent of being prompted by Clippy to defrag your hard drive. We barfed … twice. Then we searched Clippy gifs for about 20 min.

Site Search Summary

Fashion and technology have always owned their separate spaces. The creative and the technical are opposites, designing clothing and developing websites are different skill sets. This experience lacked on all fronts (6.5 out of 25). We’d like to speak with GAP or at least see them try at this ecommerce thing. The internet isn’t a fad anymore!

Top Site Search Tip

Upgrade. Upgrade. Upgrade. Build a responsive site, get rid of managing mobile and desktop code sets. Redesign your layout to improve product findability. Add a smart search tool to the design for improved conversions. Integrate category navigation for helpful refinements. There’s lots to-do here, let’s get started.


Target.com Site Search Evaluation

ecommerce site search target

Much like Walmart, Target has got lots of features and functionality in place to hold steady for the holidays. Search, navigation, geolocation, professional images, and top-notch merchandising all do an excellent job of keeping eyes on products.

  • 3.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceThe majority of our searches did well. Results were clear, refinable and quick to display. Some searches failed pretty hard and could be cleaned up. We saw immediate improvements for relevancy.
  • 3.5 – Search intelligenceAuto-complete and departmental refinements help to narrow searches, and their username/logins will help them track individual and aggregate purchases. The accuracy hurt this score, but Target has the tools to make this much better.
  • 4.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesTheir category navigation and filtering is quite vast. Items can be sorted, filtered, rated, compared and checked for local or online availability. They’ve seemingly put their eggs in the navigation basket this season. Let’s hope it pays off.
  • 4.0 – Site search user experienceThere are a few things to make this process more enjoyable, but they’ve done a good job of displaying lots of results with options. Images are clean and filtering down after search is easy to do. We got caught in a few search traps, but overall it was easy to find and purchase items.
  • 3.5 – No results search facilitationTarget doesn’t attend to lost searches either. Like many other retailers online, there’s no focus on purchaser retention with the search bar. While they do have ‘also viewed’ product recommendations, they’re completely irrelevant to the search terms.

Site Search Summary

Target’s poised to take advantage of the extra shoppers this holiday season (18.5 out of 25). Overall they’re put together well and have the design/functionality working well as a team. The updates to the no results page and product relevancy can still be fixed before the masses hit the doorstep.

Top Site Search Tip

If we were to improve Target.com for additional purchases. We’d up the game with the no results page and additional merchandising within product results. Other than that, a fine toothed comb would be enough to polish the other facets of our ratings. They have the potential to rock the website like Walmart this year.


REI.com Site Search Evaluation

rei site search engine

In Colorado, we love REI. Love it. Their site is polished and clean. Functionality is great during search and filtering after. There were a few hiccups, but they look good for the holidays.

  • 4.0 – Search accuracy/relevanceAfter a few searches, REI stood tall and provided clear results for each search. Long and short searches were completed well with lots of products. The only hitch we saw was making sure the correlated product images were inline with color searches. We found lots of different colors when we looked for a ‘red jacket‘.
  • 3.5 – Search intelligenceSearch intelligence on REI.com was hit-and-miss. While the results were decent, we didn’t think they were optimized with any additional performance indicators. In our ‘red search’ above, you’ll notice high-rated products littered within non-rated products. The order of the products could be improved.
  • 4.5 – Product filtering capabilitiesREI’s category navigation is deep. They use ratings, price, insulation type, length, gender, fabric type, best usage, color, size, brand, features, deals, etc. If you can’t filter with their navigation, you may be in the wrong place for your item.
  • 3.5 – Site search user experienceWe liked their website design and overall search experience. We were able to find and purchase products very quickly. They lacked in detail with product images, rich auto-complete, and potential backend intelligence. Although, they also allow for user accounts to help track both individual and aggregate spending trends.
  • 3.0 – No results search facilitation.REI forgot to wow us with anything on their ‘no results’ page, but they covered the essentials. Contact information, product categories, a store finder and chat support. This model should be the default minimum to have on a failed search page. If the item isn’t available for the shopper at least be as helpful as possible.

Site Search Summary

The polish and usability of REI.com are significant. It’s clean, easily navigable, provides lots of options and information. Our experience was solid for this holiday season (18.5 out of 25).

Top Site Search Tip

We’d like to see REI take more advantage of their merchandising. They sell world-class products and they don’t highlight products visually with badging, banners in results, or customized product display. Using badges and call outs they could drive more sales intent.


Bestbuy.com Site Search Evaluation

search engine for best buy

Checking in on Bestbuy.com was a good idea. So many things going on, it’s fantastic. They utilize search, category navigation, product reviews, merchandising, the whole enchilada. We didn’t find too much to gripe about.

  • 4.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceEach search we performed delivered good results. From short search terms to comma separated facets, we found what we needed. We wanted to give a five, but the lack of in search functionality lowered it. Giving shoppers the ability to buy the product immediately from the search bar drives intent-filled shoppers to convert.
  • 5.0 – Search intelligenceFrom long-tail searches, merchandising, product reviews, and product weighting BestBuy.com does it all. We were happy to see such helpful results for searches, plus they are another retailer using usernames to track individual purchases alongside aggregate purchases, giving them enhanced analytics capabilities.
  • 4.5 – Product filtering capabilitiesTechnically their category navigation is very thorough. They use tons of facets to search products. Some categories are a bit vast, but there’s no reason not to find what you’re looking for here.
  • 4.0 – Site search user experienceOverall, they perform in the top of the ecommerce world. The site is clean and simple. The navigation is clear, searches are relevant and the results are mind-blowing-ly filterable. Not to mention the interactions with a product in results like pop-out reviews.
  • 2.0 – No results search facilitationThey were doing so well. Then the no results page came up. It’s bad, like mobile on desktop bad. They attempt at getting you back into a product category, but without conviction. Another example of a retailer not looking to retain missed searches.

Site Search Summary

As a whole, this site is top-notch (20 out of 25). The esthetics, functionality, ease-of-use and relevant product results dial-in the usefulness. Filtering products and comparing them is easy, and merchandising is prevalent the whole time making sure we’re aware of deals. We just wish that the ‘no results’ page was better than what we found.

Top Site Search Tip

Best Buy is a great example, like Amazon, of what to do right with ecommerce. The application of technology is high on their site. The only thing missing is the touch on little details. Again, rich auto-complete, no results optimization, product finders, etc.


Walgreens.com Site Search Evaluation

search engine for ecommerce walgreens

Walgreen’s website is okay. It’s far less sexy than it is functional, but the functionality is pretty good. They’ve covered a lot of bases to get this site where it is today.

  • 3.0 – Search accuracy/relevanceThe search accuracy on walgreens.com is okay. We were able to pull completely different results for things, like ‘bbq potato chips’ vs. ‘barbeque potato chips’. These types of results came in across-the-board for various keywords and synonyms.
  • 3.5 – Search intelligenceWith synonym issues and limited results we gave them a 3.5, they do use merchandising and seem to optimize results based on product performance and sales. Wouldn’t take much to make them shine. They also use the credential model to track sales and purchases on individual and aggregate levels for advanced analytics.
  • 3.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesWalgreens offers a decently in-depth category navigation to filter products, but it isn’t very pretty or pleasant to use. Plus, the facets are limited considering their product list. All the keys are there to make filtering great for them, they just need to build it out.
  • 3.0 – Site search user experienceThe experience with Walgreens is okay. They provide enough functionality to keep you looking, and the breadth of product information they have is impressive. Where they lack is in esthetics and polish. The design could be better in regard to merchandising. The category navigation and search could be more helpful, should be much more prevalent on a website with so many products.
  • 1.5 – No results search facilitationEeeek. Don’t look, if you’ve seen Best Buys you’re okay to proceed. They’re similar and equally uninspiring. What better way to retain shoppers than to offer them a useless page with a site map on it. Wonderful, we’ll read through all the links to find what we want because we have nothing else to do.

Site Search Summary

Walgreens is a large retailer looking to push more products online and is following best practices without thought to what they do in the context of a shopper’s experience (14 out of 25). They have a site search, category navigation, merchandising, ratings, reviews, sorts, product images, etc. They don’t do any of it tremendously well. Search for a product and look for a “New” badge on an item, you’ll get the point.

Top Site Search Tip

Our suggestions for Walgreens are simple. Take what you’ve done and make it expert-level execution and creative. Make the features you’re already using and tailor them to your shoppers. Checking the ‘we got it’ ecommerce list is fine to setup your framework, it’s time to get more creative and analytical with your energy.


Lowes.com Site Search Evaluation

ecommerce search engine lowes

This year, Lowe’s has a highlighted search bar in their top navigation, and we’re all over that. The design and creative reminded us of Walmart’s website, and that’s a good thing. They’ve dialed-up their search functionality and put it where it should be, up front.

  • 4.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceLowe’s does a good job of highlighting lower prices, product reviews, locally in-stock items, merchandising and relevancy. They did well at simplifying a massive product feed into easy to use results. They also use rich auto-complete, way to go!
  • 4.0 – Search intelligenceTheir search intelligence is good. They provide local and online results, user credentials for advanced analytics, and we tried various different keywords for synonyms and got what we needed.
  • 3.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesFiltering products on Lowes.com wasn’t hard, but it’s not very impressive. Their category navigation helps narrow the search, leaving out the wow factor. Helpful. However, they need more image-based facets to drive additional engagement.
  • 4.5 – Site search user experienceWe enjoyed shopping at Lowe’s. They’ve done a good job making sure the basics of the site search and user experience are covered, offering many different ways to find products locally and nationally. They merchandise, add reviews, badge products they want to sell and provide helpful options while we shopped.
  • 4.0 – No results search facilitationThe website didn’t return a ‘no results’ page, it provided the best possible results to gain a purchase. Perfect. Even if it’s wrong, they’ve put products in front of shoppers to buy without having the item. This page will help them tremendously.

Site Search Summary

Lowe’s is coming in strong this holiday season (20 out of 25). We expect them to report good numbers online with these improvements to their website. They’re the first review we’ve done that’s using rich auto-complete and a good no results page. Well done, Lowes.

Top Site Search Tip

If we worked for Lowe’s, we’d be looking at the data. These guys are doing a wonderful job of placing the tools in the best spots and dialing-in the proper results. From here on out its analysis and polish.


Homedepot.com Site Search Evaluation

home depot search engine

It’s no surprise now to see Lowes.com dialing-in their website for better ecommerce performance when you begin to search on Home Depot’s site. Their rich auto-complete is OUTSTANDING. They offer auto-complete suggestions, top search results with images, categories, buying guides and different ways to install the product. We loved the depth of the experience.

  • 3.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceUsing synonyms and stemming we were able to confuse the search a bit garnering different results. An example is ‘pressure treated wood‘ vs. ‘pressure treated lumber‘, the results differed by over 10%.
  • 4.5 – Search intelligenceHome Depot’s search intelligence is refreshing. We had to ding them for being able to confuse their search, but man is that rich auto-complete cool. They’re the only retailers so far to take full-advantage of search, and credential tracking. Well played.
  • 4.5 – Product filtering capabilitiesAlso, well done. Filters are set up by brand, price, dept, ratings, features, in-store or online, accessories, etc. Much like REI’s category navigation, if you can’t find it on Homedepot.com you may be in the wrong place.
  • 4.5 – Site search user experienceThe user experience using homedepot.com’s search was pretty freaking sweet. We’d like to give them a 5, but the relevancy was off while we were searching. However, the way they’ve approached the utility of the site search is impressive. They’re the first we’ve seen to put the full view of the domain within search in a rich, image-filled way.
  • 4.0 – No results search facilitation.Nice. They’ve approached the no results page much like REI with being as helpful as possible, going a step further with keyword analysis. We searched for ‘1964 Chevy Nova‘ and returned every Chevy product Home Depot offers in the no results info.

Site Search Summary

Great job, Home Depot (21 out of 25). We were thrilled so see the way they used site search and at least tipped their cap to the failed searches. Between the wins, they could optimize product results a bit better and be an ecommerce powerhouse this season.

Top Site Search Tip

Our recommendations for Home Depot would be in regard to data. With so much searching flexibility, it’s important they scrutinize data for improvements and process failure.


Officedepot.com Site Search Evaluation

ecommerce search engine performance office depot

OfficeDepot.com has now combined with OfficeMax.com offering more products than ever before. Their website is decent this year in regard to functionality, but the design lacks significantly. It functioned well, just didn’t keep much interest.

  • 4.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceWe searched for various terms and synonyms pulling great results. Adding additional facets refined the results properly with the appropriate images too.
  • 4.0 – Search intelligenceThe search intelligence seemed in place. Users can throw various keywords into the tool with good results. Credentials are used for advanced analytics, merchandising was visible, and local store pickup was integrated into the purchase process.
  • 4.0 – Product filtering capabilitiesWith so many products on-hand filtering capabilities are paramount to finding products in Office Depot’s site. The offer filters around brand, price, availability, featured, ratings, weight, color, material, etc. with recommended items.
  • 4.0 – Site search user experienceEven with a shabby design, the functionality of the site made up for it. Products were easy to find and sort through. The navigation provided excellent filtering for searches, merchandising was upfront, and product comparisons were easy to do.
  • 1.0 – No results search facilitationAnother one bites the dust. We were hopeful after looking at REI and Home Depot, this was a bad idea. The no results page is alive, although quite anemic without any supporting content or promotions.

Site Search Summary

Not bad, but suffers from a lack of design and the no results page (17.5 out of 25). We liked the efforts around search in regard to relevancy, filtering and analytics. If they applied the same energy to the design, we’re sure they could raise conversions.

Top Site Search Tip

It’s giving us a headache, but NO RESULTS PAGES CONVERT if used right. Office Depot could use more customer service there as well as providing an updated design. Between the two, they could see a large lift in conversions.


Footlocker.com Site Search Evaluation

search engines for shoes footlocker

Footlocker has a nicely done website this year. Search provided significant results, the design and navigation work well together, and they’ve even got credentials and store locators for increased brick and mortar foot traffic.

  • 4.5 – Search accuracy/relevanceSearching for ‘red sandales‘ we liked their attention to detail. They not only corrected our misspelling automatically, they put relevant products, images and reviews top tier in our search results. Plus, we could refine the results big time with an enhanced navigation.
  • 4.0 – Search intelligenceFoot Locker’s site search works well, including a very in-depth rich auto-complete with ratings, prices and shipping info. Their application of usernames gives them advanced analytics into shopping trends, and the search will take numerous facets and long tail keywords with relevant results.
  • 3.5 – Product filtering capabilitiesFiltering product on FootLocker.com is easy, but the results aren’t always narrowed in the fashion we were looking for. Maybe it’s user error, but navigation needs to be fool-proof for maximum conversions. Product sort also seemed off, searching for ‘most relevant’ didn’t bring us the shoes we were looking for without additional filters.
  • 4.5 – Site search user experienceUsing Foot Locker’s site search was enjoyable. The rich auto-complete was great for finding exact items. Category navigation is a second priority to the effort they’ve put into the search functionality.
  • 2.0 – No results search facilitationThe trend for 2014 is to ignore lost searches. Foot Locker, like almost all others on this list, forgot to integrate customer service into the technical process, losing out on retaining visitors for increased sales. Bummer.

Site Search Summary

Foot Locker’s approach to the site search is good (18.5 out of 25). They’ve embraced search and added some great features to it, primarily the rich auto-complete. Category navigation and merchandising seemed light for such a retail focused retailer, but the essential features were covered well. We’d update the design within the store a bit too. It’s very busy looking.

Top Site Search Tip

Like most other top retailers, Foot Locker isn’t perfect but is starting to develop the features that convert shoppers. Improving category navigation, updating the no results page and working on product relevancy would raise the experience to a new level.


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