Saturday, June 22, 2024

On-site search and the online grocery platform

Grocery store delivery is nothing new; however, the onset of on-demand grocery delivery started only about a decade ago. And because of the onset of Covid-19, more people have turned to online grocery store delivery and pickup.

By Chief Revenue Officer Joe Ayyoub. Chief Revenue Officer Joe Ayyoub.

For customers, online grocery shopping has plenty of unique advantages. Shoppers can save time and money. It cuts out the need for extra trips to a crowded public place. And yet, while it has those advantages, the process can still be improved, particularly in the area of search.

Studies have shown that 42% of online customers begin shopping online by going straight to the search bar, and the same can be said of online grocery shoppers. And yet, this is where a lot of online grocery platforms fail. Search is often overlooked even though it’s one of the most important aspects of sales conversion.

The reasoning online delivery services have deprioritised search could be as simple as the fact that building a robust on-site search engine can be incredibly complex. However, complexity shouldn’t stand in the way of customer experience. Here are some search features online grocery platforms can add to improve their search experience.

Clean up your online shelves

Having a clean and organised inventory is just as important, if not more, online as it is in person. Without an accurate and well-maintained inventory, online shoppers will have an incredibly difficult time finding what they’re looking for. What’s more, shoppers inside the store will have a hard time fulfilling their orders and will then need to spend time contacting the buyer and searching for replacements.

The easiest way to keep an online inventory clean is to make sure search indexes are up to date with clear titles, product descriptions, tags and even synonyms.  Site managers should frequently test its search function to make sure customers can access the results they’re after. For example, if someone were to search for ‘frozen spinach’, the query would, in fact, yield frozen and not fresh spinach.

The importance of personalisation

Shoppers are creatures of habit and don’t typically stray too far from their standard selections or previous purchases. Online grocery platforms should take personalisation into account and learn from search and purchase history in order to offer customised recommendations to shoppers. Using this data, online grocers can personalise their online merchandising to display better results. That way customers don’t have to look too far to find the products they’re most likely to buy.

Store localisation and inventory

Since online grocery stores pull their products from real, local, brick-and-mortar stores, it’s imperative that they’re pulling inventory from the correct locations. What’s in stock at one regional grocery might not be available at the same grocery store across town. Additionally, shoppers often times base their store selection on which shops are currently carrying their desired products. Online grocery store site managers should ensure that their site search is able to pull geographic inventory data so the shopper can select the store that suits their needs.

Don’t ignore filters and facets

Leverage search facets and filters in order to improve on-site search functionality. Both of these features, while similar, offer ways to make the site search experience much more productive.

Using filters is one of the first steps in narrowing down a query. Filters refer to larger categories, similar to aisles at a physical grocery store. They refer to details like dairy, deli, bakery, meat or frozen items. 

Facets are much more dynamic and granular than filters and are generated based on the values of the search. These facets can be dynamically changed per each query. Facets narrow down a selection of specific dimensions. A facet for frozen dessert refers to types (ice cream, sorbet, popsicles, etc.), ingredients (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, etc.).

Consider the following scenario. A customer is about to check out online and they’re in the processing of selecting potential replacements, but none of them seem to match up. Instead of being suggested another brand of frozen fruit, they’re being offered fresh. Instead of coffee, they’re being shown coffee-flavored ice cream.

This speaks to an issue of search relevance. Relevance is how closely product results match with a customer’s query and intent behind the query. Search result relevance can be determined based on complex rules or keyword-based algorithms. However, this process can be inefficient or laborious. Software and technological advances have made it easy for online grocery platform managers to remove the guesswork out of improving search relevance.

Investing in powering on-site search should be a no-brainer for online grocers. Thanks to advances in search engine technology, platform managers will find it easier than ever to amplify their search efforts.

About Joe Ayyoub

Joe brings over a decade of e-commerce and search experience to Prior to, Joe served as chief customer officer at ZineOne. Before that, 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 Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology and an MBA in Finance and eBusiness from Golden Gate University.

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