In the path-to-purchase, shoppers typically take three paths to product pages—searching, browsing, or drawing from saved favorites—which vary by retailer and category. In this post, I focus on one key measure of findability—search rankings, especially page one rankings—at three of the UK’s largest online grocers.
IGD’s Online Channel Focus data shows the number of UK shoppers using the search function to find products for their online baskets (62%) is now greater than those using their favourites or previous orders (60%).
That means getting your products onto page one of search results is absolutely essential; at Amazon, for instance, only 30% of shoppers clicked past page one of search results (Millward Brown Digital).
… But page one search result pages vary. Retailers have slightly different ways they want their shoppers to navigate their search results online. And, frankly, search algorithms vary widely in sophistication.
Leveraging these similarities and differences can help you optimize product content, pricing, and promotions to improve your search ranking:
Add-to-cart directly from search pages means product titles and image thumbnails are vital
Multi-product search contributes to making search pages a destination, not an intermediary
At Ocado, category placement is key
Tesco and Asda do not offer attribute filtering—yet
#1: Add-To-Cart Directly From Search Pages Means Product Content Thumbnails Are Vital
Asda, Tesco, and Ocado each allows shoppers to add products to their shopping carts directly from search result pages.
That means shoppers can do their entire shopping trip without visiting a product page, which makes search placement even more important and gives brands less time and less space to influence shoppers.
In this environment, the most important factors driving conversion are search rankings, which determine which products a shopper sees first, and the product content snippets on search pages—primary product images, product titles, and prices.
#2: Multi-Product Search Contributes to Making Search Pages a Destination, Not an Intermediary
Asda and Tesco allow shoppers to search for multiple products at once. Shoppers type in multiple products on individual lines, and can easily click through different search pages in the same browser tab.
Combined with search page add-to-cart functionality, the multi-product search feature helps turn search pages into one-stop shops. If used heavily, these features have the potential to decrease the time spent browsing product pages themselves.
What to watch: Retailers could begin to curate a combined search results page with a handful of products per search term entered. Such a strategy would put laser-focus on the top several products at the expense of other relevant products.
#3: At Ocado, Category Placement Is Key
Categorization is important at all three of these online grocers and appears to directly impact search results.
At Ocado, however, search results are sorted and visibly grouped by category (by default).
To leverage this to your advantage, look at the page 1 results for the generic search terms relevant to your products, such as “Soda,” “Dry Pasta,” or “Breakfast Cereals.” Which specific category or aisle shows up first? And which categories or aisles have the most page 1 products?
Then, optimize the categorization of your own products to have the best shot at appearing in the first several results of page 1.
#4: Tesco and Asda Do Not Offer Attribute Filtering—Yet
Retailers also offer varying precision in the filtering they offer shoppers on search result pages.
All three retailers allow shoppers to narrow down results by selecting categories or sub-categories of results. Tesco is the only retailer of the three not to offer brand filtering at the time of writing, and neither Asda nor Tesco offers attribute filtering.
With attribute filtering, Ocado offers shoppers the most flexibility to narrow down search results. Shoppers can filter by “Dietary & Lifestyle” attributes, like “Gluten Free” and “Organic,” to see a more relevant list of products. (“Dietary & Lifestyle” attributes appear to be the only attribute filtering offered by Ocado at this time.)
For retailers without attribute filtering, consider including the most important shopper-oriented product features in the product titles themselves to optimize search results and assist shoppers looking for specific features.
What to watch: Asda and Tesco likely won’t go without attribute filtering for much longer. When that time comes, make sure your products are labeled correctly.
Treat eCommerce Sites as Brand-Builders, Not Just Retailers
Although none of these retailers offers the same sophistication and content options as Amazon, each is an opportunity for brand-building. Your product assortment, titles, images, descriptions, ratings, and even search rankings all contribute to your brand’s online presence and equity.
Latest channel forecasts from IGD reveal that online will continue to be the fastest growing channel for grocery sales over the next five years. Don’t miss our exclusive webinar on July 2 at 6am ET/11am BST in which IGD’s Lisa Byfield-Green and Profitero’s Keith Anderson will share insider insights and guidance on how to compete and win at the digital shelf in 2015 and beyond.