Grocery delivery is nothing new; However, the dawn of on-demand grocery delivery only began about a decade ago. And due to the outbreak of Covid-19, more and more people have turned to online grocery delivery and collection.
By Joe Ayyoub, Search.io's Chief Revenue Officer.
Joe Ayyoub, Search.io's Chief Revenue Officer.
Online grocery shopping has many unique benefits for customers. Buyers can save time and money. It eliminates the need for extra trips to a crowded public place. And yet, despite these advantages, the process still has room for improvement, especially in the area of search.
Studies have shown that 42% of online shoppers start their online shopping by going straight to the search bar, and the same is true for online grocery shoppers. And yet, this is where many online food platforms fail. Search is often overlooked despite being one of the most important aspects of sales conversion.
The rationale that online delivery services have deprioritized search could be as simple as the fact that building a robust on-site search engine can be incredibly complex. However, complexity should not stand in the way of the customer experience. Here are some search features that online grocery platforms can add to enhance their search experience.
Clean up your online shelves
A clean and organized inventory is just as important, if not more so, online than it is in person. Without an accurate and well-maintained inventory, online shoppers will find it incredibly difficult to find what they are looking for. In addition, the buyers in the store will find it difficult to fulfill their orders and then they will have to spend time contacting the buyer and looking for a replacement.
The easiest way to keep an online inventory clean is to ensure search indexes are up to date with unique titles, product descriptions, tags, and even synonyms. Site managers should test the search functionality regularly to ensure customers are accessing the results they want. For example, if someone were to search for "frozen spinach," the query would actually return frozen spinach, not fresh spinach.
The importance of personalization
Shoppers are creatures of habit and typically don't stray too far from their standard choices or previous purchases. Online grocery platforms should consider personalization and learn from search and purchase history to offer shoppers tailored recommendations. Using this data, online grocers can personalize 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 localization and inventory
Because online grocery stores source their products from real, local, brick-and-mortar stores, it's imperative that they source their inventory from the right locations. What is stocked at a local grocery store may not be available at the same grocery store across town. In addition, shoppers often base their store selections on which stores currently carry their desired products. Online grocery store site managers should ensure their site search can pull geographic inventory data so the shopper can select the store that meets their needs.
Don't ignore filters and facets
Use search facets and filters to improve on-site search functionality. While both features are similar, they offer ways to make site searches much more productive.
Using filters is one of the first steps in narrowing a query. Filters relate to larger categories, much like aisles in a grocery store. They refer to details such as dairy products, delicatessen, baked goods, meat or frozen products.
Facets are much more dynamic and granular than filters and are generated based on the values of the search. These facets can be changed dynamically for each query. Facets restrict a choice of specific dimensions. A frozen dessert facet relates to flavors (ice cream, sorbet, popsicles, etc.), ingredients (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, etc.).
Recommended replacements and search relevance
Consider the following scenario. A customer is about to check out online and is in the process of selecting potential replacement products, but none of them seem to match. Instead of being suggested another brand of frozen fruit, they are offered fresh. Instead of coffee, they are shown coffee-flavored ice cream.
This suggests a problem of search relevance. Relevance is how closely the product results match a customer's request and the intent behind the request. The relevance of search results can be determined using complex rules or keyword-based algorithms. However, this process can be inefficient or tedious. Software and advances in technology have made it easy for online grocery platform managers to take the guesswork out of improving search relevancy.
For online grocers, investing in on-site search support should be a no-brainer. Advances in search engine technology are making it easier than ever for platform managers to scale up their search efforts.
About Joe Ayyoub
Joe brings over a decade of ecommerce and search experience to Search.io. Prior to Search.io, Joe was Chief Customer Officer at ZineOne. Prior to 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 bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology and an MBA in finance and e-business from Golden Gate University.