The pandemic provided a huge boost to the ecommerce sector and helped many traditional retailers continue to survive just as enforced temporary closures occurred. While the growth shown during this period may not continue on the same trajectory, there is plenty of optimism for the future.

One of the leading global investment banks, Morgan Stanley, estimates that digital retail will be worth $5.4 trillion by 2026, up from today’s figure of $3.3 trillion.

Even as shopping malls are dying out, and traditional brick-and-mortar outlets close, the retail sector has a major channel to bring in revenue with ecommerce.

However, the simplest error on a website can lose conversions and even turn off customers. One area that is vital for a successful ecommerce site is the search bar. But, when it doesn’t function properly, you could be missing out on a large number of sales.

How important is on-site search functionality?

The first search tool that looked for content was called Archie. It was 1990 when this rudimentary search engine was introduced, and its main purpose was to help locate FTP files. Fast-forward to today, and the biggest and most famous search engine is of course Google.

One study suggests that Google handles around 4 million searches every minute. Many of those searches are consumers looking for products and retailers online. What happens when these users click on a link to visit a vendor? Well, many of them head straight to the on-site search bar to find what they are looking for.

75% of users will make a judgment about how credible and trustworthy a business is based purely on the design of a website. A search function is part of the design and navigation of a site. If you don’t have a search bar or your functionality is poor, you could lose customers instantly.

Does your website need a search bar?

All ecommerce sites need a search bar for easy navigation. You may understand how to introduce new products to your site, but what if your visitors cannot find them? Or, the navigation means an endless trawl through different categories trying to find this new season’s must-have sneakers? Your visitors will leave and go straight to your rivals.

Statistics differ between studies, but one thing is clear, many consumers like to use internal search bars. Some research has put the number of website users who like to use on-site search as high as 59%. Perhaps just as important is that 15% of visitors said they would prefer to use the search bar instead of on-site navigation.

Search bars may be seen as outdated on certain types of websites, but having a search function on an ecommerce site is critical for converting leads to sales.

What can you do to improve your search function?

Coding a basic search bar for a website is not a complex proposition. However, creating one that provides the type of functionality that will create trust in your visitors, and help with conversions is something different.

Nowadays, many specialist firms can help to integrate search functionality into pre-existing or new websites. The features behind these search bars are vital for ecommerce businesses today. Clicking on will show you how an optimized search bar can help visitors through typo detection and smart matching.

Below are a few ways that your search functionality could be improved upon.

Spell-checker, autocorrection, and autofill

Some studies put spelling errors within searches as low as 2%, but Google themselves put misspelled searches at 10%. Whichever figure is correct, misspelled searches can mean missing out on conversions.

Typo detection and making suggestions through autofill can help guide a consumer toward the product they want quickly and smoothly.

Understanding intent

Not everyone searches online the same way. Some may type in a product name exactly, and others will be vaguer. The consumer may not know what a product is called and try several different searches to try and unearth what they require.

Smart search bars can help to understand the intent behind the consumer’s search. This can over time help to improve what results are returned.

Optimize your catalog images

Although this isn’t directly part of the search bar functionality, it will have an impact on your visitor’s UX.

39% of people will stop engaging if the images on a site take too long to load. Therefore when you optimize your search results, you must also consider the images being displayed. As part of your SEO strategy look at how your search bar operates with other parts of your website.

Track your visitor’s searches

You can use search logs and heatmaps to monitor visitors’ behavior, and what they most search for. Analyzing search data can help to prioritize which products are returned in the top search results. You can also see which products are being searched for that you don’t stock.

Make your search a clear call to action

Many website developers will hide the magnifying icon over to the far right on the header. An ecommerce site is there to sell so make the search bar big and obvious.

Color can have an impact here too. Make the search bar stand out, and invite visitors to go straight in to find products. Turn your search bar into a call for action, and see conversions rise.

Don’t forget your mobile site either. Your search bar needs to be equally clear when viewed on a smaller screen. Today, nearly 73% of all ecommerce sales come from mobile devices.

What are the business advantages of having good search functionality?

It has been reported that nearly 14% of all ecommerce revenue is generated from consumers who have used the on-site search bar.

Digital retailers should look for ways to improve SEO rankings. While adding a search bar won’t impact your SEO directly, it will add to the overall UX/UI experience. Google takes these metrics very seriously when it comes to SERPs.

Having good search functionality will help to retain visitors longer, and improve conversions. This can also help to reduce your bounce rate which in turn could help improve your rankings over time.

What happens when your search bar doesn’t work properly?

Simply put, first impressions count. 94% of first impressions are design related for visitors to a site. One study on health websites showed poor search features, bad color choices, too much text, and unattractive layout, led to a total lack of trust.

Also, up to 88% of website users say they are unlikely to return if they have a bad experience. Of course, this can cover many areas and is not solely linked to poor search functionality. Nevertheless, more than 70% of shoppers have cited poor search bars as a reason to leave a website and head to a competitor instead.


Search bars have come a long way since Archie, and can now have the power to make or break an ecommerce site. Poor functionality can lead to visitors leaving a site, having a lack of trust in your business, and lost conversions.

Shoppers that know what products they want to buy will head to a search bar straight away. When your search function operates properly, these consumers will be more likely to be turned into conversions, and studies have proven that they will spend 2.6 times more than other visitors.