Imagine yourself walking through the mall. You want that red shirt that you’ve seen your favorite singer wear on the latest episode of TMZ. You’ve got money in your pocket. You arrive at your destination. There are two stores that sell the very same shirt: Store X and Store Y. Let’s walk through the shopping experience at both.

Store X has an attractive presentation and merchandising. The store is full of employees, each devoted to their section; they are folding clothes and spraying perfume to ensure a solid guest experience. You realize that this is a pretty big store. You don’t see red shirts, but you’ve seen an advertisement showing that they carry the particular one you want. You walk through the store, passing employee after employee and asking each one where to find red shirts. None of them have an idea. They do, however, show you a completely different item and ask if you want to buy it. They are obviously not helping your shopping experience. In fact, they are hurting it. After turning down assorted belts, shoes and dresses, you casually stroll right out the exit and directly into Store Y.

You get to the entryway of Store Y, which also has an attractive presentation and merchandising. Store Y has a dedicated employee to greet you, and she asks: “Can I help you find something?” You answer: “I’m looking for the red shirt I saw Justin Bieber sporting on the red carpet.” She acknowledges your request and immediately points to a corner of the store dedicated to this red shirt – along with similar shirts. You have been in this store for all of 30 seconds at this point and you already have the shirt in hand, headed to the register – the red shirt is yours.

The experience at Store X describes the concept of having a sub-par site-search experience. All too often, I visit a website and type in the search box “red shirt,” only to find “black dresses,” “leather boots” or even worse, “no results.” This is a slap in the face to your customer. Your customer is on your site to buy. They have specifically asked for a “red shirt” and you are doing everything in your power not to help them, ensuring a negative shopping experience and a visit to the competitor’s website. You have not converted a customer plus you have ensured they don’t come back.

Shop Y, on the other hand, has a search bar that works. I visit the website, I type in the search bar “red shirt” and voila, I have the red shirt in my shopping cart. You have made that conversion and you have gained and retained that customer. This is a success – a success due to effective site search.

If you’re not thinking about site search, you absolutely should be. And if you already have site search, kudos to you – but if it’s not contributing to at least a third of your revenue, you should probably reevaluate your options. Simply having a search box is only half of the solution. Having one that works is completing the puzzle.

Max Bunag is an Enterprise Market Development Representative for SLI Systems (who may or may not be searching online for the red shirt Justin Bieber wears). For more eCommerce insight, contact him at