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The Importance of Using Search Data to Drive Ecommerce Success

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69% of consumers go straight to the search bar when they visit an ecommerce site, and their search interactions provide merchants with crucial information about their intent, preferences and needs. Alongside tracking search performance data, analyzing how shoppers use search can deliver deep customer insight for merchants.

Everything the shopper does within search is very intentional, with insights delivered much more quickly than behavioral signals, (such as where a shopper browses or hovers on the site). All of this can be used to improve conversion rates, increase revenues and improve the experience both on and offsite.

Yet retailers aren’t making the most of this treasure trove of data — often due to a lack of resources and a reliance on complex, handbuilt integrations between different tools in their ecommerce stack. 95% of merchants surveyed by Nosto admit to pain points with their search function, and just 17% are actively measuring performance metrics around their site search.

How Search Data Provides Insights

Search data delivers intelligence in a variety of ways. This can be through the words in the search query itself; what is clicked on from auto-complete suggestions and product suggestions; and the filters/facets a shopper chooses, such as size, brand or color. This data can be used to better understand the individual, their affinities and the types of content and products they want to see.

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Analyzing search data delivers benefits for merchants in five key areas:

1. Personalizing the experience for the individual shopper.
Analyzing and acting on search data in real time enables merchants to segment shoppers and tailor what they see while on-site. This involves personalizing the entire shopping experience to fit with their affinities or preferences, such as their desire for specific brands. For example, if they’ve searched for Nike earlier in their visit, they can be categorized as having an affinity for that brand. Nike products and related content can be given a higher weighting in their shopping journey. Not only can this be applied to their subsequent search results and auto-complete suggestions, but also in the product recommendations, banner images, blog content and user-generated content they are shown and the pop-ups and offers they are targeted with.

2. Improving the overall search experience for all shoppers.
As well as providing insight into individual journeys, merchants should act on search data to redesign the wider search experience to make it more seamless, encouraging shoppers to use the search bar more. This could mean redesigning search page templates to prioritize the elements that are more relevant to shoppers.

For example, if they are interacting more with certain parts of search auto-complete (such as product image suggestions rather than keyword suggestions), merchants can change the design of their search to highlight different things. If particular filters are very popular for given queries, they can be reordered to appear earlier in the list of filters. Similarly, filters that are never clicked on can be safely removed to declutter the design. This increases overall engagement through a more intuitive, user-focused search experience.

3. Uncovering new sales opportunities and preventing lost ones.
Searches reflect what shoppers are interested in, meaning those that produce zero results highlight a product need that your brand isn’t yet delivering on. For example, they could be asking for a related product that could be added to your range, such as adding matching hats or scarves to coats on a fashion site. Zero results pages can also illuminate the need to configure better synonyms to prevent dead-end searches. For example, if someone is searching for ‘sofa’ on a furniture brand site and nothing is coming up, it could be that while they do sell sofas, they are listed as “couches” and they don’t have synonyms set up. Understanding this issue helps add the right synonyms to prevent lost sales.

4. Applying insights to off-site marketing channels.
The beauty of search data is that it clearly demonstrates intent, and can provide insights that help you build a more complete picture of your target audiences that can inform your entire marketing program. You can use insights from shoppers’ previous on-site searches to retarget them, creating and sending more relevant promotional emails, either on an individual basis or as part of wider campaigns.

Search intent insight can also focus your paid search and social advertising programs, ensuring you are targeting your spend correctly as well as informing your SEO campaigns and online advertising. If people are using specific search terms and phrases, there’s an opportunity to use this intent data to create relevant campaigns on off-site earned media channels to drive more traffic.

5. Informing what to stock in physical stores.
In many ecommerce categories, shoppers may browse online before visiting a local store, particularly in sectors such as home improvement where they want to physically see (and potentially touch) the product before they make a purchase. Clearly, if shoppers find a product online and it is not then available in their local brick-and-mortar store, the merchant will both lose out on a sale and potentially frustrate the customer. Therefore, by combining search data with geolocation data, merchants can understand which products they should be stocking in their local stores, delivering a seamless omnichannel experience that boosts sales and drives greater engagement.

Many merchants don’t exploit the possibilities of search data because of other priorities or a lack of resources. They need to start by ensuring their on-site search provider is able to share data with them in an understandable way that is easy for them to act on. Start small by focusing on examples of when people are searching but are either not finding anything, or are finding something but not then converting. By addressing these underperforming searches, you can unlock improvements and additional revenues, demonstrating the value of search data and justifying its greater use within your overall sales strategy.


Florian Niedermayr is the Head of Search at Nosto, an AI-powered Commerce Experience Platform. He has worked within ecommerce for nearly 10 years and is the former CPO of Findologic, an Austrian-based search technology that Nosto acquired in 2022.

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