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5 ways to gain happier customers and why ecommerce search can be of big help

Happy customers spend more and shop with you for longer, and a positive experience is often valued more than price as a core brand differentiator. 

The trick for online shops is how to build that happiness—and there’s a good chance it starts with ecommerce search.

Last updated

18 Aug 2022

Reading time

7 min


Ecommerce tools on your site—such as a search bar or a chatbot—serve as the core point of interaction for shoppers. It’s how they tell you what they want, describe your products, and quantify their desire.

For example, someone adding the word 'cool' to a search for 'chinos' may indicate that they're looking for the best fit, new styles, or something that doesn’t look like khakis from afar. Search is the differentiation point, and responding to it is how you make suitable recommendations and keep people happy.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can use search and how it informs other aspects of your website to build a positive experience and create happier customers.

1. Personalization

Personalization makes the list on nearly every piece you’ll read about improving ecommerce sales and customer relationships, because every new study seems to back the effort. When focusing on happier customers, it’s good to know that advanced personalization efforts help companies achieve a 20% or greater improvement on NPS (Net Promoter Scores®), as well as a 10% annual revenue growth.

The potential is there, so brands like yours will want to prioritize a personal touch that helps people achieve their goal. Helpfulness makes it easier for your efforts to support making people happier. That could mean filling in form fields when someone is signed in so they’re not stuck in form limbo.

The ecommerce search angle for personalization is all about the results you display. Use a customer’s history to help get the right items at the top and to populate the suggested items at the bottom. 

For example, if your customer consistently buys a certain size or color, highlight in the search results which products are available in those options. Build lookalike audiences to see how people talk about your products and ensure that results are personalized to these descriptors—from large or loose; to bright, vibrant, and awesome.

And as always, don’t be creepy. When exchanging information for a benefit, make it compelling and useful. Avoid aggressive predictions and personalization—every older marketer has the Target snafu living in their brains—and instead, base your efforts on customer inputs like search.

2. Make shopping easier

Happy customers shop more, so remove friction to keep the process enjoyable. 

Generally, you’ll want to address the things that make it harder to shop. The most common areas to tackle are improving loading times, ensuring your site works on mobile, and clarifying pricing and policies. Something as easy as simplifying your returns policy and making the language clear can improve sales and customer retention.

Searches on your FAQ pages or with chatbots are the best places to discover what’s difficult or confusing. These terms show what customers need to make decisions. Turn searches into content strategies to make the buying process easier by reducing steps to get that must-know info.

And don’t forget the best ecommerce advice in the world: stop hiding fees. If you charge for shipping or have a handling or kitting fee, make this obvious. Show it in your cart, even if you’re just adding a note that “shipping and handling costs are calculated at checkout.” 

Don’t surprise people with a fee: everyone hates that. The same goes for your ads and deals. If you get free shipping for an order over $25, put that limitation in your overlay so people don’t get to checkout, see the fee, and ditch.

shipping minimums

Pro tip: not sure what's causing friction on your website? Track user activities. 

Tools like heatmaps represent how users move on your site and can show you what steps they’re willing to take and where they stop. You might see people searching the footer and realize you don’t have an FAQ link, or maybe they get to a blog post and stop halfway. Heatmaps highlight what people do, what they ignore, and where you can change behavior.

An example of a Hotjar Heatmap

3. Make browsing easier

Sometimes people come to your site just to browse—just like they would in a brick and mortar store—but this can be a hard experience to manage online. You don’t have aisles for people to meander through or end caps to really grab their attention. Instead, create a robust on-site search to help people find products by name, size, color, and description. 

Building a better customer experience can help you land customers willing to spend 140% more than your average shopper.

Treat ecommerce search as your helpful store clerk who can show customers what’s new and what’s in stock. Using Google-powered tools helps stores have semantic search capabilities so people can find what they want even if they’re not the best at describing it. Chatbots with search functionality can help with this too.

Pro tip: improving search can help remove roadblocks, ensuring you’ve got the right information on a page for someone to make a buying decision. 

Live feedback on your site helps you train search tools and improve results. Even better, you can pair that feedback with search tracking to see how customers are talking about your products. That gives you clear guidelines for how to rewrite or reframe sales pages to increase their SEO capabilities and how to tweak ads to be more compelling.

#Hotjar's Incoming Feedback widget in action

4. Offer free, reliable shipping options

The ‘location, location, location‘ of ecommerce is ‘free shipping‘. People want it, expect it, and are upset when they don’t get it. While different audiences also may have a preference to pay for faster options, baseline free shipping can help you reach most shoppers.

The free shipping offer generates enough good will that most shoppers are willing to spend more to reach a minimum order value for the offer. 

People love free shipping for two big reasons:

  1. They’re used to it, but it still feels like a luxury. Think of all those Amazon Prime orders you’ve made in the past couple of years that took 4 or 5 days, and how you’re still a Prime member. 

  2. Customers can get the items they want on their schedule. They can pay for faster delivery or wait and get something at a more convenient time. 

Free shipping reduces ecommerce strain by giving power and choice back to customers. The best news is that stores large and small can make this affordable. Customers are willing to pay for the luxury of free shipping indirectly, whether that’s accepting higher product pricing (where you’ve baked shipping costs into SKU costs) or raising their order value to reach a specified minimum.


However, you need one more element to get fulfillment right and keep people happy: the orders you send out need to be correct. Reducing returns helps you control the process and eliminate customer frustration. 

Working on this now protects you during crunch-time. In the ecommerce world, the year-end sales are when you’ll likely generate the majority of your annual revenue but also face the most returns. When orders are correct, you protect that revenue and keep returns down so you can quickly process items sent back and refund or replace goods. The faster and smoother this process, the happier your customers will be.

2021 Return featured images

The reverse is true too, though, and you never want to be in that situation. After the 2021 holiday season, for example, roughly half of American adults who returned a product were sent the wrong item as a replacement. That means more frustration, more returns, and less revenue for your store. Would you want to keep shopping at a store that got your order wrong twice?

5. Thank them in multiple ways

Ecommerce tends to have a lot of touchpoints. Consider adding 'thank you' elements to as many of these touchpoints as possible. The goal is to give people a positive association with each step in their ecommerce customer journey, and encourage them to move forward. These nudges are useful even after a sale is complete to help keep your brand top-of-mind and maintain a positive relationship. It reinforces the valuable customer experience.

Purchase screens and follow-up emails are the most common 'thank you' locations, but why not add this to the discounts and coupons you sell? Every place where you work to create scarcity is an opportunity for a 'thank you'. This reinforces the scarcity and builds a personal connection to that exclusivity: 

We’ve only got a few left, so this offer is going out to our favorite customers first. As a ‘thank you’ for shopping with us in the past, you get access to this season’s best sale one day early.

There are significant options for you to take this route. Plus, you can leverage other elements to create a very personal feeling that builds positivity. 

For example, if someone leaves a review that your other customers find helpful, highlight it on the site and send that person a note. When someone leaves a comment or makes a suggestion, ensure the ‘thanks’ is genuine by discussing how you’re sharing that information or taking steps to address issues. Support and appreciation go a long way to helping people stay happy and building long-term customer relationships.

Hotjar’s feedback tools make this easier by closely linking feedback with site efforts and customer details. You can collect suggestions, comments, and more. When you get a great suggestion from an email that matches one in your CRM, you learn which shoppers are a goldmine for support. And as we all know, nothing beats a 'thank you' from our favorite store that comes with an exclusive deal or a big shoutout. 

Don’t forget Pharrell

Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” provides one of the best lessons for marketers trying to build joy in their audience. The chorus asks us to “clap along,” and your store should, too. Create happy customers by highlighting positives and showcasing what’s enjoyable—and get them to clap along with the work that you’ve done. 

Using ecommerce search and customer behavior tools will get them to join in with your happy vibe. Highlight what’s personal and enjoyable, and invite them to join in.

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