2016: The Year of Mobile Search

Customers use search every day to tell you what they want. And yet it’s not always easy to understand and deliver on their requests. Customers expect a lot, but they’re often in a hurry. They enter vague requests, forget or misspell product names, use unexpected language patternsand they’re not shy about moving on if they can’t find what they need.

Recent reports of double-digit growth in mobile shopping activity mean that, if anything, classic search challenges will be compounded in the near future. Frequent typos, limited screen space for results display, and new in-store and on-the-go use cases will drive up pressure to improve site search. Our challenge will be to keep up with customers as mobile search overtakes desktop and increases overall search frequency.

To maintain an intuitive, mobile-friendly search experience, the best sites will be pulling out all the stops. Focusing only on relevance, this means optimizing top search terms and addressing common long tail language patterns. Search engines should be configured to meet your customers’ unique needs. Linguistics, business rules, special messaging, and landing page redirects should be kept up to date and working seamlessly. There’s a lot to do, and most sites are playing catch-up.

Where to start?

More and more, we believe your efforts should begin with optimization of your mobile search results.

Tuning search “small screen first” is probably the opposite of what your team is doing right now. Most big retailers prioritize desktop search, then apply the desktop experience to mobile search. Mobile search, as the secondary point of entry, is seldom tested. Unique mobile opportunities, search trends, and even serious performance issues fly under the radar.

And yet, the extra demands and constraints of mobile search mean that mobile is the tougher nut to crack. Requirements for excellence in results ranking are stricter on mobile, because results are displayed only two to a screen. Clumsy typos found in mobile search logs require solutions apart from the usual dictionaries. And mobile excellence should lead us beyond mere results relevance, towards diverse results displays that indicate a range of relevant options within the first few swipes.

Search improvements that bring site search up to mobile standards will improve desktop customer experiences, as well. A mobile-focused search assessment and optimization plan helps identify top opportunities for mobile relevance and uncovers unexpected UI issues affecting mobile searchers. Mobile search pattern analysis will help you to understand mobile customer behavior, and highlight areas not common to desktop customer search.