Beyond Tuning: A systemic approach to improving your search experience


I’ve often fought buzzword concepts around the ‘consumerization of B2B.’ Not because customer expectations have been raised as a result of their personal interactions, but rather, because there is a layer of complexity in buying habits that long had been dependent upon personal interactions from sales reps for their B2B customer counterparts. So, the question has become, largely, how to ensure the confidence that any digital experience can mirror that of the 1:1 attention they are used to.

One of the main ways this manifests itself is through the product discovery and consideration process. Time and again we hear from clients the simple statement, “why isn’t my search isn’t working?” This innocuous question carries so much weight in what it means for the organization to truly address. It goes beyond simply fine tuning search results. Search should be looked at on multiple levels like onsite, SEO and functionality to get ahead of challenges rather than throwing customizations, money and resources at the issues without fixing root issues. In order to assess how we can help businesses enhance their search, we typically break down evaluation across 4 key areas: Content, experience, function and value realization.

1. Content

Content is the elephant in the room when it comes to any topic related to search. It is the biggest pain point for organizations to address and can feel overwhelming. That’s why businesses need a plan to incrementally address this at the source. Consider three areas of content as a starting point to improve your search experience.

  • Offsite Relevancy (SEO/SEM)
  • Onsite Content and Normalization
  • Data Sources & Analytics Tagging

2. Experience

B2B customers are demanding a tailored human experience, where everything starts to come together in a frictionless experience that anticipates and adjusts to a customer’s intent and needs. The evolution of this starts with understanding the user intent, personalizing based on what is understood and driving recommendations to become proactive with what is known.

  • User Intent
    First look at the intent of the user. How are you taking natural language and behavioral context clues to interpret beyond the query? As we look at bringing more complex buying journeys online and guiding a customer through the journey we need to ensure that the intent is understood and we are meeting them through what application usage they may have once relied upon a sales rep for through more intuitive interactions.
  • Personalization
    Once intent is understood then we can truly talk about a personalized journey. The possibilities over time are quite exciting. From taking natural language processes and applying the context and machine learning we can truly get to a cognitive and intelligent experience where we are starting to mirror that knowledge across the organization that made the sales rep so impactful.

3. Function

Over the years so much of “fixing” search has been focused around the functions and unique or more complex aspects of a B2B business. In traditional search engines with flat indices, this would manifest in a lot of “tuning” exercises that created custom code and what seemed like small things for immediate improvement compounded over time into quite complex solutions.
To address the need and function there are a few key areas to question:

  • Query Suggestions – Is your search experience helping users in the discovery process and reducing friction? How does search perform for completion, predictive search, auto complete, or type ahead?
  • Typos – Almost 25% of search queries on websites have spelling errors. How does your search handle this to address the most likely intent of a user?
  • Synonyms – Does your metadata support how customers search or what they call your products? Are you leveraging machine learning to help draw these relationships?
  • Dynamic Faceting – Do the filters you have support the taxonomy variances of your products?
  • Relevancy – Are customers finding the most meaningful products or content based on their needs? If this is occurring, what amount of manual intervention or tuning is required by your teams and how does this scale for your organization?

4. Realizing Value

For how much money organizations have put into customizing search over the years, or potentially lost by neglecting it, it’s critical as you embark on the modernization of your search experience so we can measure outcomes that help fund the digital evolution for your organization in this critical area.

Two primary ways to realize value are to measure revenue growth and cost savings.

  • Revenue Growth
    When considering revenue growth as a value measurement, make sure to include conversion and margin expansion as well as the lifetime value of a customer as the organization becomes trusted and easier to do business with.
  • Cost Savings
    Fewer returns and lower processing and shipping costs can add up to realize significant cost savings. Additionally, the support costs by customer service and sales reps can be shifted to more value-added activities.

Providing users with search confidence

All of the areas come together for one reason with your buyer—search confidence. Confidence users have found the right product. Confidence in your business. Confidence that you can deliver what they’re looking for, when they need it.

Smith can review your search experience needs and quickly deliver you a scorecard and opportunity roadmap so you can drive confidence and better outcomes. Reach out today to learn more about our Search Experience Maturity Assessment (SEMA).