How many times have you visited a website and entered a product search into the search bar, only to get results back that make little to no sense in response? I don’t know about you, but I find it happens too often for my taste.

(Can you sense a story coming on?)

So, I am attending an event in May where I need to wear a black dress. During my online search for said dress (I figured I would start online to see who actually HAD black dresses in the spring first, then go try them on), I visited the ecommerce website of a MAJOR retailer. Huge department store. Huge.

In the search box, I typed my first query: “black dress women”

I was hoping to get black dresses from the women’s department (which is code for “plus size” and should eliminate misses and juniors).

Here are the results I got back:

Search capability matters in ecommerce: results from first search query

The first result is a black, women’s dress watch, then a couple of dresses that are black followed by a whole bunch that aren’t black.

I tried again. I narrowed down by size by choosing “plus size.”

Here’s what I got:

Search capability matters in ecommerce: results of search query

One dress appears to be truly black, a few are grey and some are in color.

Hmmmm. I figured that I must be doing something wrong–the search function of this MAJOR department store should work better than this, right?

I went back to the home page and submitted my third query: “black dress plus size”

Here is what I got in return:

Search capability matters in ecommerce: results from search query #3

ARGH! My only “black dress” result from the previous queries was GONE. Followed by all sorts of other dress options, one of which was a black and white print.

Now, if I scroll DOWN past the first two rows of results (which are the only two rows showing above the fold on my monitor), there’s a whole bunch of black dresses. Check it out.

Search capability matters: why are the best results coming up last?

My question is this: WHY aren’t the black dresses appearing first in the search? Especially when I’ve specified that what I want is “black dresses in plus sizes?”

The Take Away

So, what does my online shopping little black dress fiasco have to do with you? Nothing–other than to serve as a very pointed warning to make sure that your search functionality takes into account how your customers think and returns the results they expect to see.

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