Google is often considered the first stop when searching for information. Looking for a product? You'll likely head to Amazon.com, where due to its 350m product listings, 25% of purchases reportedly start. Facebook will be your go-to for finding friends and family due to its 2b profiles of people. Airbnb lets you search 5.6m places to stay. These businesses are likely your choice because people want a massive selection when conducting a search. Many of the world's most valuable companies are pseudo-Googles that quickly help us find something, then: interact with it, buy it, read it, comment on it, etc. Imagine using any one of these services without a search feature, or with a search feature that didn't work well.
While we've been working on Bridge Store for 10 years, we’ve not spent enough time improving our search functionality like Google. (Google has honed its search code over 20 years.) Now, we’re going to. We’ve doubled our client base in the last 36 months, and our search capability is more important than ever. On a daily basis, Bridge users search 300k products, 60k registries, 3k brands, and countless other data points. We need to think like the most valuable companies, elevate our search game, and make our platform's search smarter.
The beauty of an empty search box is it lets us see into the mind of the customer. Users convey their thoughts to us directly, in free form. When we know what customers want, we can give it to them. Google has become a $1.2t business built on our intentions, that are sold to advertisers. Amazon now does the same and has become the U.S. fourth largest advertising player.
Every platform wants to be where people start their search. The alternative is your customer leaves your platform to find what they need, and this likely means giving your customer to your competitor.
Shopify is often seen as the face of indie stores, yet even it needs major search help. A few issues:
Shopify has nearly 4m storefronts, but each of them has its own search paradigm. Each of these 4m needs unique tweaking and updating. That's making 4m times more work for these store owners.
There is no way to search all of Shopify’s 4m stores.
You are logged in to your Shopify store, but you can't buy things via your Shopify store from other Shopify vendors. Let's imagine you're a store owner and you want to buy printer toner. You have to leave your Shopify site to buy from Amazon or Staples. A goal of any software should be to keep people on their site when initiating a search. Shopify, Amazon, and Google are competitors. By not having a search on its site, Shopify is giving Amazon buyers and helping Google sell ads. Shopify should add a universal search bar to the top of its 4m sites, and monetize those searches.
If Shopify can't get the search right, how will most indie stores? Thankfully, Bridge is tackling these search problems for our 1,100 stores.
While Bridge is late to the search party, Bridge has started to improve its search results. A few notable recent updates:
This past spring, we added a search bar to the top of each member’s Bridge Store that enables a member to search for a brand or company.
This summer, we made this more powerful and allowed members to find people and Bridge help documents.
We’re now outputting news in search results. If one wants to see recent news about Amazon’s retail initiatives, one can just type in "Amazon" at the top of their Bridge site.
We now account for typos. Herend, a maker of fine tableware, is sometimes misspelled “Herrend." Our software suggests the correct spelling of the brand they intended. Every day we’re adding misspellings and tweaking the search to speed the customer to what they likely want. Each day, we’re collecting valuable search data (even if that’s just typos) from customers.
We started tracking what shoppers and clients enter in the search box--regardless of if the query is found or not. This has already paid dividends: I noticed members searching for the names of people. I initially thought there were sales rep names, but then realized they were registry couples. We then added registrants to the search query results. Stores are using our master bar search in ways I'd not anticipated, and we'll follow their lead.
Future search updates include:
Bridge will let retailers search for items that they want to start selling. For example, imagine a store owner who wants to sell a new line of coffee mugs but doesn’t know what brand. They can start at the top of their Bridge Store, search for “mug,” and we’ll show them top-selling mugs they can buy at wholesale. Bridge will have taken the place of Faire, Facebook, Amazon, and Google as a spot to start their search.
Bridge will let brands search for new sales reps. A brand can type in “North Carolina rep," and we show the brand 10 reps. We’ve replaced LinkedIn.
Thank you for making our platform so powerful that we’re lucky enough to have a search problem to 'fix.' Let’s get this party started :)
Here are some ways a business can test its site's search:
Make a list of the top-five sellers on your site. Now, search for those items. What comes up?
Now, add a typo to each of those five. Does your search account for typos?
Now, do the same search with typos on Amazon. What comes up?
Look at a list of what customers literally type in on a weekly basis. Then replicate these searches. Are you happy with the results?
How many search fields does your site have? Let's imagine it’s one. If your site has 10 different levels of info (product, help docs, etc.), can all those variables be searched from that one field?
Make a list of five things that you commonly share with customers. Then search on your site for those. What are the results?
Let's imagine you have content that you don’t want the public to see, but you want the customers to see it. Do you allow customers to log in, and then see search results that are unique to being logged in?
If you’re a brand, at the top of your website, can a customer put in the search field a city name to find a store in that city? Can a customer put a store name in the search field?