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Research: Search abandonment has a lasting impact on brand loyalty

Search abandonment—when a consumer searches for a product on a retailer’s website but does not find what they are looking for—costs retailers more than $300 billion annually in the United States alone. Today, we’re releasing more data about the costs of search abandonment, including its ongoing impact to brand loyalty, as found by a Google Cloud-commissioned Harris Poll survey of more than 10,000 consumers globally and 200 website managers in the United States. 

Search abandonment is even more pertinent these days, as the pandemic has supercharged retailers’ shifts to meet rising consumer expectations through new personalized ecommerce and omnichannel experiences. According to McKinsey & Company, 75% of consumers have recently tried a new shopping behavior due to economic pressure, store closings, and changing priorities. Google data has also indicated that these sorts of omnichannel consumer behaviors persist, and in many ways are intensifying—as Google searches for the term “in stock” are up 800% year-over-year. Simply put, shoppers expect to find what they are looking for with ease, with many of their searches starting on retailers’ websites even if they ultimately visit a physical store.

Search abandonment is high-risk and high-reward

Bad search experiences are costly, while good search experiences often result in higher purchase conversion, larger order sizes, and ongoing brand loyalty. 

According to Harris Poll research, three out of four U.S. consumers (76%) report that an unsuccessful search resulted in a lost sale for the retail website, with 48% purchasing the item elsewhere. In fact, more than half (52%) say they typically abandon their entire cart and go elsewhere if there’s at least one item they can’t find. 

On the other hand, 69% of consumers say that after a successful search experience, they purchase additional items, and almost all consumers (99%) agree that they are at least somewhat likely to return to a retail website if it has a good search function. 

Retailers who make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for see results. Macy’s saw a 2% increase in conversion and a 1.3% increase in revenue per visit in recent tests using Google Cloud Retail Search, which helps convert purchase intent across retailers’ own websites and mobile apps by understanding consumer intent and mapping it to product inventory. 

Search is vital for a positive shopping experience; search abandonment costs brand loyalty

The search function is the most commonly used feature on retail websites, impacting outcomes beyond the initial purchase, the research results found. Nine in 10 consumers say a good search function is “very important” or “absolutely essential,” with 97% agreeing that their favorite retail websites are ones where they can quickly find what they are looking for. 

On the other hand, 77% of U.S. consumers avoid websites where they’ve experienced search difficulties; 77% of U.S. consumers view a brand differently after an unsuccessful search on their websites; and 75% say they are less loyal to a brand when it’s hard to find what they want on a website. Seventy-four percent agree that if a company won’t invest in improving its website, then they don’t want to give them their money.

Outside of the United States, consumers are even more likely to say they view brands differently following an unsuccessful search, particularly in Brazil (92%), India (91%), Mexico (89%), Australia (87%), and the UK (86%).

Search abandonment is pervasive

Consumers and website managers agree that search abandonment is pervasive. Ninety-four percent of consumers globally report receiving irrelevant results while searching on a retailer’s website, and 88% of U.S.-based retail website managers say abandoned searches are a problem at their company, with 84% believing that consumers are less loyal to brands when they’ve had unsuccessful searches. 

With billions on the line and clear indication from consumers that online shopping and omnichannel services are here to stay, combatting search abandonment is essential to keep customers coming back. Doing so doesn’t have to be daunting. 

For example, retailers can leverage Google Cloud’s recently announced Retail Search on their own web properties, as well as our full suite of Product Discovery Solutions for Retail which provides additional ways for retailers to enhance their ecommerce capabilities and deliver personalized consumer experiences.

Download our ebook to see the full survey results, and visit our website to learn more about Google Cloud’s solutions for retailers to improve customer experiences and combat search abandonment.

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