Compared to A/B and multivariate tests, customer journey analysis is the new kid on the conversion rate optimization (CRO) block. The power of customer journey analysis is that it looks beyond an individual landing page, headline, or call-to-action. Instead, it takes into consideration the entire conversion path —  from website visit to purchase.

In this article, we’ll walk through how to decode visitor behavior and use site search to improve the customer journey. So, if you’ve already got the basics of CRO figured out, get ready to take your optimization efforts to the next level.

Understanding pre-purchase behavior

There are three primary conversion paths that customers follow pre-purchase:

  1. Use filters and categories to find a specific product
  2. Search for a specific product
  3. Browse categories until they find a product to investigate and buy

When you think about it, this isn’t really much different from the experience one would have at a brick-and-mortar store. Imagine that you drop by a convenience store to purchase toothpaste. Likely, the first thing you’ll do is scan the signage to find the location where it would be (filter and categories). If that doesn’t work, you’ll ask a store associate (search). Or, if you walk into the store not knowing what you’re after, you’ll casually browse the store.

While asking the store associate is a clear buying signal offline, most online stores don’t treat this signal the same. This is a mistake. Site search indicates that customers are on a high-intent journey, but just how high-intent? Take a look at the data below:


Here’s a table to break this down further:


Conversion rate:
Conversion rate:  Electronics Conversion rate: Home & garden
Visits with Site Search 11.37% 6.75% 8.56%
Visits without Site Search 1.85% 1.21% 0.67%
Difference between them 6.1 X 5.6X 12.8X

* the data for each category is an average based on 5 different e-commerce websites from Europe

On average, visitors that used site search were 8x more likely to complete a purchase.

How site search fits into the customer journey

There are a few reasons why site search is so powerful:

  • Visitors are impatient. Imagine if you walk into a store and know exactly what you want. You might attempt to find it on your own, but if a store associate is there to greet you and offer help, you’ll just ask them instead!
  • It is in our web DNA to search when we want something. Google is responsible for beginning almost 44% of all US e-commerce transactions in Q1 2014.
  • Visitors who search are highly motivated. Visitors searching for a specific product aren’t interested in browsing. They know what they want and are interested in closing the sale quickly.

On average, visitors that use site search are 8x more likely to complete a purchase.

4 tactics to increase conversion rate by understanding the customer journey

  1. Implement an outstanding site search tool. While plenty of ecommerce stores build search technology in-house, there’s no reason that you need to. There are excellent third party tools that can help with increasing search conversion. Once you have tool in place, I recommend that you run A/B tests on the results pages to figure the highest converting design and copy.
  2. Make the search bar visible. Use A/B testing to determine the best position and appearance for the search bar. Don’t leave it to chance! You want to make it as easy as possible for high-intent shoppers to find what they want.
  3. Use smart filtering methods. Usually, the type of shopper using filters is looking for product categories rather than specific products, but they are still showing higher-intent than a casual browser.
  4. Re-engage the non-searchers. Once you validate the hypothesis that shoppers who use site search convert at a higher rate than those who don’t, you can encourage the “non-searchers” to adopt this type of behavior. You want to influence your website’s visitors to choose the conversion path that is generating revenue for your business.

One example of how we did this at Marketizator was to use a pop-up to guide non-searchers toward increased personalization:


This pop-up, which asked visitors for their dress size, acted as a filter pushing visitors toward more personalized results. This tactic generated a 50% increase in revenue on a specific product category! It succeeded in encouraging non-searchers to adopt higher-converting searching behaviors.

To succeed in ecommerce, you need to stand out from the crowd, but this doesn’t always mean doing something that’s far outside of the ordinary. Differentiation starts by looking at the data, understanding your customer journey, and testing your hypotheses. Once validated, the methodology used to identify a winning conversion path can be used to further personalize the experience for specific customer segments.