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Search- a Critical Piece of B2B eCommerce

In Jakob Nielsen’s classic eCommerce User Experience, he lists failure to find an item as the main reason that visitors leave an eCommerce site. In B2B eCommerce, search is even more important because customers and prospects are not just looking for products. Rather, they may be looking for application information, product specs, whitepapers, shipping guidelines, MSDS/TDS information or any of the other content required to determine which product is appropriate for their need.

Helping customers find the most relevant information is critical to converting a transaction or driving a lead. Taking search one step further by showing related products, add-ons or bundled items can have a big impact on average order value, lines per order, conversion rate or the other measures you use to track eCommerce profitability.

We have conversations all the time with customers about best practices in B2B eCommerce search, and we thought it might be useful to share with you some of that information about critical search functionality.

Single Search for Multiple Content Types

We recommend that clients have one site search for all the content on the site or repositories where content is pulled from such as document management systems. The typical content types are:

  • Product Content including descriptions, attributes, product specs, images

  • Application, “How To” or other content related to using a product

  • Marketing Content such as information about the company, its products and solutions including white papers and brochures

  • Product Literature including MSDS/TDS sheets or other information tied to an individual product in the form or pdfs or other documents


One of the key themes of successful eCommerce search is empowering site visitors to filter and sort search results data to fit their needs. The most effective way is to use facets which allow users to narrow results based on price, relevance, popularity, ratings, and most importantly specific product attributes such as size or application-specific measurements.

Guided Search & Customized Results

Leverage behavioral search algorithms or search merchandising tools to recommend products based on previous searches or, if available, previous order history or higher converting products.

Merchandise Search Results

Merchandising search results presents an excellent opportunity for site merchandisers to control the order of products in search results. Merchandisers can list higher margin products, items that offer manufacturer incentives/rebates or promotions, or expiring products first in search results.

Search Suggestions

This functionality is typically provided as “type-ahead search.” Google and other search engines offer this functionality. This feature provides relevant suggestions that appear below the search box as letters are entered in the search query box.

Synonyms or Thesaurus

This functionality allows the merchandiser to create related terms that will deliver the same search result. This can also be a way to incorporate misspellings into search results.


This is the most effective way to address misspellings. This is most often displayed as a “Did you mean?” like Google does.

Keyword Redirection to Relevant Landing Pages

This is an important feature for distributors that offer exclusive products from manufacturers. Users are directed to branded landing pages that feature a merchandised assortment of products when searching for that brand. Sears is an excellent example of a B2C company that offers branded landing pages or showcases to highlight products from select manufacturers.

At the end of the day, the goal of search is to help customers find the products they want as quickly and efficiently as possible. This success will be measured in less time on site, higher average order values and higher conversion rates.


  • eCommerce