Executive Summary

What are the markers you should be tracking to measure the success of your on-site search? How will you know that the changes you make are bringing true benefits?

This guide will give concrete evidence of the measurable ways in which on-site search can help to improve your e-commerce outcomes. Read on to learn more about how paying close attention to on-site search KPIs can help to transform your e-commerce business.

On-Site Search KPIs: An Introduction

The world of e-commerce can feel pressured at times. In a competitive marketplace, retailers are constantly looking for ways to innovate, improve and edge themselves ahead of the competition. In the midst of this continuous effort, it’s easy to focus on bringing new solutions to the table and overlook (or undervalue) carefully analyzing the systems that you already have in place. How are the measures you’ve already implemented truly performing over time? How are you tracking and qualifying the tangible boost that they bring to your business?

Setting KPIs places essential parameters around our constant quest for progress, keeping us focused and accountable. All online retailers strive for improvement across the board — superlative UX, exemplary conversion rates, outstanding dwell time — but it’s not enough to have a general sense of being headed in the right direction. If you’re serious about making real progress, you need a clearly defined methodology for tracking your route towards industry-leading success.

On-site search represents a powerful and multifaceted ally when it comes to improving the metrics of e-commerce businesses. From improved user experience to consistent improvements to conversion, on-site search has the capacity to assist in a number of different areas of your store’s performance.

It’s because of this that an awareness of your KPIs in relation to on-site search is especially important. With so many potential benefits on offer, keeping track of the right measurable metrics will help lead you to the very best outcomes.

This ebook will walk you through some of the essential numbers you’ll want to be watching, and how to set some benchmarks that keep you accountable to progression, performance and profit.

Chapter 1: Goal Getting – Work Out What You Want to Achieve With On-Site Search

The key to setting any performance goal is understanding exactly what your enterprise will achieve by reaching it. KPIs are meaningless unless you’re linking them to strategic progression — you need to know exactly which areas of your business they’re helping to accelerate.

When you’re looking to leverage on-site search to help your e-commerce business, of course you’re ultimately looking for more sales and better profits. But because there are so many different ways that on-site search can benefit an e-commerce retailer, the way that you reach that goal is nuanced.

Because of this, it pays to sit down and fully assess exactly where you’re looking to make tangible improvements, and how you expect to measure on-site search’s impact in this area.

KPIs around on-site search shouldn’t be a box-ticking exercise. They should be clearly calculated — calibrated to your individual use case, helping drive measurable improvements in the areas where your store will see the greatest benefit.

You can make a start right now. Take a look through these typical key areas in which online stores are looking to make headway, and perform a mini audit of your current status. Do you recognize any of these weak spots within your own operation? Use the following bullet points to perform a mini audit of where your business currently stands:

Inconsistent UX

  • How easy do your customers find it to locate the products they’re looking for? Broad-ranging user testing can prove really helpful here.
  • Is your on-site search experience intuitive? What measures are in place to make things easier or more efficient for your customers?
  • Do your search results pages connect seamlessly with the rest of your site’s interface? Or is the experience jarring and off-putting?
  • Have you given the same amount of thought to your search process as you have to say, your checkout experience?

Below Average Conversion Rates

  • How well is your store converting? How do your stats compare to industry averages? Do some digging into conversions rates for your own vertical or spend time learning from online guides to get an idea of where you stand.
  • Are you currently tracking the difference that search-led user journeys show in relation to conversion?

Below Average AOV

  • Could your AOV be higher? Has it been higher in the past? Are you experiencing fluctuations (and if so, do you know why)?
  • Again, do you track the difference that interaction with on-site search has on AOV?

Poor Return on Marketing Investment

  • How well do your keyword-focused campaigns perform? Are you getting an acceptable return on your investment, or could this be improved?
  • Have you considered leveraging insights from your on-site search data to better inform these campaigns?

Poor Mobile Experience

  • Is your store fully optimized to meet the ever-increasing segment of mobile traffic to e-commerce stores?
  • Does your on-site search work for or against achieving this goal?

These are just a few of the areas of performance that you can improve by focusing on carefully monitored on-site search.

Of course, ultimately you want to see every aspect of your e-commerce store operating at maximum, exemplary capacity. But it pays to start by identifying the weakest areas, where improvements will bring you the quickest, most significant returns.

Stepping back and looking critically at the areas where improvement will lead to the biggest wins, then setting your KPIs to reflect this in a strategic manner will keep you laser-focused, and on track for the most significant progression.

Chapter 2: The More the Merrier – Boosting Interaction With On-Site Search

KPI to Track: % of Customers using On-Site Search

This is a great starting point for search-based KPI strategy. By tracking the percentage of your customers who are currently interacting with your on-site search functionality, you’ll instantly achieve a baseline to work off. This gives you something to monitor over time.

To attain your metric, measure the number of sessions that used your site's search function at least once. To achieve a percentage figure, take ‘sessions with search’ out of ‘total sessions’ for the entire period that you choose to measure.

Wherever you start out, you’ll want to be heading for a steady increase over time. Shoppers who interact with on-site search are typically 216% more likely to convert so by tracking this % share within your traffic, you know that you’re doubling down on a highly motivated segment.

To set a target, establish your baseline, then aim for incremental improvements month on month. There’s no optimal or upper limit to the number of search sessions you can be aiming for. It really is a case of the more the merrier, indicating a proactive and highly intentional customer base.

It can also be interesting to note seasonal fluctuations (i.e. if holiday season generates more targeted, intentional shopping and an increase in the percentage of customers starting their journey in the search box, or conversely, if sales have a negative impact, as shoppers are more likely to be browsing, looking for a non-specific bargain). All of this helps you better understand your customer base, and this is knowledge that can be applied to future promotional campaigns.

Why You Might Want to

The average percentage of customers interacting with on-site search sits at around 30%. As already highlighted, this segment displays above-average profitability, being more than twice as likely to convert as those who don’t search.

By optimizing your store design and on-site search experience to encourage greater interaction with search, you’re setting yourself up for a win-win situation. Your customers are following far more targeted and intentional user journeys, and are more likely to find the exact product that they’re looking for.

This speedier, more successful form of shopping leads to better conversion rates (research has shown visitors converting at 4.63% after an interaction with search, versus an average of 2.77%). And your customers will enjoy a more satisfying experience, setting you up for repeat custom and boosted loyalty.

With advances in personalization, you can also gain insight into how many of your customers are returning to your site after a positive experience with on-site search. If you’re actively making improvements across your store to boost engagement with search, set and monitor this essential KPI. Percentage increases over time indicate that you’re headed in the right direction.

How to Improve This Metric

There are a number of ways in which online retailers can optimize for an increase in on-site search use. Starting a search-led journey should be made as appealing as possible. This starts with correct, prominent positioning of the search bar (remember to account for both desktop and mobile views).

Deploying a prefilled search bar is also highly effective. Copy can be suggestive (giving a few popular or trending keywords, information that can be drawn from your search data) or instructive (“search for a model or part number). If there is scope for A/B testing here, it’s highly recommended. Test, test and test again until you refine the perfect prompts to encourage the best levels of on-site search interaction.

By ensuring that your on-site search experience is excellent, intuitive and preemptive, you can also maximise your chances of returning customers heading straight to search, further boosting your KPI results. While the major platforms are starting to bring in some necessary improvements to their built-in search features, when it comes to providing a truly sophisticated, intelligent on-site search solution, Klevu offers an elevated experience that cannot be rivaled by native functionality.

Chapter 3: Double or Quits? – Monitor Your Searchers’ Success

KPI to Track: Site Search Exit Rate

This metric involves keeping track of how many times a potential customer abandoned your store, immediately after performing a search. A low rate suggests that your on-site search is doing its job well, and helping shoppers find the products they were looking for with minimal fuss, annoyance or failure. A higher rate implies that the experience is frustrating your customers — putting them off to the extent that they give up on making their purchase with your store completely.

To track this measurement, obtain the number of searches made immediately before leaving the site and divide by the number of Total Unique Searches performed. You’ll want this metric to drop to as low a level as possible.

Why You Might Want to:

Use this KPI as a general measure of how well your on-site search is performing. If your search experience is proving so disappointing or inconclusive that it’s causing customers to navigate away from your store, you should take immediate action.

Once users have actively decided to perform a search, you’re in a very strong position for conversion. You know they have a specific item in mind, and you have a fantastic opportunity to present them with relevant information and appealing options. These are some of your most highly motivated shoppers — losing sales which should be almost guaranteed suggests that something needs to change, fast.

If you’re seeing a high level of drop off after searches are performed, people are either simply not finding what they’re looking for, or the results pages served up are presented in such a way that they’re put off refining their selection and making a purchase decision. This is really valuable information that can inform targeted action.

How to Improve This Metric:

There are many reasons that a search could prove fruitless. Thankfully, working with Klevu can help to mitigate against them. A common reason for failure in terms of search is a zero results search term. This could easily convince a shopper with a very specific item in mind that your store had nothing to offer them, causing them to try another retailer.

You can guard against this type of exit by leveraging NLP and catalog synonym enrichment. This entails automatically adding contextually relevant synonyms to your catalog in metadata format, resulting in three times the depth and coverage of search results, and (assuming you stock it) maximizing the chances of your search returning the item they had in mind.

If customers are searching for items that you don’t stock, you can still use Klevu to maximize your chances of making a sale. Our intelligent algorithm can offer popular alternatives, or you can leverage insight into search term data to deploy custom banners, redirecting them to an equivalent brand that you do stock.

Chapter 4: Bringing a Boost – Tracking the Value of On-Site Searches

KPI to Track: Revenue With vs Without Search

This is a great metric to track when you want to see the concrete ROI you’re getting from improvements to your on-site search. You’re examining the revenue brought in from sessions that converted without the use of search, vs those that converted after the use of on-site search at least once.

Of course, although you’ll be looking to boost the total number of customers using on-site search during their sessions (as discussed in Chapter 1), they will very likely still represent a smaller percentage of your users.

So, we can expect total revenue to be less for this segment, but not proportionately so. To drill down, you can also examine AOV (with vs without search), but revenue is a great indicator of the bigger picture.

Why You Might Want to:

By looking at the relationship between revenue with and without the use of search, you can start to get a good idea of how much on-site search is helping to drive your store’s revenue above and beyond what could reasonably be expected.

Looking at the proportional ratios here gives a great indication of how hard your on-site search is working for you — it can inform your decision to invest further in search.

If you’re seeing above average proportional return for revenue with search and you’re not already working with Klevu, we’d strongly recommend signing up for our totally free trial. You know that the potential is there. By applying market-leading machine learning to supercharge your customers’ experience, you can use the trial period to track impact on revenue across the board.

How to Improve this Metric:

In simplest terms, you need to make sure your on-site search is truly firing on all cylinders!

While the major platforms are slowly starting to make improvements in their provision, to really maximize the opportunity for revenue growth in this section, you need to be working with a specialist.

One of the biggest benefits Klevu brings here is the killer combination of machine learning and personalization. This means that your site is serving up an ever-improving experience for your shoppers — tailored to their own needs, interests and history of interaction.

Sign up for a free trial to see the impact that an investment in on-site search can have on your proportional revenue.

Chapter 5: Bullseye Every Time – Super Speedy Search Satisfaction

KPI to track: Percentage Search Refinements

This metric (calculated as Search Refinements divided by Page views of search result pages) pays attention to the number of times your users needed to input a search query before they stopped searching (indicating that they found what they were looking for — or gave up...).

Clearly the lower the number here, the better. While it may seem like the way that your users choose to search is out of your control (you can’t dictate their input, after all) you can still maximize the chances of them getting a direct hit. In this chapter, we’ll explain how.

Why You Might Want to:

Online retailers know that attention spans are short (especially with the rise in mobile traffic — more on that to come in Chapter 6). By aiming for a reduction in the number of search terms a user needs to input before they find the item they had in mind, you’re removing crucial barriers to conversion.

Speedy and accurate product discovery is a huge boost to customer experience and reduces the time taken to that all-important “add to cart”. Don’t underestimate the potential of a frustrating search experience to send a customer running to a competitor. In fact studies show that almost 75% of shoppers were “likely” or “very likely” to leave a store that didn’t provide them with satisfactory search results.

How to Improve This Metric:

As previously mentioned, it may seem like you don’t have a lot of control over how your users interact with the search bar, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Klevu offers multiple features to help your shoppers score a direct hit with their very first search query. Autocomplete is a great way to ensure that shoppers are served popular, trending suggestions at a single keystroke. Again, consider the option of prefilled search bar copy — a list of trending items as suggestions can be a great steer.

A high error tolerance for mistyped words is also crucial (especially if a large portion of your audience is mobile). NLP and catalog enrichment have a role to play here, ensuring that a broad range of search terms and query formats can be correctly interpreted and linked to the products users are searching for.

Trending searches and popular keywords are also key to ensuring that you’ve got your finger on the pulse when it comes to keeping up with what your audience are currently favoring and likely to be on the hunt for. Klevu’s intelligent algorithm will monitor this data across your store and apply its findings to your merchandising automatically, releasing you from hours of research and manual merchandising efforts.

Personalization is increasingly important in helping to apply a razor-sharp focus to the search served to the customer in question. By building up a clear picture of their likes and dislikes, shopping habits and personal attributes, suggested products can become ever more targeted and appealing.

Chapter 6: Device, Device Baby – Tracking Traffic Categories

KPI to Track: Device Categories

Whilst not technically a standalone KPI, this can prove incredibly useful to keep track of your traffic split in terms of device type. 

Monitor the percentage splits of mobile versus desktop traffic to see how your customers are typically choosing to interact with your online store. You can also track the conversion rates on both types of devices. Typically 90% of consumers say they use multiple devices to complete day to day tasks, with 40% saying they use a mobile device to conduct research prior to deciding upon and completing a purchase.

Why You Might Want to:

Retailers need to be constantly monitoring the way that people are accessing and experiencing their stores. Consumer behavior is in constant flux. While it’s good to be aware of general industry trends and patterns when it comes to devices and e-commerce, it’s essential to be aware of your own traffic.

When you know more about the ways that people are visiting your store, you can start to optimize their varying experiences. It also means you can get smart with segmenting your data, as you appraise KPIs side by side, observing and responding to any differences for desktop and mobile.

Mobile shoppers are looking for speed, convenience and accuracy. Typically they’re in a more distracted and impulsive mood, so if they’re searching for something specific, you need to roll out the red carpet. This means providing a truly superlative search experience.

How to Improve This Metric:

If you’re looking to pay more attention to improving the outcomes of your mobile traffic, Klevu is your secret weapon.

Fully responsive, device-agnostic and designed from a mobile-first standpoint, Klevu offers many features to help optimize the experience of the growing segment of mobile customers.

These include auto-complete search terms at a single key stroke, enhanced by machine learning to suggest the most popular, accurate and personally relevant queries. This is exceptionally handy when typing on a small keypad, on the go. Automatically merchandised results pages are another win for mobile. Again generated by our powerful self-learning algorithm, they increase the chances of your customer finding the object of their desires at the top of the search results, leading to a speedier, more seamless add to cart. You can even go one better and remove the need to click through to results at all with instant product recommendations shown in quick search overlay - a dynamic and visually appealing presentation of products that can appear at a single keystroke.


Data tells us not only how our stores are performing, but also how that performance could be improved. In today’s competitive world, it’s essential to pay close attention to the metrics your store is generating.

As this guide has shown, on-site search KPIs have the power to shine a light on (and significantly improve) a number of high-impact performance factors and help retailers zone in on the areas that represent the most untapped potential.

To get the most out of your on-site search, you need to work with a solution that goes above and beyond the standard platform-level functionality.

The impact of getting Klevu up and running is almost instantaneous — the machine learning element grinds into gear right away and becomes more accurate over time, as more information is collected and it learns how to best serve your customers.

Klevu integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics to give you an insightful overview of the stats you’ll need to start measuring the impact and performance on your on-site search.

If you’d like to see concrete proof of Klevu’s ability to move the needle with all of the KPIs we’ve touched upon in this ebook, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the hard evidence for yourself by the end of your free trial.

Installation is simple. It can be completed in under an hour, and there’s no need to hand over any card details. When presented with the wide-ranging improvements our product returns, we’re confident you’ll recognize the excellent ROI that Klevu represents (and already provides to our many happy customers).

Ready to start smashing those site search KPIs? Schedule a demo today and let’s get you started.


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