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Conversion Optimization

eCommerce Search Results Page: 15 Conversion Principles for Reducing Drop-offs

Data shows that nearly 50 percent of shoppers go straight to the search bar. We reviewed the top 15 psychological principles that can drive conversion on your eCommerce search results page and help you sell more.

eCommerce Search Results Page: 15 Conversion Principles for Reducing Drop-offs

eCommerce shoppers don’t want to waste time finding products.

Implementing site search can streamline the product discovery experience, leading to more conversions.

Data shows that nearly 50 percent of shoppers go straight to the search bar.

Also, site search users are over two times more likely to buy and spend almost three times more than non-searchers.

We reviewed the top 15 psychological principles that can drive conversion on your eCommerce search results page and help you sell more.

Come, let's explore them… 

1. Fitts’ Law: Favor Designs that Make Your Users' Lives Easier

You know it. In physics, the time it'll take you to get to a target depends on the distance between you and that target.

But you're probably unaware that it also relates inversely to the size.

Paul Fitts discovered this in 1954. Applying the principle to your UI can make a difference.

The law postulates that the time required for a person to move a pointer to a target area is a function of the distance to the target divided by the size of the target.

So, making your search results big enough and closer to a user’s prime pixel (the default location of a user’s cursor while on your page) can shorten the time it’ll take to interact with them, improving your conversion chances.

How to Apply the Principle

Let's explore how to apply this principle to your search results pages.

▪️ Reduce interaction time

Make the search results bold and imposing.

Also, locate them close to users' prime pixels to make them more accessible, shortening the time required for users to interact with them.

Amazon achieves these by showing its search results in list views. 

Fitts Law in eCommerce Search Results Page Conversion Principles

▪️ Offer infinite scrolling

Clicking the More button repeatedly could be tiring. 

Most shoppers don’t often have the patience to keep going if they can't find what they’re looking for in a few clicks.

However, infinite scroll allows you to engage them with new results in a continuous cycle. 

It creates a compulsive viewing experience that could keep them longer on the page.

▪️ Enable fluid filtering

Shoppers want to find products easily and quickly.

Filters are your best bet. They enable customers to shortlist their products based on parameters.

Enabling multiple filters lets them narrow their searches to match their intent.

It eliminates the need to scroll deeply to find whatever they’re looking for.

Amazon allows shoppers searching for laptops to filter by over 40 parameters.

As a result, it minimizes the time customers spend finding the items, leading to an excellent user experience.

Fitts Law Conversion Principle Example

▪️ Add CTA button

Why should shoppers add to carts on a new page after going through the pains of finding the products?

Why can’t they do it on the search results page?

Many eCommerce brands, including Amazon, make this mistake.

A lot of things could happen between the few seconds it'll take the product page to load.

So, add the 'Buy Now' buttons on each product. 

Don't give shoppers any chance to change their minds.

Hey, have you seen this? 21 ways to create call-to-action buttons that convert

Key Takeaway

Reducing the time shoppers spend on the search results page can improve your conversion rate.

2. The Liking Principle: Use Collaborative Voice and Gestures

People might have advised you against following the herds. 

Yes, it pays to be yourself. But are people wired to be themselves?

Liking Principle in eCommerce Search Results Page

I don’t think so.

Humans are naturally drawn to a sense of belonging—they crave to belong.

According to the Liking principle, we like people:

  • Who are similar to us, 
  • Those we want to be like, and 
  • Who compliment us 

Of course, these people are more likely to persuade us than those we have no affinity with.

So, gaining customers' trust is not rocket science. Behave like them and let them see you as one of their own.

A study found that successful sales reps are ten times more likely to use collaborative words, like "us," "we," and "our" instead of "I" and "me" during a conversation.

How to Apply the Principle

The best way to apply the Liking principle in your UI designs is to use real human faces. But let's explore how to use it in your search results page.

▪️ Go for physical attractiveness

First impressions matter.

Designing a stunning and aesthetic UI lets you draw and retain searchers' attention. It's probably all you need to create an excellent first impression.

However, keep the design straightforward and minimalistic so shoppers won't have trouble finding what they're looking for.

▪️ Be consistent with the design layout

Consistency builds trust. It also offers clarity and reassurance.

The same applies to UI designs. So making your design layout consistent is a no-brainer.

First, ensure that buttons, styles, font, typefaces, and other elements are consistent.

Of course, you can spice things up to create visual interest, provided they don’t confuse and frustrate searchers.

▪️ Maintain standardized UI/UX principles 

Your customers must have shopped in other eCommerce stores, which makes them familiar with popular patterns and designs.

Offering them something else could confuse them, leading to a low engagement rate. So use standard design principles when creating your search results page. 

It creates a sense of control, familiarity, and reliability.

Key Takeaway

Use consistent design layouts to create familiarity.

3. Jakob’s Law: Use Designs Customers Find Familiar 

Jakob Nielsen, a usability expert, found a relationship between a person’s cumulative online experience and their design expectation. 

Jakob's Law in eCommerce Search Results Page

He propounded Jakob's law to describe how brands can benefit by aligning their designs to patterns customers are already familiar with. 

For example, the law states that users spend most of their time on other sites and prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

The law enables users to exert less mental energy to learn your interface.

It leads to a lower cognitive load, allowing the searchers to focus on completing the tasks rather than learning new models.

Applying this design principle to your search result page doesn’t require much.

Just follow standardized practices in search design. Then, look at what other eCommerce stores are doing and replicate them.

It lets you leverage customers' pre-existing mental models and cumulative experience to deliver a superior search experience.

Key Takeaway

Following similar design practices lets you create an eCommerce search result page that’ll conform to users’ expectations.

4. The Law of Recognition Rather Than Recall: Make Processes Intuitive to Reduce Memory Overload

The law of recognition rather than recall is Jakob Nielsen's sixth usability heuristic for user interface design.

Recognition Than Recall Conversion Principle

The law explains that the more cues present for a given task, the easier it becomes to recognize and perform the job.

Jakob believes that visible objects, actions, and options can minimize users' memory load, leading to a great user experience.

He advised that users shouldn’t have to recall important information on how to perform a task. Instead, designers should provide visible and easily retrievable instructions every step of the way.

Jakob believes that this extra help can promote recognition.

How to Apply the Principle

Let's explore ways you can apply this principle to your search results page.

▪️ Offer autocomplete on the search bar

An autocomplete feature lets the search engine predict users’ search terms. 

It auto-suggests queries as they type, eliminating the need to enter the characters manually.

Enabling the feature means shoppers won't have to go through the stress of recalling the right search terms to use.

▪️ Use placeholder text on the search bar

A placeholder text instructs users on the required data format for a form field.

Adding it to your search bar guides users on the right steps, preventing them from making mistakes and leading to an excellent user experience.

For example, LuckyVitamins uses a placeholder text to tell customers they can search for products and brands.

eCommerce Search Results Page Conversion Principles

▪️ Show ‘previously viewed’ products & enable wishlisting

Enabling previously viewed products and wishlists can aid recognition rather than recall, saving customers a lot of mental energy.

For instance, while a wishlist lets them add and collect all the items they wish to buy for future reference, a “previously viewed” functionality allows shoppers to see their recent history, minimizing the use of the “back” button or need to repeat searches.

Key Takeaway

Using visual cues in UI designs promotes recognition over recalls, minimizing users' mental effort to complete a task.

5. Miller’s Law: Minimize User Options to Boost Conversion

Consumers don’t often want people selling to them.

However, giving them choices makes them feel they’re in control of their purchasing decisions. But too many options could overwhelm them, leading to indecision and a lower conversion rate. 

Miller's Law Conversion Principle

Of course, you don’t want that.

But grouping your options in sevens could make all the difference. It could be your magic number.

George A Miller found that the average human can only keep seven (plus or minus two) items in their working memory.

He believes that the amount of data necessary to choose between two similar alternatives lies between five and nine pieces of information.

So, you could risk missing a sale by showing more than nine search results.

How to Apply the Principle

Let’s find out ways you can apply the principle.

▪️ Don’t overwhelm the user with results

Show approximately seven results to let searchers quickly compare options.

Organizing search results into smaller chunks helps users quickly process, understand, and memorize the products' details.

In addition, it enables them to compare choices without repeatedly scrolling back to remember information.

Additionally, add pagination to help users manage their information load.

▪️ Even on filters, employ seven options at a time

Filters help shoppers quickly find what they are looking for. 

The simple act of adding them to your store improves your conversion rate significantly.

However, enabling too many filter options could lead to usability issues, plummeting your conversion rate.

For instance, a long filter list pushes other parameters out of view.

As a result, users will have to scroll deeply to apply the other options, which could be uncomfortable for most customers.

So, curate your best filter options to keep the list short.

Key Takeaway

Implementing pagination and organizing the search results in smaller chunks helps prevent information overload.

6. The Principle of Common Region: Help Users Understand the Relationship Between Items

People see elements placed in the same area as a group.

The principle of the common region says that people perceive items within a boundary as a group and assume they share some common characteristics or functionality.

So, creating a boundary in your UI designs helps people quickly understand the relationship between elements and sections. 

For instance, you could notice in the image below that the boundary around the three middle circles makes them appear as part of the same group.

eCommerce Search Results Page Conversion Principles

Also, using a dark background color for the footer area shows all the links and elements in the section belong to the same group.

So, applying the common region principle to your search results page is a no-brainer. It lets searchers make sense of it.

How to Apply the Principle

Let’s look at some of the ways you can apply this principle.

▪️ Group similar filters together

Organize similar filters into groups to create a common region.

It helps searchers understand what they're filtering by. Lumping the filters together without ways to differentiate them could confuse users, leading to a poor experience.

Amazon does it so well. You should replicate that on your pages.

Common Region eCommerce Search Results Page

▪️ Use a separate color as a contrast for selected items

Searchers should know when they have applied a filter. 

You could achieve this using color contrasts or check marks.

It creates a common region between applied and unapplied filters, enabling users to identify and remove items they don't want quickly. 

Key Takeaway

Establishing a common region for similar elements helps searchers quickly understand groupings.

7. KISS Principle: Keep Products Simple and Easy to Understand

Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).

Kelly Johnson, a lead engineer at Lockheed Skunk Works, coined the phrase, and it's probably the first usability principle for product and UI designs.

He explained that if products aren't simple and easy to understand, they would quickly become obsolete.

Keep It Simple Stupid Conversion Principle

The phrase has evolved into many variants, such as "keep it short and simple." but the objectives remain the same—every process should deliver the most straightforward possible outcome.

One of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous quotes gave credence to this principle.

According to him, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." So, you don't have to go above and beyond to create stunning designs. Instead, keeping it short and straightforward could win you the game.

How to Apply the Principle

Let’s see ways you can apply this principle.

▪️ Keep search intuitive

Make your search feature straightforward.

The simpler a tool, the more likely people will find it helpful. Loading them with features will only overwhelm users, putting them off.

Ludwig Mis van Rohe, a respected architect, said, "Less is more."

You could use the advice.

▪️ Have easily filterable options

Filters can help users streamline their searches.

With filters, shoppers don’t have to scroll through search results to find what they’re looking for.

It also eliminates the need to try different search terms to get the right products, keeping the entire process short and simple.

Key Takeaway

Keeping search simple and intuitive makes the search feature helpful to users.

Curious? Check out eCommerce site search: 18 improvements that prevent drop-offs (+ actual examples)

8. Hick-Hyman Law: Show Only the Most Relevant Products to Shoppers

Too many choices can be wrong for the user experience.

Of course, people love having options; that's why we make backup plans. But it becomes counterproductive if they have to sift through a large volume of information to decide.

Hick's law says that the more choices you give customers, the longer it’ll take to reach a decision.

William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman, British and American psychologists, established a direct relationship between the number of stimuli present and the time an individual will take to react to any given stimulus.

They found that it takes longer to decide on the stimulus to react to when the individuals have more choices.

So, giving customers manageable options makes conversion quicker.

How to Apply the Principle

How do you apply this principle? Let’s find out.

▪️ Highlight the most relevant results

Show the most relevant search results at the top of the page.

Like Google, give customers manageable options by displaying only ten results on each page.

You could highlight the top results with a "best seller," "hand-picked results," or any appropriate tag to aid shoppers' decision-making.

Amazon is a classic example of a brand doing it so well.

Hick Hyman in eCommerce Search Results Page

▪️ Use card-sorting and categorize choices

Some eCommerce sites contain hundreds of products, making it challenging to find items quickly.

However, the sorting functionality streamlines this, improving eCommerce product findability. 

It rearranges the products according to selected criteria, making the most relevant products appear on top of the search results.

As a result, searchers can quickly drill down to what they want without having to sift through extensive results.

Key Takeaway

Giving customers fewer choices simplifies decision-making, leading to more conversions.

9. Zeigarnik Effect: Use Interruptions to Nudge Shoppers

It’s easier to remember uncompleted tasks than the ones we’ve finished.

Bluma Zeigarnik, a Soviet psychologist, observed that incomplete action primes people towards remembering relevant information that might help them complete them.

For example, she found that interrupting people during a task makes them recall the interrupted tasks almost twice as much as completed ones.

Zeigarnik Effect in eCommerce Search Results Page

This tendency is due to cognitive priming.

Researchers believe that when you start a task, your mind primes you towards it. As a result, you'll have only related thoughts in your mind until you complete the job, which then recedes to long-term memory.

You stay glued to your television when seeing a movie due to the mental tension this effect causes. For this reason, television stations also air commercials in the middle of a TV show. Leveraging this effect in your search can help you nudge shoppers to conversion.

For instance, you can display pop-ups offering searchers coupon codes and nudging them to add a product to the chart when they scroll through the search results.

It works because interrupting their task unsettles them, creating mental tension, while the discount will nudge them closer to conversion.

However, it might backfire if your incentive is not enough to nudge them.

Key Takeaway

Incomplete tasks build mental tension that keeps people uncomfortable until they complete a task.

free guide by convertcart

10. The Von Restorff Effect: Make Key Features Stand Out

Being visually different makes items stand out from the crowd.

Hedwig Von Restorff, a Soviet psychiatrist, found that people are more likely to recall isolated pieces of information or incidents.

He predicted that items that stand out, like "a sore thumb," are more memorable than other items.

In other words, giving people a list of similar items with one distinctive item will improve memory for the isolated item.

This cognitive bias is the Von Restorff effect, also known as the isolation effect.

Von Restorff Conversion Principles
Image credit: Coglode

You can apply the Von Restorff principle in your UX designs by making design elements or key actions visually distinctive.

It helps you keep users on the right track, enabling more conversions.

How to Apply the Principle

Let's explore how you can apply the principle on your search results page.

▪️ Emphasize the search bar

Use a different color to make the search bar distinctive.

Isolating the element effortlessly draws shoppers' attention to the search bar.

It could spur the visitors to use the feature to streamline their product discovery, leading to a more positive user experience.

▪️ Highlight your bestsellers with contrasting buttons or borders

Making your best sellers stand out could improve their conversion rates.

Use contrasting buttons, borders, or bestseller tags to isolate them from the rest of the search results.

You could also blur or fade specific search results to de-emphasize them.

Key Takeaway

Creating isolated UI elements helps draw attention to them and improve people's memory.

11. Serial Position Effect: Place Key Items First and Last

Product sequence matters a lot in UI design.

People are more likely to remember the first and last items in a series than the middle items. This cognitive bias, known as the serial position effect, includes primacy and recency effects.

The primacy effect is the tendency of people to remember or assign more importance to the first items on a list, while the recency effect is the opposite.

Serial Position Effect in eCommerce Search Results Page

Items at the beginning of a sequence require comparatively more minor processing effort, making it easier to commit them to memory.

Psychologists also believe that recent items are memorable because the short-term memory, which processes conscious and perceptual information, preserves them.

Primacy and recency effects have a strong influence on how people recall information.

For this reason, most commercials have their most compelling information at the beginning and end of the advert.

How to Apply the Principle

Let's see how you can apply the principle to your search result pages.

▪️ Host your bestsellers at the top & bottom of the page

Place your top products at your search results' first and last three.

You can establish a common region using the best seller or any appropriate tag to draw attention to them. Or, you could use color contrast to highlight them to stand out from the results.

Sadly, most eCommerce stores are not using this conversion principle. Explore this hack to improve your conversion rates.

▪️ In a product carousel, host bestsellers at the start & end

You can also apply this principle using the product carousel.

With it, you don't even need to establish any common region. Instead, just place your top-selling products at the carousel's beginning and end, and the serial position effect will take care of the rest.

Key Takeaway

Placing items at the beginning and end of a sequence makes them more memorable.

12. The Law of Reciprocity: Give Before You Ask in Return

Expecting things from people when you haven’t given anything is a big ask.

Of course, humans are more receptive when they feel indebted to you. So, giving before you take creates a feeling of indebtedness, fertilizing the ground for conversion.

The reciprocity principle states that people tend to pay back what they receive from others.

The principle is one of the oldest psychological tools in eCommerce marketers' playbooks. You've probably given up your email address for discounts, free ebooks, or product samples. It's the principle at work.

It won't hurt to use the same trick in your eCommerce searches.

How to Apply the Principle

Let's explore how you can apply this principle to your search results page.

▪️ Offer a discount pop-up 

Use a pop-up to offer searchers a discount as they scroll through the search results. Studies found that nearly 30 percent of online shoppers will complete a purchase they didn't intend to if it has a heavy discount.

It could also improve your average order value by up to 26 percent.

▪️ Provide automatic coupon 

Amazon doesn’t use pop-ups, which could be intrusive.

It tags the products, enabling searchers to see options with a coupon.

Shoppers can apply the coupon automatically during checkout, saving them the stress of memorizing boring codes or typing them to use the coupon.

UI Design Law of Reciprocity

▪️ Offer a lead magnet or social proof right below a search bar

Offer a lead magnet like free shipping or promo code below your search bar to entice shoppers.

It's also an excellent option if you feel offering pop-ups on the search results page is intrusive.

LuckyVitamin places its lead magnets both above and below the search bar.

UI Design Principle for Search Bar

Key Takeaway

Giving before taking from customers makes them indebted to your brand.

Hey, check out 11 brilliant ways to get More micro-conversions (Updated 2022)

13. The Principle of Continuity: Position Products in an Order that Suggests a Pattern 

The continuity principle focuses on how people perceive the world around them.

It states that people perceive elements in a line or curve to be related as opposed to those not present in a line or curve.

In other words, humans are likelier to see continuous and smooth flowing lines than broken or jagged ones. 

The principle explains that the human mind tries to see logic, patterns, and structure in everything, including chaos, to make sense of it.

It tries to use order and symmetry to trick the brain and influence visual perception.

For instance, a typical human will see two straight lines of dots in the image below rather than two broken lines of dots. 

Gestalt Principle of Continuity

The reason is the mind naturally follows a line or curve. In the process, it unifies multiple elements on the curve or linear path, creating a continuation that lets people see patterns in chaos.

The continuity principle is part of the Gestalt school of psychology, which covers other principles, including:

  • Closure
  • Similarity
  • Proximity
  • Common region
  • Focal point 
  • Figure and ground

Gestaltism underpins the modern theory of human perception. It postulates that the principles of similarity, closure, continuity, common region, figure and ground, proximity, and focal point influence human perception. 

Applying the continuity principle on the search result page improves usability and user experience.

The human brain loves following routes, so displaying search results in a grid view improves clarity, making it more straightforward for users to compare options and quickly find what they are looking for.

LuckyVitamin displays its search results in grids, unlike Amazon, which prefers the list view.

Gestalt Principle in UI Design

I don't know if it's just me, but I noticed that searching for products on LuckyVitamin is easier than on Amazon. The grid makes things more straightforward for me.

Key Takeaway

Displaying search results in grids shows continuity, promoting clarity and easy decision-making.

14. Dual-Coding Theory: Pair Words and Images to Help Shoppers Recall Offers Better

Verbal and non-verbal stimuli help people better grasp information.

Allan Pavio, a Canadian psychologist, found that human memory has two separate channels that deal with visual and verbal stimuli.

Albeit they store information independently, the channels create associative connections (linked memories), making information encoding and retrieval easier.

Pavio explained that pairing words and images don't incur an additional cognitive load on learners.

Also, he believed the linked memory due to the associative connection between the channels causes the word or visual to stimulate the retrieval of the other. 

Giving credence to this submission, Professor Paul Kirschner posited that dual coding leaves a double memory trace, resulting in “double-barrelled learning” due to the double retrieval opportunity by either verbal or visual means.

How to Apply the Principle

Let's see how you can apply the principle to improve conversion.

▪️ Use rich-content search results

Add all the necessary product details to make the search results content-rich.

Use a clear product image to quickly encode the information and make retrieval easier while comparing other options.

Also, represent important features like free shipping with icons and texts.

▪️ Use video, where possible

If an image can say a thousand words like in the diagram below, then a video is ten times that.

Dual-Coding Theory in Search Page Design for eCommerce

So, use video in searches, of course, where possible, to improve encoding. For example, Amazon often adds a video below search results to promote sponsored products.

Search Results Page Conversion Principle

Also, you could explore replacing selected product images with short videos to see how shoppers react to them. Finally, add a clear thumbnail to entice searchers.

Key Takeaway

Formation of mental images through dual-coding aids learning and information retrieval.

15. The Pareto Principle: Focus On and Invest In Your Best Performing Products, Ads, and Features

Life isn’t fair.

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, found that roughly 80 percent of land in Italy belongs to only 20 percent of the population.

Also, he observed that 20 percent of plants in his garden produce 80 percent of the fruits, while the majority contribute a mere 20 percent.

The observation led to the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule.

80/20 Pareto Principle eCommerce
Image credit: uxdesign.cc


It states that, on average, roughly 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of causes.

In other words, a small percentage of inputs will have an outsized outcome.

That’s to say:

  •  20 percent of workers will produce 80 percent of the results
  • 20 percent of customers generate 80 percent of the revenue
  • 20 percent of UI features drive 80 percent of usage

Put simply…

You'll generate 80 percent of your revenue from roughly 20 percent of your products. So, identifying and prioritizing these vital few helps you sell more.

How to Apply the Principle

Let’s explore ways you can apply this principle.

▪️ Optimize the top 20% of products for better search

Make shoppers see your top performers when they search for products.

Removing the "80 percent" from the top search results minimizes competition with the top performers, enabling you to skyrocket your revenue.

You could also show tags or create common regions for the "20 percent" to draw attention to them.

▪️ Offer recommended products 

You probably know the importance of product recommendations.

Adding the feature to search can boost your conversion rate. Of course, you should recommend only the top 20-percent products.

It enables you to build customers' journeys from your top-performing products.

Key Takeaway

Applying the 80/20 rule in search helps you maximize your highest-impact products.

Keep Reading: 14 proven strategies to increase your eCommerce revenue

What Next?

We've explored 15 psychological principles you can apply in your search results page designs.

Some of the top eCommerce brands use them to stay ahead of the competition. Actioning the tips in this article can help you level up.H

owever, some of these laws are not mutually exclusive; they could bump into each other—for instance, Fitt Law and Miller Law. 

While the former encourages you to implement infinite scrolling to engage searchers in a continuous cycle to reduce their interaction time, Miller law advocates using pagination to give searchers manageable choices.

So, split-test before applying any principle at scale.

It lets you deliver a compelling and science-backed search experience to shoppers.

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