In Comperio, we create and develop a lot of interesting search solutions for our customers. The UX designers do user interviews, create personas, user stories, concepts analysis and interaction design. The developers follow up with content analysis, installation of software, configuration, development, and a lot of relevancy tuning: “How can we ensure that the right results end up at the top of our result page” is always one of the big questions.
But very often a small aspect of search is neglected: The zero result page, or the zero results strategy (There are many reasons for this, I’ll explain one later*). Yesterday I came across a search that I think could benefit greatly from zero result strategy. I was reading an article about some really good Norwegian authors, and decided to buy some of the books at a Norwegian E-book store called ebok.no. The E-book market in Norway is not very big, even if the general book market is. Few books are published as E-books and you often have to wait a while before a book is available as an E-book. I was lucky and found two out of the three books I wanted. The last one: “Bergeners” by Tomas Espedal I misspelled a couple of times before I got it right. Even then I had to check a regular bookstore to see if it was actually correctly spelled.
Solution: Monetize search
What if ebok.no, every time a user got a zero result, did a lookup in a database to check if the search query matched an actual book. If yes, say the following:
Sorry, we don’t have the book “[title]” by [author] available as an E-book.
Would you like us to send an email when/if it is available as an E-book at ebok.no?
It the user agrees, you have achieved one and maybe two things. Firstly, you’ve made your users do a one time subscription to pay you money even if you slapped them with a zero result. Secondly, if the user wasn’t a registered user already, you may have convinced him or her to become a registered user later on because of good customer service.
*One reason a zero result strategy often is neglected is that you need the search to be in production for a while before you have enough data to analyse your zero results. In most cases, by that time, the project has ended.