E-Mail Thursday – Search Functionality Within E-Mail



At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that we all know what a search box is and how useful one can be on your website, let alone in a search engine. These days you’ll be hard-pressed to find a retail website that does not have a search box either within their navigation bar or elsewhere on their page.

But let’s look at the case of email campaigns – can you include search functionality within an email template, how do you do it, and is it a good idea?

Search functionality within email is possible, as you can see from the sample from Art.com. A recent study conducted by The Retail Email Blog demonstrates the different types of usage of search functionality within email campaigns.

While they found that only 19% of the retail email clients they examined included search functionality, the various methods within that 19% included (and I’ll list them here in decreasing order):

  1. A search form. Essentially a search box that allows a subscriber to enter in a search directly into the email and once they hit the submit button, a new browser window will open with their search results displayed on a specific page on your website.
  2. A search link or a button. This won’t allow a user to type in their search within the email itself, but it will take them to a search area on your website.
  3. An image of a search button. This is very similar to the search link / button listed above.

Now that you know that search functionality within email is possible, your next question is most likely – is it a good idea? Essentially: to search or not to search within your emails. This is admittedly a funny question for Exclusive Concepts, as we offer a wealth of search services, but in the case of email I’ll answer like an economist: it depends.

Before we delve into the pros and cons, the one thing that must be mentioned is that many email clients automatically disable forms or put up other roadblocks (like security warnings) when a subscriber tries to use the search form. This is why other companies use a search link or a search image in place of an actual search box, even though it is nice for the user to enter their search directly within their email.

The pros and cons mostly relate the fact that there is a limited amount of space to work within email. It is a smaller space than a webpage, and most people scan emails within a few seconds before deciding to read further.

If you include search functionality, you allow a user to look for the exact thing they have in mind although it takes them away from your email and they may miss out on your main message / promotion.

If you don’t include it, you risk not including the specific product/content that a user wants to see but you have the whole of your email to effectively communicate the message (whether it’s a featured brand, product, etc.) you want to convey.

The answer will ultimately be determined through testing. The way your consumers use and navigate your website may not translate to how they read and navigate your emails.

Here at Exclusive Concepts, we don’t recommend a one-size fits all approach to incorporating these different elements within your email marketing program. We conduct A/B split testing to test our hypotheses to determine what works best for you and your business.