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How StubHub Can Leverage the Search Bar to Move the Needle on Conversions


When it comes to online conversion, the most ideal site is one that people are actively looking for. And they have intent to buy once they get there. It’s a difficult sweet spot, because it all hinges on having a great product that has a wide appeal. A perfect example of this marketing Holy Grail is StubHub.com.

StubHub provides a place for people to buy and sell tickets for sports, concerts and the theater. They have a testing platform in place, so we took a look at the home page to brainstorm recommendations for a solid test. After considering all the angles—who was coming to the site, what their intent was, etc.—we found just the ticket. (Yes, I did.)

The search is over

I love seeing live music. So if I’m looking for tickets to see, say, Radiohead, I have a strong intent to purchase. I know I love the band, I know I want to go see the show and I have mentally set aside the dollars needed to buy tickets. So what’s the first thing I’m going to do if I land on StubHub’s site?

Search. I’m going to enter “Radiohead” into the search bar, find the nearest venue and see what seats are available. StubHub has some interesting opportunities for testing the search function. You could try these same tests on your site and see a nice push in conversions:

1. Lower the (search) bar. A technique used on some sites is to have a conversion element—e.g., search bar, sign-up form—follow the user as they scroll down. If done in a well-designed, unobtrusive way, this is a great incentive to convert. Just remember to avoid the route of loud design and annoying, in-your-face functionality. StubHub would be smart to test this function with their search bar, so as visitors scrolled down, they always had the ability to dive right into a ticket search and purchase.

2. Give search more prominence. It would be an interesting test if StubHub replaced the “How StubHub works” module with a search module. They could still have a subtle link to how it works. But truthfully, I’d be interested to know how many people click that. The site is already pretty intuitive, and a lot of the traffic comes from repeat visitors familiar with its function. If this test proved to bump up conversions, then the next logical test would be:

3. Form a search party. Make search the hero. We already know that people are coming to the site to search for tickets. Why not test a large module that stretches across the top of the site and allows you to search? This is a chance to incorporate advanced search functions. The current content at the top can shift down, or the module can be designed to include that content secondary to search. This would give StubHub a lot of valuable learnings about their customers’ online behavior.

If you offer services or products on your site that warrant a search bar, you might want to consider these tests. When a customer knows what they want, making it as easy as possible to find it is a no-brainer. Why make a customer jump through the visual hoops of a content-laden site when you know they want one thing?