Site search is an essential feature for any business website, and allows users to find relevant products, services, content and general information. A robust and well-designed site search functionality allows your online visitors to discover what they want in an intuitive and frictionless way.
However, online businesses often underestimate the importance of providing a good site search experience to visitors, to their own detriment. In fact, when it comes down to evaluating search performance, over 49% of websites don't even support abbreviations and symbols for units such as 'inches' on their site search. This leads to missed opportunities to help the user find relevant products and improve online conversions.
Why is it so important to provide a great site search experience?
The chief reason is that search is the main way that online shoppers and browsers use to get to what they're interested in. 30% of online visitors are inclined to use a site search box when it’s available; moreover, people who use search typically already have a specific thing they’re looking for, which means they tend to convert better than casual browsers. So as a business owner, you definitely do not want to disappoint this segment of visitors with a poor search experience: their disappointment will translate directly to site abandonment and a loss of potential revenue for you.
Another reason for the importance of great search experiences is the explosive growth of mobile commerce, with over 21.
Thus, if you’re an online business owner, the message should be clear: your site’s search capabilities need to be as smart, sleek and well-thought-out as possible so that your visitors can find exactly what they are looking for, as quickly as possible and with minimal cognitive effort.
7 things you should do to offer a better and smarter search experience
So now that the importance of providing a great search experience is clear, let's take a look at some popular techniques and technologies that can help you do so.
1. Use natural language search for improved accuracy
Natural language search allows users to type in questions or queries in their own words, rather than having to use specific keywords or other commands. This makes it much easier for users to find the products they're looking for, and also makes the search engine much more user-friendly.
With natural language search, the same query can be interpreted in different ways depending on the context, which can lead to more accurate results. For example, if a user searches for "red shoes", this could be interpreted as meaning either shoes that are red in color or shoes that are made by the brand Red Tape.
2. Leverage the power of visual search
The rise of visual and image search has contributed to high consumer expectations when it comes to ecommerce site search. Offering image search can make the search experience much richer by allowing visitors to find products or content related to something that they’ve seen elsewhere and liked.
3. Incorporate typo tolerance, synonym detection, and autocomplete in your search
Typos are common when people are searching for something online. By incorporating typo tolerance into your search, you can help make sure that your visitors will still be able to find what they're looking for even if they misspell a word while typing in a query. Synonym detection expands search results to include items that are related to the original search query. Autocomplete suggests possible searches as the user is typing, based on previous searches or popular items.
4. Provide both facets and filters
While generic filters provide search users with fine-grained control over the search results they see, facets are effectively category- or brand-specific filters. Both these features allow visitors to quickly find the products they're looking for without sifting through a lot of irrelevant results.
For example, if you sell clothes, a customer might use filters to search by size, color, style, etc. In addition, if they look specifically for trousers, you can give them the option to use trouser-specific facets (such as waist size, the cut (boot cut, tapered cut, etc.), whether the displayed trousers have pockets or not, and so on). By providing this level of detail, you can ensure that your customers can find the right product quickly and easily.
5. Offer personalization and recommendations
The best ecommerce search engines use several kinds of data and advanced algorithms in order to offer personalization and recommendations to shoppers. This allows shoppers to see results that are tailored to their individual interests, making the shopping experience more convenient, efficient and smooth. In addition, personalization and recommendations can help lead shoppers to items they may not have otherwise considered, thus driving more sales for the ecommerce business.
6. Explore self-learning ML- and AI-powered search
What could be better than letting a search engine improve its effectiveness on its own, with minimal manual intervention being required? Search engines based on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) can automatically identify patterns in large quantities of data, and can then use this information to adapt and improve the results they produce.
For example, if the data shows that people who search for Product A usually also search for Product B, then a “smart” search engine can adapt automatically and show Product B prominently as a ‘related product’ when a user searches for Product A.
7. Optimize your website for voice search
Voice-based search carried out through smart assistants like Alexa and Cortana has become a popular way to find information online. Indeed, more than 70% of consumers surveyed indicated that they’d rather use voice search than type out a search query. As a result, it’s important for online businesses to make sure that their websites are optimized in such a way that they rank highly among voice search results.
There are several ways to do this, not counting generic SEO optimization. For one thing, instead of mid-tail or even long-tail keywords, you have to consider complete phrases and sentences as “keywords”. In addition, people often use voice search to get answers to questions, so having a well-thought-out FAQ section on your site can be helpful. Lastly, since people often use voice search in their mother tongue rather than in English, it can be a good idea to make sure your website is multilingual.
The days of ordinary “set-it-and-forget-it” site search are over for online businesses that want to evolve with changing customer expectations. Besides, with more brands adopting cutting-edge technologies to power their site search engines, the need for smart and high-quality search will only grow further.
An AI-powered search engine like Zevi is, therefore, a game-changer for online businesses. Zevi offers contextual search powered by natural language processing (NLP) and advanced ML algorithms. The result is an optimized search functionality that understands user intent and delivers accurate, relevant and personalized search results.
Interested in leveling up your site search? Reach out to us today to book a free demo.