Leveraging Search Personalization To Optimize User Experience

October 10, 2022
Personalised search

When was the last time you engaged with a brand that used some form of personalization in its communications or web experience? Chances are — not too long ago. With 80% of consumers more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences, businesses are going all in to offer personalized search and discovery to their audiences. And for good reason — companies that use advanced personalization report a $20 return for every $1 spent. 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the success of personalized recommendations and messaging in enhancing the online user experience. In fact, 63% of consumers will stop buying from brands that use poor personalization tactics. That is an alarming statistic for brands that don’t already employ personalization tools and techniques for their site search engines or messaging. 

Search has always been an important way for netizens to cut through the noise and find exactly what they are looking for. But in 2022, traditional search technologies and algorithms are just not enough to power personalized search for websites. This is especially true when you consider giants like Amazon, Etsy and Netflix churning out highly personalized recommendations and search results for users.

What is search personalization?

Search personalization is the process of customizing the results of a search engine query to reflect the personal preferences of the user. This can be done by taking into account the user's past search behavior, location, order and cart history, gender and other metadata.

Let’s get a better idea of search personalization by looking at a few concrete examples:

1. News platforms

Imagine that you’re on an international news platform, and want to find out about a strike happening in your city. If that platform uses location-based personalization, then you would simply need to type in ‘strike’ into the platform’s search bar, without any need for mentioning your city. The platform will automatically show you search results that pertain to the strike in your city, rather than some other strikes happening in other parts of the world.

2. Online streaming platforms

Let’s say that you’re looking for an action movie to watch on an online streaming platform. If that platform uses personalization, then its search functionality will “know” what kinds of movies you have searched for and watched in the past. Thus, if you simply look for ‘action movies’, the platform will be able to provide recommendations that it “thinks” you would most enjoy. 

3. Online stores and marketplaces

When you search for a product (e.g. ‘t-shirt’) on an online store or marketplace, it can provide you with a list of recommended products. Such a list will rely on all the data the website has about you, including where you live, the products you have bought in the past, etc. Thus, it will show you a list of T-shirts that you are most likely to actually purchase.

Diving into search personalization — How you can personalize search for your audience

Most netizens are familiar with search engines and know how to use them. You type in a query, hit enter, and then a list of results pops up. Seems simple enough. 

But how are these search results personalized for a specific user? Well, in general, search engines collect data regarding users and their actions, and then use such data to determine the most relevant results for a given user. Such data includes the user’s location, age, gender, past search queries, past purchases/views after searching for a particular query, clicks, etc. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common ways in which search results are personalized:

1. Location-based personalization

By understanding your users' location, you can personalize the results of searches in a number of ways. For example, you could provide tailored product recommendations to people in your area who are interested in buying a specific product..

2. Gender-based personalization 

Knowing the gender of a user can also be very useful when it comes to creating personalized search experiences. For instance, on an online clothing store, a man who searches for ‘jeans’ can be shown search results that consist exclusively of jeans for men, while the opposite should be true if a woman searches for the same query.

3. Personalization based on past search and purchase history 

By tracking past user behavior, including past searches, views, and purchases, companies can develop elaborate profiles of their customers and use this knowledge to improve the relevancy of their search results. This makes it easier for users to find the information and products they are looking for.

4. Personalization for new users

Another way to personalize search results for first-time visitors is personalization based on cohorts. Cohort-based modeling leverages signals from users who are similar to the visitors according to predefined variables such as age, location and topic to fine-tune search results.

How search personalization can help your business

Personalized search is not going anywhere. In fact, 72% of consumers admit they only engage with personalized messaging. What’s more, 63% of consumers will stop buying from brands that use poor personalization tactics. It is no surprise then that more businesses are now looking for ways to optimize site search and employ search personalization on their websites.

Here are the benefits of search personalization for your business:

1. Higher click-through rates and more optimal site visit durations

Personalized search enables your site search engine to accurately understand users’ search intent and tailor the results accordingly. This produces relevancy, recency and accuracy in the search results, elevating users’ experience and encouraging them to spend an optimal amount of time on your website (i.e. lower time-to-purchase for ecommerce websites, more time-on-site for content-oriented or OTT websites).

2. Personalized experiences for both known and unknown visitors

As discussed above, while site search personalization works well for returning visitors to your website, you can even customize search results for users who are first-time visitors. This is made possible using data such as browsing history, IP address, the user’s device, and time of the day, or by using cohort-based modeling (i.e. personalization based on the preferences of visitors similar to the target visitor). This can lead to increased conversions and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

3. Improved brand perception

84% of consumers believe that being treated like a person, not just another online user, is very important to attracting their business, according to Salesforce. With tailored search, businesses can make visitors feel valued and heard with respect to their preferences and web experience. When users see relevant and targeted results from your business, they are much more likely to remember your brand name and associate it with positive experiences. This can ultimately lead to more customers, as well as higher levels of customer loyalty.

4. Higher conversions and sales

In addition to improving customer experience, search personalization can also help brands increase conversions and sales. When customers find exactly what they're looking for quickly and easily, they're more likely to make a purchase. And since search personalization can be used to target specific groups of customers with relevant results, it can be an effective way to boost sales for a brand.

Personalization is non-negotiable for long-term customer relationships

Today’s consumers are 2.1x more likely to perceive personalized offers as important. What’s more, 86% of marketers have seen a measurable rise in business results from their personalization campaigns. This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of personalized search for businesses across industries.

The fact remains that businesses that ignore or delay incorporating personalization on their site search engines are saying no to a better customer experience, greater user loyalty, and improved search relevance. With bleeding-edge advancements in search technology powered by AI, the time to act is now. If you are ready to take your site search to the next level, reach out to Zevi to unlock the power of personalization for your business.