Seek and you shall find, they say. Unfortunately, this saying rarely applies to e-commerce searches. And both customers and retailers equally undermine the role of an ecommerce search engine.
Look at the simple case. When the customers use general words for something specific, they tend to google for a “green jacket” when, in fact, they’re shopping for “men’s dark green oversize velvet double-breasted jacket size L”. Meanwhile, owners of online businesses hardly pay any attention to powering their search engine in ecommerce, even if the users type long feature-packed queries in the internal search bars. Eventually, a customer drops, and a retailer is left down in the dumps for low conversion rates.
A study finds that 70% of site searching tools can’t show the relevant results for product type synonyms and can only display the products, which search box query contains the exact same words that are used in the product description.
For e-commerce businesses, the failure to organize a quality search may cost up to 76% of income — that’s exactly the percentage of customers who will refuse to buy from the website if they experience search difficulties. The question that immediately comes to mind is how to set up an ecommerce website search engine to enhance the way customers shop at your website and feel about your business? Spoiler: this is where AI-based tools will help a lot, but let’s dive into details.
What is eCommerce Search in 2022?
An e-commerce search is a process that takes place when a customer types in the search bar of the browser or a website the exact thing they’re shopping for — “men’s dark green oversize velvet double-breasted jacket size L” — and the search engine finds the match. In the context of digital business, a search engine for ecommerce (SE) means a built-in or integrated solution that processes the search query and delivers the results by matching the search keywords with the available products from the store. In addition, this tool performs the faceted search, ranks and filters products, and deals with synonym management.
The problem is that, if set up poorly, the ecommerce search engine may not show all the results, especially as the product catalog grows. A case in point: if you type “fryer basket with front hook” in the website’s search box on Parts Town, one of the leading US-based distributors of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, it will tell you they don’t have it, when in fact, you will find this item in their catalog through filter options.
You know what happens with the clients who don’t find what they’re looking for on your website, right?
They jump to another website and will purchase the item from the one that happened to be more intuitive. These cases will cause higher churn rates and may decrease your income significantly, which can be avoided with proper search engine optimization.
What is Search Engine Optimization for Ecommerce Stores?
Search engine optimization is the strategy of adjusting the search capabilities of every part of the ecommerce site search engine. Below are the basic search engine tools and components that can be optimized to enhance visibility and discovery.
- Search box: the main field where the user types in the product they’re searching for
- CTA banners: limited-time offers and deals the user learns bout and can pick from
- Filters: options to start a personalized search based on product categories and characteristics
- Business ranking: specifically displayed products to improve sales
- Merchandising: product descriptions and visuals
- Recommendations: fields where the customers get pre-selected products based on their previous purchases/search
When optimized, these tools can provide the shoppers with a smooth experience, which may convert them into your loyal clients. To optimize it right, you need to know what type of shoppers are visiting your website and how their behavior differs.
There are two types of clients that use a website’s ecommerce search engine:
- the browsers (those who have heard something about your brand, have an understanding of what they’re looking for, and browse to see your assortment)
- the searchers (those who shop for a specific thing by X brand in Y color and Z size).
While the first group will type in some general search queries, the second one will write a very detailed description. The thing is, your ecommerce product search engine should be ready for both and you should effective use of search engine e-commerce and various optimization strategies: from autocomplete and recommendations for the first group to extensive filter options and brand-based search for the second one. We’ll describe these strategies in detail shortly, but before, let’s talk about why optimization is a must.
Why Are Ecommerce Search Engines So Important?
While optimizing the search engine for ecommerce website will entail extra spending, here are a few reasons why it will be a worthy investment. The importance of search engines in eCommerce is great, let’s take a closer look.
Increase your customer conversion rates
Research shows that about 69% of customers admit they are more likely to end up buying an additional item if they have a positive search experience, and 52% are ready to abandon the whole cart if they can’t find one item. What’s more, 86% of visitors will change their opinion about the business if they experience any search issues.
All these stats show one thing: the search engine should be well-optimized to show an exact match between an input text and the product description. While the search may not end with an immediate purchase, the customer may be ready to create an account or wishlist, or simply review the product and provide you with valuable information to use further for target marketing.
It’s safe to assume that tweaking your ecommerce search engine will generate more sales because it will make more people stay on the website and can be used for up-selling and cross-selling.
Let’s get back to the search engine components. For example, your client shops for “men’s dark green oversize velvet double-breasted jacket size L” and finds it on your website. They may buy it right away or you can catch their attention with a pairing garment — “men’s dark green velvet pants size L” — in the “Recommended” or “Bestsellers” sections. This way, you increase the chances of this customer buying two pieces from your store.
Gain customer insights
The most significant benefit of having a smart search engine for ecommerce site is its ability to gather real analytics from real visitors. If you use the data that the users provide you in the search box, you can track the popularity of products and boost their visibility to sell more. You’ll also see what your store lacks, so you can adjust your inventory based on real demand. Plus, having an AI-powered SE will open the door to better product recommendations and advanced personalization.
So, what do you need to do to reap these benefits?
How to Improve Your Ecommerce Search: Tips, Tricks, and Examples
These tips are the basics that will make every ecommerce search engine better. However, after an in-depth website audit, the tech team may recommend additional steps that will work specifically for your business.
Make your search box easy to spot
If your website is content-heavy, making the search box clearly visible is a must for helping your users navigate. Ideally, it should be placed in the middle of every page and be the first thing the user sees when opening the website. Use the universal icon for search to indicate what the box is for. Here’s how it looks at Benum, a Norway retailer of music production gear.
Use the power of NLP to improve search accuracy
NLP stands for natural language processing, whose job is to translate from “human” language with misspellings and typos into the “literary” language of your product descriptions. It may also automatically translate the typed language and deliver the corresponding results. For example, Wexon website is in Finnish, but it will still deliver search results for the queries typed in English.
Add visual search to a search box
The searching experience can be enhanced significantly with added visuals, available even without clicking on the product page.
Why? Because even if that’s not the exact shade of green your customers want for their velvet jackets, they may still like the cut and design. We used this visual-first strategy thanks to Magento Algolia integration for Carbon38 website, so the users can overview the product without opening its page. It helped us create an uninterrupted shopping experience we all love.
Handle long and complex search queries
When customers search for something specific (remember the “searchers” we talked about previously?), they will be explicit while typing that in the search box. It will result in a complex and wordy search text with the names of the brands and the tech specifications. Your ecommerce search engine should be able to handle them to find a match and show the users what they need.
Prioritize AI instead of keywords
Algorithms work faster and better, and their automatic improvements decrease the developer’s work (creating rules, writing synonyms, etc.) and drastically enhance website personalization. AI learning models can use the search input data, transform it into mathematical representations, and help deliver relevant results to each user.
We used AI to create Helvetiq, an online bookstore. Here’s what it shows for “children books” query after a few clicks on the books about the history of Switzerland.
Use autocomplete / auto-suggest
First, the users expect you to have this feature because they don’t want to spend extra time typing. Second, you’ll show the shoppers right away what you have in stock related to the query. Finally, some visitors are just shopping around, so you can remind them about something they wanted to buy some time ago. In the case of Roller Rabbit, we added auto-suggestions to every search bar, so the shoppers can review the related searches and find what they want faster.
Merchandize your search results
As in land-based merchandising, the way the product is displayed can make or break the purchase. In the digital realm, you can optimize merchandising strategies in your ecommerce search engine and display products that correspond to the searches more accurately.
For example, you can set the website search engine to prioritize the results based on the user’s previous activity. AI-powered search tools can utilize signals, such as search queries, clicks, and conversions, to rank content automatically. In addition, the search engine can use the sale volume, click-through rate, stock updates, and wish-listed data to display the most relevant content first.
Personalization and recommendations
71% of customers expect a personalized experience from interactions with the businesses. But personalization always involves data, so the more data about each client you have, the more personalized search results your SE will deliver. What data is important? Any regarding a particular shopper: past search history, purchase history, brand preference, wishlists, location (geo), product ratings, gender, etc. Having this information available, the ecommerce search engine can come up with the recommended list that your clients are likely to review. That’s exactly what happens at Joie, another clothing website we did search optimization for.
These strategies require different tools. What are they and how to choose the right one? Let’s find out.
5 Best eCommerce Search Engines You Might Want to Invest In
The choice of an ecommerce search engine depends not only on its characteristics (integrations, ease of use, cost, focus functionality, etc.) but also on your business strategy and needs. Another thing to keep in mind is your existing IT infrastructure which will influence the deployment. We’ve selected the top eCommerce search engines to choose which will work best for you.
Algolia: Best for intuitive search
This one should be your top choice of the best eCommerce search for a business. Algolia is an analytics-based tool that handles natural language processing with ease and speed. Praised for its ease of use and implementation, it has become a choice of businesses that plan to tap into other markets and want to have their websites ready for a test launch.
Pricing: Pay-as-you-go basis.
Algolia: free for 10,000 records, 10,000 search requests/mo, 10,000 recommendations/mo
Algolia Search: Standard ($1 per each 1,000 search requests/mo and 1,000 records), Premium ($1 per each 1,000 search requests/mo and 1,000 records)
Algolia Recommend: $0.60 per each 1,000 search requests/mo
Nosto: Best for personalization
Another one of the best search engine for eCommerce is Nosto. From merchandising algorithms to tailored content and filters — with the Nosto personalization platform, you’ll deliver the right shopping experience to each customer. It offers customized overlays, pop-ups, and recommendation pages based on users’ shopping behavior and site heat mapping analytics.
Pricing: For businesses earning less than €2 million/ year in online sales: €99/mo + 0.5% of gross revenue after the first €20k. Option to add other services for €99/mo each
Bloomreach Discovery: Best for mid-sized businesses and enterprises
This AI-powered solution will fit the needs of medium and large businesses due to its unparalleled content processing capacity. Bloomreach Discovery enables smart product search, strategic merchandising, tailored recommendations, and automated SEO for website content.
Pricing: available upon request.
Elasticsearch: Best for scalable projects
Suppose you plan to expand your business in the future. In that case, we recommend choosing Elasticsearch SE as it will allow you to quickly reconfigure the capacity of the search engine and cover the growing customers’ queries. It’s an open-source AI-powered platform that analyses large datasets in real-time and forms data-driven predictions and recommendations. Elasticsearch can be used with Kibana, a platform for visualizing search data, which makes it convenient to present the information and use it for strategic sessions and meetings.
Pricing: Elasticsearch is used as a part of Elastic Cloud solutions with a free trial available for every plan.
Magento platform allows you to combine and integrate pre-built and custom-made ecommerce search engine modules, thus giving you the option to try and choose the best fit for your business. This gives you the flexibility to test the ones with free trials and switch to another/upgrade if you’re unsatisfied with the performance or the chosen solution doesn’t cover the business needs anymore.
Pricing: depends on the SE module price + integration cost
A fast and intuitive ecommerce search engine is a key to helping your users find what they want on your website and buy it. A well-configured AI-powered SE enhances the user experience, boosts sales, and opens the door to critical insights about your customers for you to improve your marketing strategy. However, it needs a skilled team to integrate it and set it up.
At Elogic, we are ready to change how your customers discover and interact with your business. With our expertise in e-commerce integrations and the creation of custom solutions, we will find the best-fit tool for your e-commerce platform so can grow your sales, attract more clients, and give them the smooth shopping experience they deserve.