A lot of research has gone into proving that personalization is a key influencer of eCommerce conversions. Stores that offer a personalized experience - through dynamic content, product recommendations, personalized marketing, and so on, consistently experience more sales and repeat purchases.
eCommerce Personalization works on two fronts - it gives the user hyper-relevant suggestions that help them progress in their journey fluidly, thus enhancing their experience, and it also triggers a signal that says 'this brand knows me and my taste', creating a sense of familiarity and loyalty.
An eCommerce store has many modules that can be personalized - content, advertisements, emails, product listings, and so on, and one such module is the search bar. The search bar can be configured to study a visitor's interactions so as to modify their search results to be more relevant to them.
In this article, we will be covering:
- What is personalized search in the context of eCommerce
- Why brands should make it their primary focus
- The benefits eCommerce brands are experiencing through personalized search
- 10 ways you can implement personalized search in your store
Through this article, we hope to give eCommerce brands the information they need to implement smart search features and enhance their store, customer experience, and sales.
What is Personalized Search in eCommerce?
Personalized search works like every other personalization technique - it dynamically alters results to suit the searcher. The machine learning-enabled solution tracks visitors' interactions to understand their interests and then filters out products in similar categories.
For example, when you first search for 'hoodies' on Forever 21's online store, it returns results for women's hoodies. After having browsed a couple of men's items, however, the same search term returns different results with more men's products:
The algorithm uses active session interactions to modify the search results and make them more relevant.
The impact personalized search has is evident from this simple example. The user now has to scroll through fewer items before finding what they need, and this reduces the chances of a bounce and increases the chances of a sale. In fact, a study found that online shoppers are 2 to 3 times more likely to buy from an online store that delivers relevant results faster.
Why Personalized Site Search Should be your Primary Focus?
Most eCommerce brands begin their personalization journey by implementing solutions for dynamic content and smart product recommendations, which is great. Their reasons are almost valid - when a visitor types a search term, the basic search solution filters out products anyway, so why invest in an AI-powered search product? Many brands, however, implement a smart eCommerce site search solution much later, or worse, never at all.
Every eCommerce brand must invest in an eCommerce search solution for their online store because most visitors have an idea of what they want and will use the search bar to find it. Nearly 89% of consumers begin their purchase journey with a search engine (like Google), which means they know what they want. They are not going to get distracted by dynamic product recommendations; they are going to visit your store and enter a search term to begin their journey.
That's what happens on Amazon, doesn't it? People don't surf the site; they visit Amazon and first search for a product. Once they have added a product to the cart, they ease up and navigate Amazon's product recommendations.
If the search is your customers' first interaction, shouldn't it be optimized to deliver an optimal experience?
The Benefits of Personalized eCommerce Search That Brands Are Already Experiencing
Here are a few benefits of including personalization to eCommerce site search:
Better User Engagement
Why would a user engage with a product that is completely wrong for them? Why would a woman looking to purchase a hat for herself engage with men's hats shown on the results page?
The simple answer is, they won't. People only 'engage' with relevant products, and search personalization enables brands to increase user engagement and, consequently, retention. In fact, a survey by Evergage found that personalization (in general) increases user engagement by 55 percent!
But here's an even more important fact - people get frustrated when they are shown irrelevant products, and 47% of them simply head over to Amazon when the brand they are shopping with does not provide relevant product suggestions.
Personalization is not just a good strategy to improve user engagement; it is now a necessary feature to prevent user bounce.
Effortless User Journey
Some of the top reasons for cart abandonment have to do with increased effort on the part of the user - forcing customers to create an account , having a long checkout process , presenting confusing information , and so on. While these are not related to personalization, you can see that the more effort a customer has to purchase a product, the more likely they are to just quit and move on to another, simpler site.
Search personalization reduces customers' effort by filtering out irrelevant products and showing them products they are most likely interested in. This reduces their search time and, consequently, their shopping effort.
Increase In Brand Loyalty & Customer Retention
In an eCommerce survey conducted by Segment, 44% of the respondents said they were likely to become repeat buyers because of a personalized shopping experience with a brand.
Why? Because personalization makes customers feel the brand knows them. Does evoking a sense of familiarity really matter? Well, 56% of customers stay loyal to a brand simply because the brand “gets them.” So yes, it does matter.
It creates a strong emotional connection that fosters loyalty. People are swayed by emotion more than any other factor, which is why people are willing to even pay more than the standard price for a product and buy it from a brand they like than buy from a brand they are indifferent to.
A personalized search helps brands build this bridge of familiarity with their customers.
Reduction In Customer Acquisition Costs
When people find relevant products in their search results, they are more likely to proceed to checkout. Brands can increase their conversation rates by up to 53% by implementing real-time personalization!
When conversation rates increase, the cost of acquisition lowers. You are able to draw more value out of existing store traffic.
Personalizing Your eCommerce Site Search in 10 Easy Steps
Here are a few tried and tested eCommerce site search best practices for your online store:
Use autocomplete, autocorrect, and synonym search features
Whether it is site search or product recommendations, the purpose of personalization is convenience. The aim is to reduce effort.
Autocomplete anticipates what the user is going to type as they enter letters into the search box and make suggestions for them. Predictions are made based on the letters entered and past user interactions.
For example, when a user who has been searching for blenders types 'ble' in the search field, the site gives a dropdown with different suggestions:
A smart search feature does not just autocomplete the user's query. It can also present robust results like brands, categories, and complete product boxes, as shown in this example. All of this makes the entire search process extremely easy and drastically reduces steps in the buying journey.
A couple of brilliant add-on features are autocorrect and synonym checks. The search bar should be able to spot spelling mistakes, identify the right word, and then display products.
If it can also identify synonyms and expand the search, it will add even more value. For example, when a user searches for 'sugar-free milk tea,' the results page also includes products that have 'no sugar' and 'no added sugar' in their description:
Use breadcrumbs to provide additional information
Breadcrumbs indicate which page the user is on and the path (or paths) leading to it. In the image above, the search result also displays three separate breadcrumbs under categories, one of which is Kitchen > Small Appliances > Blenders.
This delivers two messages - one is the path, so the user knows how to get back to this section again if they need to, and two is additional information about the products being displayed, like brands that are listed ('Chef Central' and 'Healthy Living' in our example).
Give users the tools to compress and optimize search results
Filters come in extremely handy when stores have many products and SKUs on display. For a store that sells a wide range of products, the results can be overwhelming even with intelligent search.
The query 'all in one printer' delivered 2409 items on this result page:
Expecting the user to sift through 2409 items laid out on 10 plus pages.
That's where filters come in handy. The left-hand panel allows the user to narrow the results based on multiple options that can be clubbed. Each filter narrows the search and reduces the number of items making the shopping journey manageable for the customer.
Personalize search results for each user
Search results can be personalized for the user based on their past and real-time interactions.
In this example, the search term 'dresses' delivers different sets of results for two different people. Results are filtered based on products the user has engaged with in previous sessions or during the current session.
This feature is extremely useful when users type in vague terms like 'dresses,' and there are multiple results. Instead of expecting the user to refine their search by changing the search term or by adding filters, the search bar sorts through products. It dynamically displays the one the particular user will be more interested in right at the top.
Use the user's sign-in details for hyper-personalization in search
Connect session data with the user's personal account to create hyper-personal experiences:
Most eCommerce sites request users to create an account before they can complete a purchase. These accounts should be put to use by using the information further to personalize the customer's experience with the brand.
In the image, the clothing store Mr Porter greets the user with their name and then displays page categories relevant to them. This helps the customer get the information they need faster.
Plan for mobile eCommerce
Brands can get creative with the search bar on a desktop view - they can add text results, visual results, breadcrumbs, categories, recommended products, ads, etc. There is enough space to accommodate multiple segments.
When it comes to the mobile view, however, the real estate is limited, and brands need to prioritize what is shown in the results dropdown and page.
A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple and crisp on mobile phones. Use an autocorrect dropdown to help users complete their search faster and design the results page to deliver all the relevant information in the above the fold section followed by the top products:
Add visual cues to your search
Adding visual cues to the search suggestions is a great way to keep users engaged and help them select the product they need. In certain industries, like retail, products are purchased based on their visual appeal, and aesthetics cannot be portrayed well through text.
By showing a snippet of the product next to the name, this brand reduces the steps in the user's journey - they don't need to enter the results page until they are sure they have found the product they want.
Location, location, location
Imagine implementing an incredibly powerful eCommerce site search engine into your eCommerce store, but users cannot find the search bar when they visit your page. Nothing could be more wasteful.
Build a clearly visible search bar with colors that make it noticeable and place it at a prominent location on the site. Adding it to the header, in the center, and then fixing the header on-scroll is one of the most common site-search best practices, and it works:
9. Optimize more than just the products on the results page
It's not just the products you display that can be personalized; how you show them can be personalized too.
In this example, the retail brand Good American automatically changes the currency on the site to match the user's location. This may seem like a small feature but, in fact, has a huge impact. Users now don't have to calculate the conversion value when making a purchase, eliminating an effort-consuming step.
Use an intelligent solution
You might think implementing all these features will be hard and will require many different plugins and applications, but that's not the case. AI-powered personalization products are built specifically for eCommerce brands that help you achieve all these features for your site's search.
Our very own smart search solution for eCommerce, for example, is capable of searching through synonyms and hypernyms by matching search queries to words in product descriptions, delivers federated search, contextual spell checker, smart ranking of products, and more.
All you need to do is select the right solution that gives you all the features you need right out of the box.
The search bar is a dark horse on your eCommerce site. Brands put a lot of emphasis on aspects like UI and UX, chatbot, omnichannel service, and so on but fail to recognize the impact a highly intelligent search bar can have. Consumers today take personalized search for granted, thanks to search engines like Google, and anything that is not on par is considered outdated and clunky. That is not the impression you want to be giving your customers.
Argoid delivers technological solutions tailored for eCommerce brands. We have worked with brands of all sizes and helped them achieve complete digital transformation. Our customers have used the eCommerce search product and experienced incredible results. If you're looking to introduce personalization into your eCommerce store, drop us a message, and we'll give you a demo of our wiser and personalized search offering.