What is Smart Search and Best Practices for eCommerce Stores?

Rémi Drogoul
Rémi Drogoul

Table of Contents

In a brick-and-mortar store, a sales assistant will immediately offer personal support to find the exact items that customers want. However, in the eCommerce scenario, there is no salesman. Instead, shoppers will go straight to the onsite search to figure out what you have to offer. Our case study has shown that the conversion rates are 6x times higher for individuals who used the smart search than those who did not. The search features can greatly boost your sales, and enhance the shopping experience. Thus, we have compiled the top 6 smart search practices that every eCommerce store needs to succeed. But first, let's deepen your understanding of smart search.

Smart search or intelligent search refers to the search systems based on an intelligent algorithm.  It has advanced capabilities to improve user experience by recognizing and offering results on relevant topics; finding synonyms, and identifying the phonetic similarities between letters and words to display the correct result even if a keyword is misspelled.

Smart site search in eCommerce goes beyond a search box. By replying to buyers’ requests in the shortest time possible, the smart search engine can help you auto-suggest appropriate products to your consumers, attracting first-time shoppers and encouraging them to return. A comprehensive solution should have features like navigation,  popular searches, intelligent autosuggestion, autocorrect, synonyms, ‘Did you mean’ suggestions, advanced analytics, natural language processing (NLP), smart ranking, personalization, and much more. Hence, to help your digital business run smoothly, you need to work on many smart search features. Don’t believe us? Well, the following numbers will change your mind.

  • Over 40% of online shoppers go directly to the search bar.
  • Customers who use search functionality are 2.4 times more likely to buy.
  • Nearly 39% of purchases are influenced by the search experience.

Although modern eCommerce search is a real money-making machine, 61% of eCommerce sites fail to deliver an acceptable search performance. Here are the top reasons that cause consumers frustration when using the retail site search.

Despite the major benefits of advanced search, most eCommerce sites do not offer it as they should. (Source: MageSolution)

According to a recent study, the biggest search issues that online customers are facing are irrelevant results, no appropriate products, speed, bad UI design, and lack of visual elements. Hence, it’s time to uprank your onsite search to have fewer headaches and more happy customers.

Now you know how important it is to optimize site search experience if you want to see a boost in sales. Once you are in the eCommerce game, here are the best features that all merchants should be looking for.

Multiple Types of Autosuggestions

To improve search accuracy, e-merchants need to showcase suitable suggestions in a drop-down search. Why? This is to provide your customer with an idea of the depth of your product range, no matter if you are selling thousands of items of a similar kind or a single product line.

(Source: Golden Nile)

Take Golden Nile as an example here. Visitors can search products by title, size, or SKU. Even if a shopper does not remember the full name of the rug, the auto-suggest dropdown will complete the search query speedily.

Avoid No Results Page

Nothing is more disappointing than a search that brings up no results. When consumers type something into your search box, they expect to get some results, even if the displayed list is not exactly what they are looking for. The worst solution here is to leave these shoppers in the dark and let them exit your site.

However, to provide precise decisions, use your built-in analytics to identify common queries with no results.

The advanced analytics by Boost Commerce inform store owners of top search terms that you do not stock. (Souce: Boost Commerce)

Once you know the most frequent search queries without results, it’s time to optimize the site search experience by building a list of synonyms.

To prevent potential consumers from leaving your online store with disappointment, you can create synonyms for items you sell. For example, you have long dresses for special events, but you see a lot of women looking for a formal dress. Hence, you had better add the synonyms ‘long dress’ and ‘formal dress’ so that the perfect fit will show up when these terms are searched.

(Source: Mavi)

However, it is impossible to 100% avoid the ‘no products matched the keyword’ situation. In this case, aside from offering customer support via chat, call, or asking them to sign up for newsletters, showing them related recommendations based on the browsing history like Mavi has been doing is an effective solution to keep customers staying longer with you, and increase conversions.

In a natural approach, use your search results to highlight your highest-rated and most sought-after items. You can provide helpful suggestions to make the customer's job easier by offering ideas for popular-suited products and searches.

(Source: Wholesale Home)

For first-time visitors, it is quite confusing to understand what you have to offer. Thus, displaying popular suggestions instantly, as the Wholesale Home has been doing, will give shoppers a much clearer idea of which ones they should take a look at, creating smooth navigation.

Long-tail semantic searches push a search engine even further by allowing it to comprehend the user's search intent. A search for ‘women long sleeve red tee size XL’, for example, is more likely to fail to bring the right products than a search for ‘women t-shirts’. Improved search results are required for potential customers, and when it comes to relevancy, a semantic-friendly site search will always outperform plain text.

(Source: Red Dress)

Giant retailers like Amazon have focused on semantic searches to provide digital consumers well-thought-out responses which go beyond the meaning of each word in the search query. Of course, it is hard to compete with big brands, but providing a quality shopping experience is possible even if you are an SMB. For instance, you can see the difference in the search results when someone looks for ‘high heels for summer’ and ‘high heels for party’ on Red Dress. They are all high heels, but the former is for casual looks while the latter is for fancy occasions.

Avoid Spelling Mistakes

Misspelled terms might lead to ineffective searches that hurt your revenue and lead. You can overcome these minor flaws in search entries by utilizing predictive search, auto-complete, and spell correction to get a highly accurate and tailored result.

(Source: Makeup Geek)
(Source: Makeup Geek)

Even when shoppers type in a wrong-spelled keyword, the search results on Makeup Geek still immediately showcase the relevant eye makeup items and related articles thanks to the typo tolerance functionality.

Exclude Broad Terms Using Stop Words

When looking for products, your customers may insert an overly wide term (most of the products have it). As a result, irrelevant search results appear. The most effective solution here is to filter out an irrelevant keyword from search queries with the stop word feature.

For example, you are selling seasonal clothing items that have various brands called Classy Outfit, Spring Trending Outfit, Fall Set Outfit, and so on. Normally, if customers key in the term ‘spring trending outfit’, the site search would possibly return results that match ‘spring’, ‘trending’, and ‘outfit’. Consequently, shoppers can get bombarded with irrelevant products from other brands that might make them give up on your site. To avoid this, it is highly recommended to exclude the term ‘outfit’ from the search.

Filtering out broad terms helps your site search engine focus on the important keywords. Therefore, it will deliver faster and more accurate results while helping shoppers find exactly what they prefer within milliseconds.

An optimized mobile search experience must be created with these requests in mind as visitors are limited by a small screen and filtering. The combination of a large, immediately visible search box, relevant auto-complete, and speedy delivery of results can dramatically improve the shopping and search experience.

(Source: Fenton&Fenton)
(Source: Fenton&Fenton)

To attract customers’ attention to the search box, Fenton & Fenton makes use of a full-length search box on top of the page. Besides, the brand adds some placeholder text so that visitors will notice it and start their buying journey right away without spending too much time searching for their favorite products.

Does Your Onsite Search Have All of These?

Deploying all the tactics might be overwhelming at first, but the eventual outcome is very promising. If you want to find a smart search app to leverage your online business like the above-mentioned brands have been doing, give Boost Product Filter & Search a try now! Use the code Boost-BFCM2021 at the checkout to get 30% OFF for the first 6-month billing. The offer is valid until October 31, 2021.


Rémi Drogoul Twitter

Head of Marketing & Partnerships at Opinew.