E-commerce search users don't just want to see results for their search queries, they want to see them before they are able to finish typing them. The current stage of search technology can offer them just that in the form of search as you type. Search as you type functionality predicts that most likely completion and shows users the most appropriate results for the query.
While some e-commerce companies believe that Auto-complete is the be-all-end-all solution for their platform, developments in search technology have progressed to a more refined search experience. It has gone through many iterations to be able to fetch relevant search results in the blink of an eye. Let's take a quick glance at what lead to these changes coming about.
Evolution of E-commerce Search
Developed over a decade ago, Auto-complete is the first generation of site search. This technology prompts certain words based on part of a keyword entered and shows users the completed query. Eg. prompting “printer” when typing “prin”.
- Only helps complete specific words in a search query
- Because Auto-complete suggestions are usually based on previous searches, they can have repeated suggestions or suggestions that lead to dead ends disrupting user momentum.
- There can also be some suggestions that may not even appear if search volume is low.
It helped users type less but the question then became if the search could show users more phrases linked around the keyword.
The second step, Auto-suggest gives a list of text add-ons to augment a keyword instead of simply completing it. It helps users to see alternatives to their search query. Eg. suggesting “printer for home” and “printer for work” when typing “prin”.
- In case a user clicks on the wrong suggestion, they will have to re-initiate the search. This just like autocorrect may cause users to exit the site due to disruption in their process.
- While intended to help users complete queries, only 23% of users selected suggestions when prompted.
There was quite a dilemma with Auto-suggestions being a better technology than autocorrect but not having enough traction with users. The answer was to show results to the users in real time as they were typing instead of asking which alternatives suit the query best.
Search as you type
Also called instant search, search as you type greatly increased the efficiency of e-commerce searches. Search as you type reduces friction by showing results to the user while they are still typing out their whole query. This is the smooth search experience that e-commerce businesses would want for their platform.
How search as you type can help your e-commerce platform
For an e-commerce business, a quick and user-friendly site can help engage customers and increase conversions. Search as you type can give users the results they've searched for in a seamless fashion whenever they interact with your e-commerce search.
A well-implemented e-commerce search with search as you type will:
- Decrease time to get to search results – It reduces the search query process to 2-5 seconds from 30-90 seconds when using Auto-complete or Auto-suggest.
- Show predictive results – Predict what the user will be searching for and give relevant search as soon as typing starts.
- Change results display dynamically – As the search user's query changes, so do the results that were being shown.
- Enhance user experience – The easier it will be for a customer to find their desired product, the better will be their time spent on your e-commerce site.
By showing a thumbnail and some basic information (like price, rating, etc.), e-commerce search users can directly jump on the page of a specific product that interests them. By being able to capitalize on the buying intent of a search user, your e-commerce business would be able to increase its conversions and revenue.
For an e-commerce search, the aim should be to show it's users relevant products. Search as you type technology delivers these results with each keystroke. Its speed makes it faster and easier for search users to find what they are searching for and for your e-commerce store to convert them into customers.
Help your search hit the bullseye
A responsive and accurate search leads to a better search experience and that consequently leads to higher conversions. There are basic search hygiene exercises that you can do to make sure that search, as you type on your e-commerce platform, is able to perform at its peak. Some of them are:
- Dynamic Filters – Also known as dynamic faceting. As a user's search query changes, those changes are reflected in the product filters (category, sub-category, price, etc.) on your site. This allows users to be able to search in better detail without dealing with inapplicable categories.
- Synonyms and Broad Match – Synonym errors happen when a user searches a product with an alternate name that you may not have known about. Broad match errors take place when the plural or singular form of a word is searched for by a user. Setting up these related terms ensure that your search is able to return relevant results.
- Typo Tolerance – In today's hyper-mobile world e-commerce search users have come to expect a certain level of typo tolerance. Instead of taking them to “did you mean..” page, an e-commerce platform should be able to understand the intention of the search user's query and appropriate results.