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5 e-commerce search trends you shouldn’t ignore

In today’s online world, user expectations are higher than ever. Consumers know what they want, and they want those things now. If site visitors can’t find what they need instantly, they will quickly bounce off the page, costing the site a potential sale. 

A great e-commerce site search can guide customers to relevant products quickly and efficiently. Site search is an essential part of the e-commerce user’s experience, driving conversions, engagements, and—ultimately—revenue. E-commerce site search is constantly changing according to user and industry needs. In this article, we’ll discuss trends every e-commerce site should be aware of to drive the most value from site search. 


5 e-commerce site search trends

Consumers’ online behaviors and the landscape of e-commerce have changed drastically. With acquisition harder than ever, and more competitors entering the space every day, providing meaningful experiences has become a priority for e-commerce companies. Here are five ways e-commerce search has changed:


1. Customers search from multiple platforms 

Today’s users access sites from a variety of devices, including mobile phones, personal laptops, work devices, and smart speakers. Often businesses will invest time and money into improving the online site search experience and neglect these other platforms. No matter where users start their search, they will only continue to interact with the brand if it’s easy—and even enjoyable—to do so. 

Thus, it’s more important than ever for e-commerce site search to be optimized across platforms. Seamless, integrated, and relevant search experiences are imperative to retaining and engaging with shoppers as well as driving sales and conversions. 


2. Fewer complex search functions

In e-commerce search, complex, multi-entry search functions are largely a thing of the past. Complex search functions like advanced search allow users to fill in multiple fields to specify the item, product, or service of interest in a detailed search form. Complex search forms are still used in academic databases or on websites where multiple parameters are needed to adequately search a database, such as airline sites. In most other contexts, users are accustomed to simple searches


Customers are accustomed to responsive search interfaces. And, ultimately, advanced search can be time-consuming, frustrating, and ultimately fruitless. 

In its place, e-commerce site search tools boast robust search engines with relevance and ranking rules that can be customized to the business and customer. This means every search can return meaningful results without the user having to know exactly what they need. In addition, sites also let users refine their search through filters and facets, which can help customers narrow their focus much faster than with advanced search.


3. Helping users search 

Users don’t always know what they need and, even when they do, they sometimes don’t know the perfect keywords to search. And when users do know what to search, they often make mistakes or typos. 

As e-commerce site search has become more advanced, it’s also become more tolerant of user errors and more capable of helping customers find what they need. Here are a few ways e-commerce site search helps guide customer search experience:

  • Autocomplete – As the customer types, autocomplete (or autosuggest) displays popular queries that are known to return results.  As  customers specify their query.This leads to more successful searches, increasing sales up to 24%, It also speeds up the searching process, since customers can click on the suggestion that matches best.

  • Related Searches and Product Suggestions – Popular search suggestions are not only helpful and powerful for the user experience, but have also become commonplace (and expected) on e-commerce sites. This feature presents a real opportunity for online retailers, who can display their most popular products or content to users searching for similar items. It helps the customer discover new things and creates opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, all within the search experience.

  • Typo Tolerance – Typo tolerance takes the human errors of search into account by allowing users to make mistakes while still finding what they’re looking for. Words that are close in spelling to the query are still considered a match, which is key for mobile users trying to navigate tiny keyboards and global users who may not know the correct spelling of a particular word. 


4. Personalized search results for each customer 

Though two different customers might enter the same query into the search bar, they may not be looking for the same type of results. More e-commerce sites are moving toward personalized results, which allows previous behaviors, user profiles, and preferences to be influence the relevant content or products the customer sees. 

This is incredibly valuable, as users get a better, more relevant search experience every time they interact with your brand.

But it’s not just the consumer who greatly benefits from personalization.  Research shows 48% of consumers spend more when their experience is personalized. Leveraging personalization helps to satisfy user expectations, which in turn increases engagement and conversions. Users will also stay on your site longer, leading to even more product discovery and potential sales. 


5. Standardization of the search bar

As the search has become a cornerstone of the e-commerce site, businesses have begun to realize the importance of adopting some basic design best practices. 



Some practices that have helped to streamline the user experience include placing the search bar in the same location on every page, including a magnifying glass for better visibility, and including placeholder text (or microcopy) within the bar to encourage users to search.


The future of e-commerce search

As technology evolves, user expectations will only continue to increase, and that means they’ll want even more personalized and frictionless experiences. The future of e-commerce is bright, and these upcoming trends are on the horizon:


Immersive experiences

Gartner has forecasted that by 2022, 70% of brands will be testing out immersive technologies on consumers. For e-commerce sites, this means opportunities for users to experiment with virtual product try-ons or an AR filter that allows them to see a piece of furniture in their home before they buy. This type of futuristic personalization will drive revenue and engage users in a new and exciting way. 

While immersive features may seem lightyears away, many brands are already beginning to utilize the technology to make conversions. Nike, for example, began using augmented reality in 2017 to allow shoppers to virtually try on their shoes before buying online. As this technology becomes more readily available to other e-commerce brands, an immersive experience will undoubtedly become an essential feature for many online shoppers. 


Visual search

While visual search is a trend that is still very much in the early stages of utilization, its potential for e-commerce cannot be ignored. 

Visual search allows users to enter a photograph, screenshot, or internet image into the search function to find products. If a person likes their friend’s jacket, for example, they can snap a picture and search for that same jacket (or a jacket with a similar style, pattern, or colors) within a site. 

This type of functionality opens a new door for online retailers, as their customers will be able to interact with their brand in a more interactive fashion. The analytics gained by e-commerce companies will improve their understanding of growing trends and users’ preferences and styles. 


Voice search

Voice search is already gaining traction with the rise of using mobile phones, voice assistants, and smart speakers. Still, there are a number of challenges before full adoption by customers.

This is partially due to the level of difficulty surrounding UX, as speech can sometimes be less frictionless than typing, and expectations of human conversation are difficult to meet. Speed is essential for a smooth conversation, and any latency can disrupt the search experience. 

As users get more comfortable speaking to their devices—even in public—we’ll likely see a rise in voice search usage. In the future, voice search will be both reactive and proactive. Companies will need to tailor search and content to natural language requests to make the experience as user-friendly as possible. Ecommerce sites will also benefit from getting to know the users and their preferences—what they’ve been recently asking, where they live, local weather, and more. 

The future of voice search will largely be shaped by how much service providers, sellers, and users invest and buy into its possibilities. 


Delight your customers with modern and effective e-commerce search

E-commerce search drives the customer relationship with the brand and business KPIs, so it’s essential to offer customers a modern, robust, and relevant site search that can keep up with the trends and industry challenges.

Algolia is driven by innovation, and updates and upgrades are made instantly available to e-commerce businesses. Learn more about how Algolia addresses key e-commerce challenges in our e-book “Search Beyond the Box.”

About the author
Matthieu Blandineau

Sr. Product Marketing Manager


Think outside the (search) box

Innovative user experiences for improving e-commerce conversion rates.

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