E-commerce

Customer-centric site search trends
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Everyday there are new messages in the market about what technology to buy, how to position your company against the competition, and new ways to grow your business. It’s overwhelming. Yet, despite the hype, business fundamentals haven’t changed: great companies obsess over building for their customers. That’s it. 

When it comes to investing in customer-centric search, there were some clear trends in the Ecommerce Search Trends 2023 report. The survey of 900 IT and business decision makers, conducted by Coleman Parkes Research, sought to understand how businesses are prioritizing projects and spending 2023. 

Investment in search continues to increase year on year, with over two in five (42%) of businesses investing more than in the previous 12 months. Of the businesses that had invested in search, 71% said they are quite satisfied with the kinds of returns it’s offered. Revenue is just one of the areas that search has improved. They also identified customer-centric value:

  • 46% said it met customer demand
  • 40% said it improved customer experience
  • And, 36% said it enabled them to deliver a more personalized experience

We’ll share how we interpreted the results in this blog and how other retailers can improve customer experience and customer happiness.

search implementation factors
Figure 7 showing the benefits of site search investment and strategy via the 2023 Ecommerce Search Trends report by Coleman Parkes Research and Algolia.

Meeting customer demand

Online retailers spend a ton of money driving traffic to their sites, but if they have poor site load times, it can severely impact performance. Higher network latency degrades website performance and impacts customer experience and conversion rates. According to some studies, slow loading websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year. When it comes to meeting demand everyday all year round, building a robust Search and Discovery experience can have more benefits than meets the eye. 

Site search can actually help with your site’s network latency — it can take a huge burden off of your website servers! That’s because search not only powers the search bar on your website, but also dynamically generated product listing pages (PLPs). After all, dynamic PLPs are query-driven. 

Algolia is built to be exceptionally fast. Our cloud architecture is served up from more than 100 data centers around the world to be closer to your customers and minimize page load times. In fact, the Algolia CDN is so good, some of our customers use it as the delivery layer for all of their listings on their site. 

Customer experience

From a customer’s point of view, search results need to be relevant. While that seems obvious, it’s not so easy. Keyword search engines largely rely on hand-written rules, synonyms, and web tagging and keyword stuffing. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with all of the long tail query possibilities. This is where AI search will have a big impact in 2023 and beyond.

long tail volume

AI search improves the customer experience by providing better results for every query. AI search understands natural language; it provides better answers for different kinds of queries such as symptom search, compatibility queries, or concept-style searches. By itself, AI search is ideal for improving long tail queries. However, it offers benefits for “fat head” queries, too, especially when paired with keyword search. 

Keyword and vector search together are truly a case of 1+1 = 3. Together, they improve both search precision and recall by delivering more accurate results with a more representative, or complete, set of products from your catalog. 

Paired with AI ranking features such as reinforcement learning which automatically and continuously re-ranks results to push the best items to the top, AI powered search is poised to offer customers an even better online experience. 

Personalization

Personalization has been an evergreen topic since at least 2003 when Amazon published a paper on recommendations. While there are more personalization models than ever to choose from, it can still be difficult to implement due to data privacy regulations, technical challenges, and the many moving parts in ecommerce stacks. Yet, the IT and business decision-makers in our survey indicated they’re looking for ways to juice up personalization everywhere — from shopping profiles to saved-items-for-later. 

Personalization is not only a business imperative for growing top-line sales, but also because it’s something consumers expect and want nowadays. According to Accenture, 91% of consumers surveyed said they are “more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.” Personalization is customer-centric! 

This challenges of delivering personalization everywhere is one reason Algolia has partnered with the MACH Alliance — to advocate for API-first interoperability of headless services that leverage the same customer and website data lakes for generating personalized messages and results in near real time. 

ux impact

In the Ecommerce Search Trends 2023 report, respondents identified AI as providing the largest benefit for personalization. AI comes in many forms. For example, new machine learning algorithms built into solutions like Algolia will be able to apply personalization rules to search results and PLPs. As a user types a query, the search engine first looks for relevance and then it will re-rank results to push better items to the top — where better refers to a combination of personalization rules, merchandising, ranking rules, or other factors you have defined. This happens in single digit milliseconds so buyers won’t experience any lag.

Next steps

Approximately 88% of buyers won’t return to a website after a bad experience. Every visit counts! Sign up for your free download of this year’s Ecommerce Search Trends report to get more ideas in improving the on-site Search & Discovery process.

About the authorPiyush Patel

Piyush Patel

Chief Strategic Business Development Officer

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