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What is retail analytics and how can it inform your data-driven ecommerce merchandising strategy?
e-commerce

What is retail analytics and how can it inform your data-driven ecommerce merchandising strategy?

There is such tremendous activity both on and off of retailer websites today that it would be impossible to make ...

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8 ways to use merchandising data to boost your online store ROI
e-commerce

8 ways to use merchandising data to boost your online store ROI

New year, new goals. Sounds positive, but looking at your sales data, your revenue and profit aren’t so hot ...

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VP, Corporate Communications and Brand

Algolia DocSearch + Astro Starlight
engineering

Algolia DocSearch + Astro Starlight

What is Astro Starlight? If you're building a documentation site, your content needs to be easy to write and ...

Jaden Baptista

Technical Writer

What role does AI play in recommendation systems and engines?
ai

What role does AI play in recommendation systems and engines?

You put that in your cart. How about this cool thing to go with it? You liked that? Here are ...

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

How AI can help improve your user experience
ux

How AI can help improve your user experience

They say you get one chance to make a great first impression. With visual design on ecommerce web pages, this ...

Jon Silvers

Director, Digital Marketing

Keeping your Algolia search index up to date
product

Keeping your Algolia search index up to date

When creating your initial Algolia index, you may seed the index with an initial set of data. This is convenient ...

Jaden Baptista

Technical Writer

Merchandising in the AI era
e-commerce

Merchandising in the AI era

For merchandisers, every website visit is an opportunity to promote products to potential buyers. In the era of AI, incorporating ...

Tariq Khan

Director of Content Marketing

Debunking the most common AI myths
ai

Debunking the most common AI myths

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CAN’T BE TRUSTED, shouts the headline on your social media newsfeed. Is that really true, or is ...

Vincent Caruana

Senior Digital Marketing Manager, SEO

How AI can benefit the retail industry
ai

How AI can benefit the retail industry

Artificial intelligence is on a roll. It’s strengthening healthcare diagnostics, taking on office grunt work, helping banks combat fraud ...

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

How ecommerce AI is reshaping business
e-commerce

How ecommerce AI is reshaping business

Like other modern phenomena such as social media, artificial intelligence has landed on the ecommerce industry scene with a giant ...

Vincent Caruana

Senior Digital Marketing Manager, SEO

AI-driven smart merchandising: what it is and why your ecommerce store needs it
ai

AI-driven smart merchandising: what it is and why your ecommerce store needs it

Do you dream of having your own personal online shopper? Someone familiar and fun who pops up every time you ...

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

NRF 2024: A cocktail of inspiration and innovation
e-commerce

NRF 2024: A cocktail of inspiration and innovation

Retail’s big show, NRF 2024, once again brought together a wide spectrum of practitioners focused on innovation and transformation ...

Reshma Iyer

Director of Product Marketing, Ecommerce

How AI-powered personalization is transforming the user and customer experience
ai

How AI-powered personalization is transforming the user and customer experience

In a world of so many overwhelming choices for consumers, how can you best engage with the shoppers who visit ...

Vincent Caruana

Senior Digital Marketing Manager, SEO

Unveiling the future: Algolia’s AI revolution at NRF Retail Big Show
algolia

Unveiling the future: Algolia’s AI revolution at NRF Retail Big Show

Get ready for an exhilarating journey into the future of retail as Algolia takes center stage at the NRF Retail ...

John Stewart

VP Corporate Marketing

How to master personalization with AI
ai

How to master personalization with AI

Picture ecommerce in its early days: businesses were just beginning to discover the power of personalized marketing. They’d divide ...

Ciprian Borodescu

AI Product Manager | On a mission to help people succeed through the use of AI

5 best practices for nailing the ecommerce virtual assistant user experience
ai

5 best practices for nailing the ecommerce virtual assistant user experience

“Hello there, how can I help you today?”, asks the virtual shopping assistant in the lower right-hand corner ...

Vincent Caruana

Senior Digital Marketing Manager, SEO

Add InstantSearch and Autocomplete to your search experience in just 5 minutes
product

Add InstantSearch and Autocomplete to your search experience in just 5 minutes

A good starting point for building a comprehensive search experience is a straightforward app template. When crafting your application’s ...

Imogen Lovera

Senior Product Manager

Best practices of conversion-focused ecommerce website design
e-commerce

Best practices of conversion-focused ecommerce website design

The inviting ecommerce website template that balances bright colors with plenty of white space. The stylized fonts for the headers ...

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

Looking for something?

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The search result a user sees usually hides a lot of underlying data.

Take this Amazon search result:

This search result already contains a lot of data, but that’s absolutely not everything that Amazon has on this blender. Where’s the department or category that this item falls into? You can filter by that on the Amazon site, so that information is definitely attached to the search result; it’s just not displayed.

Same goes for the brand: it’s part of the title in the displayed part of the search result, but we can filter by it, so it must be stored as a separate field in their search index. 

While we don’t always show every piece of data that’s technically included in the search result, we still need that data there! When we use it to power faceted search, though, we run into a new problem: what if there are more options for that facet than we can easily display in our UI? Algolia will automatically send us the first few with our first request, but in the blender example, I counted 26 different brands that Amazon’s UI has to allow me to filter by.

To tackle this problem, we released a new feature in March 2017 that lets you search for facet values. This gives you the power to explore and actually use those undisplayed values and deliver on your promise to help users cut through the noise and find what they’re looking for. 

See it in action: redoing TED search

To demonstrate this feature, we built a brand new demo based on TED talks. In this search, we have set filters based on events, the kind of conference (original, TEDx, and so on), topics and languages. Each of those filters contains more entries than we can display, which makes them perfect for using search for facet values.

Ted video search demo

Behind the scenes

Until the addition of Algolia’s search for faceted values, implementing this feature meant extra work preprocessing the data. For each faceted attribute, you had to build (and maintain) a dedicated index with the occurrences of the elements. This index had to be kept up to date, as records were added, deleted, or updated.

But not anymore! Our new functionality only requires two elements:

  • Configure the facet to be searchable: searchable(attribute) instead of attribute in the attributesForFaceting
  • Use the new method of the API to actually search in the values

This new feature added to our API is available in all our API clients using the method called searchForFacetValues(), as well as in the JS Helper. That method accepts a specific query to specify the search and the whole set of filters that you can send to index queries. This allows the search for facet values to be contextualized. This filters the values to only those that make sense for the current query.

For example, when searching for blenders on Amazon, a feature like this prevents us from getting facet suggestions like “Keurig” or “Roomba” or “Bose”. While those brands definitely do have products on Amazon, it’d be ridiculous to show those brand options when your user is searching for blenders.

Baked in our widgets

A feature isn’t useful unless it’s easy to use. Since we provide an end-to-end developer experience from the REST API to the UI, we wanted to implement the searchable refinement list right in our widget libraries instantsearch.js and react-instantsearch.

When I first looked at LinkedIn’s implementation of this facet search, something didn’t seem quite right. It felt like the feature was too hidden, like the space could be used more efficiently. We prototyped two versions of the search refinement list and we ended up with two simple implementations that we tested internally:

 

We then conducted a study with those two prototypes, and it turned out that for us the second version was the best. That was especially true for those who had no prior knowledge of the LinkedIn implementation.

This implementation is now available to you directly in instantsearch.js and in react-instantsearch. It is not a new widget, just a new option in the refinement list which will transform the list into a search one. But even that’s only scratching the surface – imagine going beyond the default implementation and integrating it right into the search box itself, like how Slack’s message box lets you refine facets while writing your message.

There’s so much more you can do with this, so if you’d like to learn more about how to get started with faceted search, check out our guides for InstantSearch and filtering/faceting.

We’re looking forward to seeing what you build with it!

About the author
Alexandre Stanislawski

Think outside the (search) box

Innovative user experiences for improving e-commerce conversion rates

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