Autocomplete: How search suggestions increase conversions

Website visitors today demand a frictionless user experience—especially when using search. Because of the high standards set by leading brands (Google, Netflix, etc.), users expect to find information immediately, without hassle, or they’ll simply do so on a competitor’s site. Organizations must optimize their site to support this demand for seamless experiences using features like filtering, federated search, and, most importantly, autocomplete.

Imagine being able to find what you’re looking for with a single keystroke. That’s exactly what autocomplete does, and why it has a direct impact on conversion rates.

What is autocomplete?

Autocomplete provides users with search suggestions as they type into a search bar. It uses context to predict what users are searching for, enabling them to stop typing and simply click on the listed item. It is also referred to as predictive search, typeahead, autosuggest, search-as-you-type or search suggestions.

A well-optimized autocomplete feature paves the way for successful and engaging searches. Take the following example from popular shoe retailer GOAT: When a user searches for a pair of Yeezy 500 shoes, they only have to input the initial Y to see results showing Yeezy 500’s. After inputting the first word of the shoe and the letter 5, they get almost comprehensive results for the available Yeezy 500’s.

Yeezy autocomplete search

5 ways autocomplete impacts conversions

Search is a great way to connect your users to their needs. In fact, nearly half of users instantly go to a search box upon visiting a site. Search can deliver a path to winning conversions. It’s been found to increase conversion rates by 200 percent, and adding autocomplete can boost sales and conversions by 24 percent. Adding an autocomplete search box to your search has other benefits as well:

Shortens time needed to search

Autocomplete search allows users to click on suggestions and be taken directly to search results, thus decreasing the time needed to search. The instant feedback given by autocomplete can help improve the overall user experience on the site, leading users to find what they need and convert faster.

Increases chances of a successful search

By producing the keyword suggestions that are known to produce relevant results, the autocomplete feature considerably expands the likelihood of successful searches on the first try.  Properly optimized autocomplete reduces opportunities for typos or awkward phrasing that can hinder search results. Overall, this decreases frustration in the search experience and more smoothly connects users to what they want to find.

Expands user knowledge of your site

With autocomplete, each keystroke is an opportunity to broaden user awareness of an organization’s catalog. The best autocomplete feature accommodates multiple languages and enables users to discover catalog features, products, and services they didn’t previously know about, making them more familiar (and comfortable) with a company’s site. This awareness increases conversion opportunities, sales revenue, and customer satisfaction.

Supports merchandising initiatives

Autocomplete suggestions can be one way to curate the content and products users interact with on your site. You can configure search to show the most relevant items first, based on the general search behavior of users on the site. Often this is based on what is most popular, trending, or newly released.

You can also provide autocomplete suggestions based on business priorities and merchandising goals, e.g., promoting items with a higher price point or higher margins. You can take steps to curate seasonal merchandising with autocomplete rules and/or set up experiences and personalization with autocomplete for returning users.

Improve business metrics that matter to you

Even if conversions aren’t your main priorities, autocomplete search can help you reach your goals. Autocomplete search leads to increases in the value of average orders for sites with shopping carts, leading to greater revenues. It also improves user engagement, especially for verticals outside of e-commerce. The less time users are searching for information, the more time they have to actually engage with your site content. Both of these benefits are indicative of greater user satisfaction and a better user experience.

3 autocomplete best practices

Here are three simple ways to create the best possible autocomplete experience for users:

1. Highlight suggestions for scannability

Highlight the similarities or differences between suggestions so users can easily scan, distinguish, and find the suggestions that are most relevant to them. Highlighting is even more important on mobile devices because of smaller screen sizes.

Under Armour highlights the similarities within the search suggestions so users can easily see how they differ. In this example, the autocomplete search suggestions all have the user’s original query “top” in bold, which helps to emphasize the different categories of results returned.

Under Armour search suggestions

2. Use federated search

Autocomplete works best when paired with federated search. Federated search delivers results from different databases and/or sources onto a single interface. Using this approach with autocomplete expands the range of results users can access, and helps them find what they need quicker due to the suggestions within the search interface.

Birchbox’s site employs federated search from the search bar. With a few keystrokes, a user is served relevant products, related brands, and useful guides.

Birchbox’s site employs federated search

3. Limit the suggestions

It’s important not to overwhelm users with too many suggestions. Instead, give them the best suggestions related to what they’re searching for. Search analytics delivers insight into the most effective search information for the best results. If you don’t streamline autocomplete’s suggestions, they lose their value to users and organizations alike.

Create rewarding search experiences with autocomplete

Your business can significantly decrease the time from search to conversion with helpful features like autocomplete. In fact, Algolia’s Instant Search, which shows search results alongside suggestions, gives you all the UI components necessary to create an unbeatable search experience.

Crafting a fantastic search experience for your site can drive business growth. Read our eBook “Search Beyond the Box” to learn how tools like autocomplete can improve the search experience on your site and help you maximize engagement and conversions.

About the authorElliott Gluck

Elliott Gluck

Senior Product Marketing Manager

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