The benefits of powerful, accurate in-app search

You finally found it. That food-delivery app. There’s the app name now in the app store. 

Excited — and, more importantly, hungry — you download it.

Tapping on the home screen’s search bar on your iPhone, you start keying in the name of your favorite Thai restaurant. The one that’s exclusive in this app. You can’t wait for some of their mouth-watering Pad Thai. 

You wait for autocomplete to instantly suggest the full name of the restaurant.


You try again — did you misspell their name? Have they become a fusion Thai/burger place and changed their name? Have they been dumped from the app? 

Still nothing.

Disappointed, you scroll through the app’s other restaurants. 

And then you see the place, nestled in among the Thai cuisine options.

What the heck.

Bad in-app search is a bummer

There’s nothing more frustrating than a bad-apple search experience like this one.

Sadly, lackluster experiences searching in apps are more common than you might think, as many apps are still lumbering along on yesterday’s search technology. And this is especially a problem considering that nearly 60% of online searches are being conducted on the likes of mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads, and Android phones, where mobile apps rule.

A funky app search engine can fail searchers, bringing up content that’s unrelated to what they want or not adapting to the fact that they’ve entered a minor typo or misspelling. In the short term, this simply annoys users, who may sigh and slide the logo off of the screen on their mobile device. But over time, such miserable performance is likely to substantially deplete an app’s audience.

What is powerful in-app search?

Excellent, accurate in-app search elevates the experience for app users while providing business leaders with the ecommerce tools they need to be successful.

When it comes to search, features of the best apps include:

  • Unmatched speed: high-performing algorithms that supply instant results
  • Insights that reveal how your customers are using the app
  • A/B testing that lets you uncover the best-performing search-feature strategies
  • High security: a robust, safe environment for your data 
  • Scalability: consistently strong performance, even if you grow

Whether you supply it in offerings from the Apple App Store or Google Play, effective in-app search helps your users locate the best content fast. With state-of-the-art search, your app can deliver more-accurate search results, supply an awesome customer experience, and fast-track users’ online journeys.

In-app-search use cases

An app search engine can be utilized to enhance a number of popular types of applications, including:

  • Dating. In-app search helps daters manage an influx of possible matches and (one hopes) meet prospects for coffee until they find the One. When they enter their deets, they expect to be directed to the right man or woman of their dreams. If that doesn’t happen, they could dump the app and go hook up with a different app.  
  • Food delivery. Need a donut? Ever since COVID, food-delivery apps have been enjoying a heyday, taking care of the meal-providing needs of those too lazy or unable to leave home. Most food- delivery apps let you use in-app search to hone in on a specific restaurant or search by food type.
  • Social. Conversations and virtual friends can stack up in social media apps like WhatsApp. The good news is that you can quickly navigate the interface for who’s doing what by entering the pertinent search terms.
  • Music. With the Spotify app, for instance, you can get bored with your same old playlists or songs. You can break out of that rut by using the search box to find a new playlist or genre by typing in a few characters, such as “conc,” which brings up calming tunes for concentration and study.
  • Transportation. One common example: using a rideshare app’s search engine to hail a cab. When an app like this is working smoothly, it’s easy to enter your destination, and, with luck, watch the map as the driver seems to get stuck and turn around but nevertheless appears out in front as expected. 
  • News. Want to find the latest goings-on in the political scene? In-app search helps you wade through the always-overflowing number of breaking stories without getting sidetracked by intriguing clickbait.

What are the benefits of powerful in-app search?

A first-rate app search engine can make traditional web-search functionality look antiquated or out of touch. Here are some of the benefits for businesses that implement well-thought-out app search:

Accurate search results 

A winning app search engine provides a reliable, relevant seeking experience. The algorithms work faster and are more accurate than with traditional search, with predictive features that generate tailored results pages. Misspellings and typos are accounted for, while search query suggestions are likely to guide users smoothly through the app. As with powerful search engines (Google), the software seems to read searchers’ minds.

Staying competitive

AI-powered search has become industry standard across the best and most successful apps. If you can provide that level of performance to consumers, you’re one step ahead of competitors that can’t or won’t go that extra mile.

Retaining users 

When it comes to apps, as with many other facets of doing business online, customer retention is less expensive than attracting new customers. In terms of marketing and sales spend, it can cost five times as much to attract new customers as it does to keep existing ones, so it pays to build lasting positive relationships with your users. In addition, an existing customer is 50% more likely to try a new product than a new customer, so your current customer base could generate more sales. All of this means that reliable in-app search can help you secure higher user retention.

Higher revenue

It’s not an exaggeration to say that a great in-app search experience can substantially increase your bottom line. Your user interface is everything, and poorly designed or executed search functionality will almost certainly lead users to drop off of your app or delete it. Even one bad experience can deter a user, and that’s not counting the impact of their warning others about your terrible app instead of singing its praises the first time they use it. Investing in up-to-date AI-powered search is a key way to make people want to keep coming back and be loyal for years.

The state of in-app search

Just like searching for web pages with a web browser, in-app search has come a long way from its early days, and app developers have taken advantage of many fantastic new features. The technology is now powered by AI, which, as you probably know if you use Google search or shop on Amazon, mimics and predicts human interactions and can learn from the search terms that people enter. A modern in-app search engine offers a fast, intuitive experience with shortcuts to the right content while simultaneously generating potentially valuable business insight.

Your search is over

In need of the best search engine that can turn up some new revenue from your app? With our robust search API, your developers can optimize and compose any search experience in the context of your app.

With Algolia, you get:

  • Relevant, personalized results that help users from the first keystroke
  • Indexing that’s optimized for search
  • Analytics insights for helping you take advantage of hidden opportunities
  • Robust security to protect your data
  • The ability to scale as you grow

Start using Algolia free or contact us to turn your app search UI into something your users love, and, more importantly, love using to buy your products or services.

About the authorCatherine Dee

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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