Product Search Maturity: What’s Your Grade?

While exhibiting on several expos, we noticed that it’s easy to predict a site’s level of maturity just from e-merchant’s questions. Rookies want to know how to implement product search. More mature e-retailers recognize their store needs more than just a search box. Old-timers eager to enhance the user experience ask if we provide A/B testing of search configuration. Depending on your store’s level of development, your product search needs may be different.

Why does your site search grade matter? It helps you understand where you are right now to outline future improvements.

When your e-commerce website sells only two dozen of products, customers probably can find what they want even without an on-site search. But if you have an e-commerce store with thousands of items and plan on increasing the product line, it’s time to think about investing in a smarter site search. Everything depends on the current needs of the retailer.

Ready to know your grade? 

C Product Search

The user interface is only a search box. Its functionality is limited to finding items that match the search query exactly. If the product title is “Hampton Plaid Black Solcool Print Polo,” user input to search box must be the same. The on-site search operates only if the query completely matches the product title or product description. If the shopper makes a mistake, misspells the word or use synonym, he won’t find it. 

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Such a search usually has no filtering interface or autosuggestions. A user scenario is simple and looks like this: search bar > look through results > add to cart.

B Product Search

At this stage, the e-merchant understands that search is more important than it may seem at first and wants a minor upgrade in functionality. Now the search has filters, understands different types of queries, and is capable of automatic misspelling correction. So, even if a user writes “Hmpton plaid t-shirt,” the site search engine knows that he/she misspelled a word or typed a synonym, so the search still brings up relevant results. 

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Most e-commerce platforms have this functionality out of the box or have third party apps that provide filters and misspelling correction. Users develop different behavior scenarios: some start with the search box; others tick filter options.

A Product Search

Now the e-commerce owner is aware that store revenue can grow or drop depending on how well their search works. A search vendor or in-house developer uses the website’s analytics to find out how visitors utilize the search, what they search for, which filters they use most, and whether they can easily find what they are looking for. With this data, the search engine is improved and optimized.

By this point, site search has industry-specific synonyms configured. Search results are ranked by data on sales performance, reviews, promotions, and other relevant factors. The filtering interface is refined based on the category page filter options selected. User paths increase in number and complexity.

A+ Product Search

This kind of on-site search is further enhanced by AI, neural networks, or machine learning. This product search maximizes its potential by constantly learning from past user interactions, better understanding customers, and improving their experiences. Some e-commerce companies have an employee who is in charge of analyzing search logs and fine-tuning the site search performance.

As the search acquires data on users’ behavior, it can provide personalized search results and product suggestions. Advanced search understands user intent, predicts user needs, and inspires them. It also may include voice and visual search features.

What’s next

This grading system should help you sense where your product search currently stands and how to enhance it. Not every company needs an A+ product search. Take into account your store size and level of development when deciding on a grade you’d like to achieve. If you’re still not sure what level of maturity your product search is, we can help you outline the first steps you may want to take.