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Top 7 Trends for Site Search & Navigation in 2020

Top 7 Trends for Site Search & Navigation in 2020

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The whole world never stops advancing even though 2020 began with a global pandemic. In fact, the travel restrictions have turned the green light for eCommerce sales revenue.

ecommerce global during pandemic

Online transactions in the US and most of the European countries soared more than 20% (Source: COVID-19 Commerce Insight)

More and more stores are starting their online businesses. This attracts great attention to supplementary tools for developing digital stores. One of them is solutions for eCommerce Site search and Product Filtering, which proves to nearly double the online conversion rate when optimized.

View a brief summary for 2019 of Shopify, one of the leading platforms

Stepping into the next decade from 2020, we have noticed extraordinary progress in internal search engines and product navigation. Today, we uncover Top 7 Trends for eCommerce Product Search & Navigation in 2020 and give you some recommendations to take the lead in this unstable time.

The Scenario for eCommerce and Site Search in 2020

Due to the shopping urgency during the global pandemic outbreak, online retail and eCommerce revenue have experienced a significant surge in the first half of 2020.

According to Forbes, YoY revenue growth of the US online shopping industry has surpassed the peak of 49% in early January and reached 68% as of mid-April. The number of online orders skyrocketed 129% year-over-year in the US and Canada. The online conversion rate was up 8.8%  compared to this time last year.

conversion rate yoy increase

Conversion rate comparison between February 2019 and February 2020 (Source: Quantum Metrics)

Site search and product filtering also witnessed incredible progress. Site search queries increased at a YoY rate of 75%. Search result clicks rose 70% YoY.

Optimize your conversion rate with search and navigation apps on Shopify

Digital shopping is becoming a norm when people must stay at home. That creates a better-than-ever opportunity for developing online shopping habits. E-retailers stand an excellent chance to fast-track, test, and launch new offerings on cyber stores.

So why not trying a more optimized site search and filtering solution for 2020 by updating the following trends with Boost?

What to Expect in Site Search & Navigation for eCommerce in 2020 

Deeper Personalization Generates Hyper-relevant Results

Personalized search is indeed nothing new in the world wide web with the pioneer of Google since 2004. By incorporating consumers’ location and search history, product personalization creates tailored web search experiences beyond the specific query entered.

In a report by Bloomreach in 2018, although 76.5% of surveyed eCommerce store owners ranked “Personalized result” as the #1 feature for advanced search engines, only 8% of online retailers customized search results based on browsing behavior.

That’s such a regretful drop off across the customer path.

personalized search results before
personalized site search results forever21 after

The product listing is different for keyword “Hoodie” before (the left) and after (the right) I did product search on women’s clothes (Source: Forever 21)

What to do now:

With such a small number of online businesses taking advantage of personalized search, it’s never too late for your e-store to join and lead the trend.

The current search personalization involves 2 key features:

  • Rearrange the product listings in search result pages
  • Add “Recent Searches” in the drop-down suggestion widget

Whether you build your own site search or find a partner to help you with this, remember to include these functionalities.

Personalization in search experience is a broad field. There’s always much room for improvement with the assistance of advanced technology like AI and machine learning. In the near future, we may see deeper individualization, such as product recommendation based on previous purchases, demographics or location. 

User-centric Search Experience enhances Clicks and Add-to-cart

An investigation of 21 cyberspace stores conducted by Screen Pages suggested that web visitors who do a search accounted for 13.8% of the online sales. However, at the same time, they found out that 21% of online shoppers left the site from the search results. Moreover, only one-fifth of on-site searchers took a further step to refine the result with the product filter.

More alarmingly, a poor search experience is the reason 68% of browsers won’t return to a site.

The shopper experience is the key for all businesses, whether online or offline.

That being said, online merchants must know how to create a frictionless shopping experience where there is no human help as in brick-and-mortar stores.

What to do now:

Always make it smooth for customers to locate the right products. That means:

  1. An easy-to-spot search bar with typo tolerance, speculative suggestions, fallback search
  2. A seamless filter on the search result page and on all collections
  3. Using color swatch options in filtering for better visualization
  4. Merging values and having a collapsible filter to ensure the filter tree is never to be lengthier than the product listing
  5. Creating Synonyms to expand search results, offering more relevant products
  6. Showing product recommendations in “not found product” page

As Google Assistant, Siri or Amazon Alexa has become a daily friend of customers, voice search will soon be applied in internal product searches on eCommerce stores. Image search is also gaining popularity to help shoppers save time when finding the most matched products.

visual search forever 21

Snap and site search might rule out text query in the future (Source: Forever 21)

A Significant Shift to Search on Mobile Devices

Currently, more than 50% of internet traffic shopping comes from a mobile device. Hence, eCommerce merchants should cater to mobile users as well as desktop shoppers.

As an online business owner, you have to be well prepared for the soaring number of shoppers who tend to do online transactions on smartphones.

Investing in a mobile-friendly site search and product navigation can be the game-changer for your e-store. It outlines an empty path for online shopping away from a traditional desktop, facilitating user experience across all devices.

What to do now:

  1. Site search and filter have to be adaptable to the mobile screen
  2. Minimize the search bar into a magnifying glass icon
  3. Allow your customers to show or hide filter values
  4. Rearrange the product listings to match the dimension on mobile

Soon we may see the booming of Progressive Web Apps (PWA). It’s a revolution for user-friendly mobile experience when websites are designed to look and feel like an application. It is the solution for one design to fit all devices, whether desktop, mobile, or tablet. PWA will enable shoppers to have a uniformed shopping experience online, reducing the time for adjusting with different interfaces on different platforms.

pwa example aliexpress - e-commerce site search

AliExpress mobile UI as a PWA (Source: Medium)

Machine Learning is the Key Differentiator

Long gone the days when site search is only indexing product attributes for text matching. Instead, we are looking forward to an AI-powered and machine learning search engine.

The state-of-the-art search solution can progress every day by analyzing complex data, from browsing behavior of shoppers to optimizing search result relevance accordingly without further programming. Thus, it plays a crucial role in perfecting online shopping experience on an individual level.

Machine learning allows search engines to understand the relationship between products, identifying complex patterns within metadata. The list of related products produced by the machine learning search solution may not match the actual text in the search query but the shopper’s intent thanks to combining the keyword plus behavioral data.

A wider range of relevant product lists, in turn, increases the chances of bulk buying and impulse purchase in one transaction.

What to do now:

Both Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence have to be based on high-quality data. Therefore, in the first place, you should ensure that your website content is inter-correlated with optimal UI/UX. The longer the time-on-site, the larger data for machine learning.

Furthermore, find a search and filtering solution that allows you to view and save data from end-users. It usually comes in the form of Analytics of top keywords, most clicked filter options, search terms with no result… The data in the site search analytics gives you ideas on the redundant words of a search term. This helps you create optimal Synonyms to broaden the search results. It is such a valuable source to understand the customers’ path to buy your product.

Shopify analytics dashboard boost product filter search


A glimpse at Boost Product Filter & Search analytics.

No More Excuse for Loading time

We are now living in the 4.0 era and our customers will soon be accustomed to higher download speeds of 5G.

A study by Hubspot indicated 64% of customers on mobile expect to get the result in less than 4 seconds. Those who do a search on the traditional desktop are even less patient. 47% want a webpage load in less than 2 seconds. A 1-second delay caused a 7% reduction in conversions.

Therefore, if your website touch points are slowed down, your eCommerce site will definitely lag behind.

Site search on big eCommerce brands like Gymshark is timely optimized by showing the product list as soon as you type. No enter or click needed. You have access to the search result right during typing.

What to do now:

  1. Make sure your search engine has a couple of “instant” functions: instant correction, instant suggestion, instant spell check - just to name a few popular
  2. Follow SEO rules for collection pages and search result pages such as matching the collection name, collection description with a top searched keyword by your customers, including relevant, user-friendly keywords in the collection image alt text 
  3. Use an easy-to-integrate search plug-in with real-time product sync and best load speed at less than 200ms/100,000 products

Natural Language Search Initiates a More Intuitive Buying Process

With the conventional search algorithm, digital shoppers actually have to pick up keywords from their product query to type in the search bar. But natural language search, which takes advantage of natural language processing (NLP), enables the search engine to deal with full sentences in everyday language.

It will be an exceptional shopping experience. Shoppers don’t have to type solid and boring keywords like “dress” and cramp through the faceted filter to navigate the right product for your fit. With the help of NLP, a long tail search term like “floral dress size M” can generate the same results within 2 seconds.

This feature gives the feeling of having a conversation with a shopping bot, which is intelligent enough to automatically transform a daily question into critical searching terms.

What to do now:

  • Increase the ability to deal with long-tail keywords by using Stop words
  • Support multi-language search
  • Online assistance via chatbot

A survey by Statista indicated that 34% of respondents preferred to communicate with AI in an online retail situation. Chatbots driven by NLP are expected to recognize search terms in conversation, offering a deeper personal touch, and providing search results promptly.

| READ MORE: Learn how top Shopify Brands use NLP in their site search

Merchandising Closes the Gap between Online and Offline Promotion 

Searching a product in the search bar is what 11%-15% of visitors do when first accessing an e-store. Therefore, by adjusting the search results, shop owners can direct customers to certain products. In fact, 67% of browsers click one of the top five listed results.

Product position in the search result page matters as much as product arrangement in traditional brick-and-mortar shops.

Many concepts of visual merchandising in pop-up stores can be applied to eCommerce platforms to boost sales. For example, you can put new items, sales items, or hot-sellers in the first line of the product listing to capture shoppers’ attention. The application of merchandising in site search and product navigation can help you with this.

What to do now:

Invest in a site search and product navigation app that supports:

  • Product ranking with various options like always pinned at the top, listed at the top for specific keyword search or shown as the first product when the product is one of the  results.
  • Rule-based merchandising with rule settings to create promotion conditions.

And to spill the beans, our Boost Product Filter & Search has just released the Merchandising feature. In the meantime, we have updated a bunch of additional features that can upsurge your conversion rate. Don’t forget to check it out here!

Watch this video to learn how to optimize Shopify website navigation:

Bottom Line

Amidst the unstable time, all fields of life feel the need to adopt new technologies to keep going forward. The in-office staff turns to remote work culture while brick-and-mortar stores re-flatform to eCommerce sites.

Follow our suggestions to optimize your site search and filtering to better cater to new lines of customers, and enter a new stage of eCommerce development. Feel free to reach out to us for more information on product search and navigation, and stay tuned for the next blogs by subscribing to our newsletter. 


Ellie Ho
eCommerce Enthusiast
A digital nomad that is engrossed with online selling, best practices, and tips to grow sales through website optimization. Love learning, sharing, and connecting with similar minds.
A digital nomad that is engrossed with online selling, best practices, and tips to grow sales through website optimization. Love learning, sharing, and connecting with similar minds.