The Evolution of Site Search - Part 2: The Current Trends and Predictions

Posted by Ellie Ho on

The Evolution of Site Search - Part 2: The Current Trends and Predictions

In the previous part, we've explored the basic functions of site search solutions. 

With the rapid invasion of smart Google, everyone now expects the same level of intelligence from any search box they encounter online.

Today, we'll go through the top trends in site search functions and we got you some predictions for the evolution of site search.

What's currently trending in site search functionalities

Search Analytics assists in understanding shoppers’ behavior

Site Search Analytics produces a great deal of valuable data about your site visitors. This includes performance reports on search terms, search bounce rates, zero results pages, search to cart ratios, and more.

site search analytics search function trends
Google Analytics reveals a lot about shoppers' search behavior but with a steep learning curve. On the other hand, Search Analytics of the Boost app is packed with core metrics and an elegant design so you can quickly gather critical data  (Source: Boost Commerce)

Site search data is a treasure trove for visitor behavior that website owners are more and more aware of. Econsultancy conducted a survey across 175 online businesses and found out that nearly 60% of them allocate an internal team or hire an agency to look after a site search. 

Many start-ups and local businesses have limited personnel resources. Therefore, Boost has partnered up with professional agencies to help you monitor and make the best out of your search solution using our tools.

How Search Analytics can help you

Pitch in with your SEO strategy

The most basic information you can get from site search analytics is Top search terms. Indeed, what visitors search on-site is what they search on an external search engine like Google. Thereby, you’ll know which keywords to optimize to get higher rankings on SERPs.

Also, the history of all search queries gives you a glimpse of how visitors describe your products. It comes in handy when you want to update the product descriptions to better match the keyword search and boost your inbound performance.

Forecast the trend for seasonal products

Some site search analytics, like that of Boost app, records real-time data, so you can notice the keyword changes daily. Let’s say, you find the search volume for “trench coat” is high although it's just the middle of the summer, it may imply that your customers are already searching for winter outfits.

Not only can you examine daily changes, but you can also recognize the shift in customers' needs for the entire year by looking at last year's data. This helps you prepare for spikes and avoid running out of stock.

Combine with other search functionalities to leverage search experience

Successful search queries can be turned into a default suggestion on the instant search widget or the recommendations section on the homepage. It's a great idea to showcase your best sellers, which are likely to be the products most visitors look for in your online stores.

Besides top search terms, site search data reveals top search terms with no results. We all know that the “No products found" page is a hurdle in the customer journey and search analytics helps you find those pain points to amend them in time.

Stop Words and Synonyms bring up highly relevant results

There are two terrible search experiences: the first is when there are too many products on the return page and customers have to dig to page 2 or 3 to find the right result. The second is when the result page returns unrelated items - or nothing at all.

These problems can be solved with Stop Words and Synonyms.

synonyms stop words site search functions

Synonyms and Stop words features of Boost Product Filter & Search app (Source: Boost Commerce)

Stop Words filters out redundant words in a search string, such as: “a, the, is, at, which, and, on”. Say, a search enters the query: “a black and white dress". Instead of bombarding them with multiple items with “a", “black", “and", “white", “dress" in the product attributes, the search engine should know which words to ignore. 

Synonyms are words that are tied together in bi-direction or uni-direction to expand the results. For example: when you set “bathing suit” = “swimsuit”, the search for “bathing suit" (or “swimsuit") also brings up results as searching for the other keyword. It's the bi-direction logic. 

But if you set “bathing suit” => “swimsuit”, the logic will only go in uni-direction. The search for “bathing suit" includes results for “swimsuit” with no vice versa.

Where to find Stop Words and Synonyms

You shouldn't think of Stop Words as function words with little to no meaning. Each store will have different phrases to leave out from the search engine. For instance, your customers search for “summer trending outfit”. Your store coincidentally has collections named Summer Outfits, Winter Outfits, and Autumn Outfits. In this case, “outfit” is your Stop Word.

There is no better place than site search data to recognize such problematic keywords. The search logs give you insights on how your audience describes their needs. Thereby, you can make reasonable changes to the content and add suitable Stop Words.

Also, you might come across different terms to describe similar products. This is obviously a great source for finding Synonyms.

Don't forget to check out the top search terms with no result to find the missing puzzles in and bridge the gap with Synonyms where relevant. For example, searches for “turquoise” return no result because your store only has “blue” items. Using Synonyms, you can match the search term “turquoise” with search results for “blue”. 

search terms with no results analytics feature
Have a look at the top search terms with no result on a liquor shop. The word “clynelish" can be omitted to reduce searches with no hits. (Source: Boost Commerce)

Merchandising bolsters marketing campaigns

Online Merchandising also known as Product Promotion or Boosting Rules lets online business owners fine-tune the product order on the result page, collection page, and in the instant search suggestion.

A site search report of Econsultancy reveals that 30% of online shoppers would hit the search box and those who perform a search are 50% more likely to convert. Therefore, the return page for a search is prime land to align digital merchandising with business strategies.

Moreover, online searchers tend to click the first 5 results returned. These positions pose huge potential for you to place the best selling items or highly profitable products to increase the chances of sales.

How to control the product arrangement with Boost Filter and Search

Product Ranking

Product Ranking helps you with the product order on the search result page. There are 5 priority options:

  • No ranking: default setting, products shown as it is
  • Always prioritized: products always appear first in the results for ALL searched terms
  • Matched search: products always appear first when it’s included in the results
  • Keyword search: products always appear first in the results for ONLY searched terms that you assign
  • At the bottom: products always appear last when it’s included in the results

You need to search for your promoted items using product ID or title, select the ranking option you want and save the ranking. You can also set the time limit for the ranking to go with the timeline of your marketing campaign.

product ranking demo site search function

(Source: Boost Commerce)

Rule-based Merchandising

Rule-based Merchandising works with Collection page. It enables you to prioritize products based on product title, product type, product vendor, product price, product inventory, product tag, date added, and date published.

For example, we have some newly arrived one-piece bikinis and want them to show up first on the collection page. We'll create a merchandising rule based on the date published and product tag.

 set up rule based merchandising

It takes less than a minute to create a promotion rule using Boost Merchandising (Source: Boost Commerce)

Then, the result will be like this:

rule based merchandising before

The search result BEFORE implementing Rule-based Merchandising

rule based merchandising after

The search result AFTER implementing Rule-based Merchandising


Personalization (Personalized Search) enhances customer touchpoints

This is the age of customization and personalization. 

Everywhere you go, you see people applying the psychology magic of “personal touch”. Personalized search tailors search results and suggestions specific to an individual's interests by incorporating information about search history, products viewed, and so on.

 site search function priority

A report showed that “Personalized result” was the #1 feature that 76.5% of surveyed eCommerce store owners wanted to have in an advanced search engine. (Source: Bloomreach)

By providing such an experience based on the shopping history, demographics, and personal preferences of the customer, your business can collect significant benefits.

Three major advantages of Personalized Search 

Maximize conversion rate

We’ve now reached the era when price wars don't work. The competition for the best user experience is what matters most. Personalization caters to individual preferences, so chances are that digital shoppers will be happy to be presented with what interests them.

When customers are satisfied, they’re more likely to hand out their hard-earned cash. The Customer Trend Report by Kibo Commerce proves that:

  • 64% of customers completed a purchase when the product page offers recommendations based on their preference
  • 63% of consumers were influenced by personalized promotions on the homepage
  • 52% of items in the shopping carts were recommendations products

Increase average order value (AOV)

Thanks to personalized product recommendations, customers tend to buy more. 

Amazon was one of the first businesses to make the most of on-site search with the application of the recommendation engine. This allows them to offer similar or related results based on a huge database of past search queries. 

Businesses have started to offer additional results, such as “Customers who searched for this, also liked this…” or “This item is usually bought with…”. Enabling this functionality is a quick win to boost your revenue as it allows your customers to discover other products that you sell in an organic manner. 

product recommendation site search

Banana Republic nails it with visual recommendation (Source: Banana Republic)

Increase customer loyalty for your brand 

An investigation into personalization and loyalty program found that:

  • 79% of customers prefer brands that show understanding and attention to “me”
  • 56% stick to brands that deeply understand their preference and priorities

A personal touch in product search and recommendation ensures a satisfactory experience, contributing a huge part in winning customer loyalty. It's like going to a brick-and-mortar store where the assistant never fails to bring back exactly the right product for your inquiry. How satisfying is that?

Natural Language Search helps with long-tail search queries

Search algorithms nowadays no longer base solely on keyword matches. As Google found out at least a 65% increase for search queries containing “do I need”, “should I”, “can I”, online browsers are becoming accustomed to using conversational language for search.

Natural Language Search, taking advantage of Natural Language Processing (NLP), determines customer search intent and context in complex grammatical sentences. As a result, it enables the search engine to bring up relevant results for long-tail queries.

site search evolution search personalization
A substantial increase for long-tail queries on Google search (Source: Think With Google)

Three things to build a natural language search-friendly site

Use site search data to know conversational searches your visitors are using

Reviewing and regularly analyzing user search logs helps to expose long-tail keywords your audience is using. You can thereby tune in your content to avoid any vocabulary mismatch.

Increase the ability to deal with long-tail keywords by using Stop words

Many queries contain redundant words that should be left out by the internal search engine. You can use stop words to increase search accuracy. Also, you can test some common search strings to see if your site returns relevant results.

Include everyday language in the site content 

Using conversational language in the site content is a convenient way to address users' intent. In case some searches in the form of questions may not be answered directly in the content, you should create the answer in a blog article or build a FAQ section.

Predictions for the future of site search

Search via Chatbot is the next level of site search

Do you know that  47% of online shoppers are likely to make a purchase on chat? That's why many online businesses spend a lot of their budget on customer service and human-operated chat apps.

However, we’re also seeing a significant rise in automatic chatbots. These are now able to answer up to 80% of routine questions, saving 30% of the cost of customer support, on average.

Currently, some chatbots are smart enough and assist in online shopping navigation and boosting sales. The only challenge is the resources to develop and operate a customized bot for each business. That's why we only see intelligent chatbots with search and recommendation functions in some giant eCommerce stores.

Ralph, the AI-powered chatbot of LEGO, has made huge strides in online sales thanks to product recommendations based on demographics (Source: Digital Marketing Community)

In the not-so-distant future, we expect chatbots will be more and more accessible and widespread.

AI and machine learning will breathe new life into personalization

The popular usage of search data analytics is setting the first step for applying AI power and machine learning in site search.

Developers are in a race to link machine learning capabilities with the search behavior of previous site visitors. In the future, this will automatically improve the search results and experiences without further programming. 

We can look forward to a state-of-the-art search solution that can progress every day queries by analyzing complex search data. 

Voice Search and Visual Search will power up site search

With the prevalence of mobile phones, Voice Search usage is on a constant increase as typing a long search phrase on small screens is pretty difficult. Voice Search creates commands for search queries through speech instead of typing. On Google, Voice Search queries have jumped sevenfold since 2010. 

 voice search popularity site search functions

Voice Search accounted for nearly half of the worldwide internet search in 2019. (Source: Statista)

Although voice search is now only available on external search engines and virtual assistant apps like Siri and Alexa, there is every likelihood that this advanced technology will soon be integrated with the site search.

Visual search is one of the latest innovations in site search. It scrutinizes real-world images, including photographs, screenshots, or Internet photos as the context for online searches.

It is most beneficial for visitors who are just browsing and tend to be visually-attracted. Shoppers who use visual search are more likely to buy because they are looking for a specific product, and thus are committed to making a purchase.

 visual search example

Snap and Search feature on Forever 21 (Source: Forever 21)

Before you leave

The whole point of site-search is to remove friction from the buyer’s journey, not add to it. You need to make sure your site search is getting smarter and smarter to give your shoppers a seamless experience and complete their purchase.

The evolution of site search functions will continue to make progress, so connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay ahead of the latest trends in site search and other business fields.