Alexey Kramin
13 minutes read
July 24, 2024
Published: July 06, 2024

9 Predictive Search Best Practices for Ecommerce 2024

Predictive search is transforming online shopping in 2024. Here are 9 key practices to improve your ecommerce search:

  1. Make search bar visible and user-friendly
  2. Use quick, accurate autocomplete
  3. Implement natural language processing
  4. Leverage AI and machine learning
  5. Add image search options
  6. Handle typos and similar words
  7. Use search for product promotion
  8. Add filters to search results
  9. Monitor and improve search performance
Practice Benefit
Visible search bar Easier product discovery
Fast autocomplete Quicker searches
NLP Better understanding of queries
AI/ML Personalized results
Image search Visual product finding
Typo handling Fewer "no results" pages
Search merchandising Increased sales
Result filters Refined product selection
Performance tracking Continuous improvement

These practices can boost sales by up to 6% and increase order sizes by 15-20%. Implementing them helps create a smoother shopping experience, keeping customers happy and driving more conversions.

What is Predictive Search?

Predictive search is a tool that suggests products as shoppers type in the search bar. It uses smart computer programs to guess what customers want, making shopping easier and faster.

How Predictive Search Works

Predictive search looks at:

  1. What shoppers do on the site
  2. What they've searched before
  3. Where they're shopping from
  4. What's popular now

As someone types, the system:

Step What Happens
1. Reads letters Looks at what's being typed
2. Checks data Looks at past searches and trends
3. Ranks matches Puts the best guesses at the top
4. Shows ideas Lists suggestions below the search bar
5. Updates quickly Changes list as more is typed

Benefits for Online Stores

Using predictive search helps stores:

  • Make shopping easier
  • Sell more
  • Make more money
  • Keep shoppers on the site longer
  • Show up higher in Google searches

A good predictive search system has these parts:

  1. Data Collection: Gathers info on what people search and buy
  2. Smart Processing: Uses AI to understand the data
  3. Quick Updates: Keeps suggestions fresh and current
  4. Easy-to-Use Design: Makes the search bar simple to use
  5. Personal Touch: Shows items based on each shopper's likes

1. Make the Search Bar Easy to Find and Use

A good search bar helps people shop better and buy more. Here's how to make your search bar work well.

Put the Search Bar Where People Can See It

Make sure shoppers can find your search bar easily:

  • Put it at the top of your website or in the middle of the main page
  • Keep it visible as people scroll down the page
  • Use colors that stand out from the rest of the page

When people can see the search bar, they can find what they want faster.

A search bar that's easy to use makes people want to use it more. Here's what to do:

Part of Search Bar What to Do
Size Make it big enough for long words
Words Use "Search" or a magnifying glass picture
Inside the Bar Add words like "Search for products..." to help people
Color Make it a different color so it stands out
Text Style Use a different text style to make it easy to spot

The goal is to make a search bar that people can use without thinking too much.

Make It Work Well on Phones

Many people shop on their phones, so your search bar needs to work well on small screens:

  • Put the search bar at the bottom of the screen so it's easy to reach with thumbs
  • Make the search bar fill the whole screen when someone taps it
  • Add a way to search by talking instead of typing
  • Use big, easy-to-tap buttons for searching and clearing text

When your search bar works well on phones, more people will use it and buy things.

2. Use Quick and Accurate Autocomplete

Making autocomplete fast and correct helps people find what they want in your online store. Here's how to make it work well.

How Fast Should Autocomplete Be?

Autocomplete needs to be quick. People want to see results right away when they type. Here's what to aim for:

Response Time How It Feels
Less than 0.1 seconds Very fast
0.1 to 0.3 seconds A bit slow, but okay
More than 0.3 seconds Too slow, might annoy shoppers

To make it this fast, save some information on the user's device and make your servers respond quickly.

Make It Fast and Correct

It's important to show the right suggestions quickly. Here's how:

  1. Show popular searches first
  2. Fix small spelling mistakes
  3. Learn from what people search for
  4. Show 5-7 suggestions at a time

Set It Up to Work Well

To make autocomplete both fast and correct:

  • Use good ways to store and find words
  • Save often-used information for quick access
  • Put servers closer to where people are shopping
  • Make your database work faster
What to Do Why It Helps
Store words smartly Finds matches faster
Save common searches Gets results quicker
Use nearby servers Makes responses faster
Speed up your database Finds information quicker

3. Use Natural Language Processing

Natural Language Processing (NLP) helps online stores understand what shoppers are looking for. It makes search results better and helps people find products more easily.

Understand What Shoppers Want

NLP does more than just match words:

  • It looks at how words work together to get the full meaning
  • It figures out what shoppers mean, even if they use different words
  • It can handle long, detailed searches
What NLP Does How It Helps
Finds similar words Matches "rain boots" with "wellies"
Understands product features Finds "jacket with shoulder flaps" when you mean "epaulets"
Fixes typos Knows "jmpsut" means "jumpsuit"

Work with Everyday Talk

NLP can understand how people really talk:

  • It gets slang and casual words
  • It can answer full questions like "What's the warmest winter coat?"
  • It can tell how shoppers feel from what they type

This makes it easier for shoppers to find what they want, even if they don't know the exact words to use.

Add NLP to Your Store

You can use NLP in your online store with these tools:

  1. Free computer programs like NLTK or spaCy
  2. Online services from big companies like Google or Amazon
  3. Special tools made for online stores, like Algolia or Lucidworks Fusion

When picking an NLP tool, think about:

  • If it can handle all your products and searches
  • How easy it is to set up with your store
  • If you can change it to fit your products and customers

4. Use AI and Machine Learning

AI and Machine Learning make search better in online stores. They help find products faster and show items shoppers are more likely to buy.

AI makes search work better in these ways:

What AI Does How It Helps
Understands meaning Finds products even if shoppers use different words
Works fast Shows results very quickly
Knows what you like Uses your past searches to show better results

Make Results Personal with Machine Learning

Machine Learning helps show products each shopper might like:

1. Looks at how you shop: Sees what you click on and buy

2. Shows best matches first: Puts products you're more likely to want at the top

3. Suggests related items: Shows things that go well with what you've bought before

4. Changes as you shop: Updates results based on what you do on the site

Keep Making Search Better

To keep search working well:

  • Try different ways: Test new ideas to see what works best
  • Listen to shoppers: Use what people say about products to improve results
  • Check how it's doing: Look at how many people click on and buy from search results
  • Update often: Teach the system new things regularly to keep up with what's popular
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5. Add Image Search Options

Image search helps online shoppers find products more easily. By adding this feature to your store, you can make shopping better and sell more.

To add image search to your online store:

  1. Pick a company that offers image search tools
  2. Add their search system to your website
  3. Make it easy for shoppers to upload pictures
  4. Set up your product list to work with picture searches

Why Image Search is Good

Image search helps online stores in many ways:

Good Thing What It Does
Better results Shoppers find exactly what they want
People stay longer Keeps shoppers looking at your site
Easier shopping Makes finding products more natural
More sales Helps people find and buy things faster

More online stores are using image search. Experts think it will grow from $14 billion in 2023 to $33 billion by 2028.

To make image search work well:

  1. Use clear product pictures: Good photos help find the right items
  2. Use smart computer programs: These help spot what's in each picture
  3. Let people search different ways: They can upload photos or use their phone camera
  4. Show similar items: If you don't have exactly what they want, show close matches
  5. Make it work on phones: Be sure image search is easy to use on small screens

6. Handle Typos and Similar Words

Why Fixing Typos Matters

Fixing typos in your online store's search helps more people find what they want. When you catch and fix spelling mistakes, 30-40% more shoppers can find products. This makes shopping easier and keeps customers happy.

How to Catch and Fix Typos

To help with typos in your store's search:

  1. Use a search tool that can spot mistakes
  2. Add a feature that suggests correct spellings as people type
  3. Use smart computer programs to guess what shoppers mean
  4. Use tools that understand how people talk and write

For example, if someone types "camer", your search should suggest "camera" or "camcorder".

Make a List of Similar Words

Creating a list of words that mean the same thing helps your search work better. Here's what to do:

  1. Look at what people search for to find common word pairs
  2. List words that mean the same thing for your products
  3. Include different ways to spell hard product names
  4. Keep adding new words to your list as people use them
Why It's Good What It Does
Better search results Makes shoppers happier
Fewer "no results" pages Keeps people shopping longer
Understands how customers talk Helps people find more products

7. Use Search to Promote Products

Using your search tool to show off products can help your online store sell more. By putting certain items in search results, you can boost sales and make shopping better for customers.

What is Search Merchandising?

Search merchandising means showing products in a smart way when people search your online store. It helps you guide shoppers to specific items or groups of products.

Search merchandising can help you:

  • Sell more products
  • Get people to spend more money
  • Make customers happier
  • Keep track of what's in stock

Here are some good ways to promote products in your search results:

Method What It Does
Put certain products first Show items you want to sell at the top of results
Show products each person might like Use smart computer programs to guess what each shopper wants
Change results for each search Show different products based on what people type
Show popular items Put products lots of people are buying in the results
Suggest extra items Show things that go well with what people are looking at

Help Customers and Your Business

Good search merchandising makes both shoppers and your business happy. Here's how to do it:

  1. Know what people want: Look at what shoppers search for to show them the right products.

  2. Show products that sell well: Put items that make you more money near the top of results.

  3. Tell people about sales: Use search to show products that are on sale.

  4. Sell extra stock: Show products you have too many of in your warehouse.

  5. Keep getting better: Use smart programs that learn which products to show based on what sells best.

8. Add Filters to Search Results

Adding filters to search results helps shoppers find products faster in online stores. Filters let customers narrow down their search, making it easier to find what they want.

Why Filters Help Shoppers

Filters make shopping easier by:

  • Letting people pick specific features they want
  • Helping find products that match exactly what they need
  • Saving time by cutting out products they don't want
  • Showing products they might not have seen otherwise

For example, when looking for a t-shirt, filters can help pick the size, color, price, and brand.

Make Good Filters

To create filters that work well:

  1. Look at your products to see what details matter most
  2. Make filters that fit each type of product
  3. Update results right away when someone uses a filter
  4. Show lots of product details in the filters
  5. Make filters easy to see and use
Product Type Filter Examples
Electronics Screen size, storage space
Clothes Size, color, style
Jewelry Metal type, stone, weight

Don't Use Too Many Filters

Too many filters can confuse shoppers. Here's how to keep it simple:

  1. Put the most-used filters at the top
  2. Group similar filters together
  3. Don't show filters that have no products
  4. Put filters in order from most to least important
  5. Add a button to clear all filters at once
Filter Type Examples
Price $0-$50, $51-$100, $101-$200
Brand Nike, Adidas, Puma
Rating 4 stars and up, 3 stars and up
Color Red, Blue, Green, Black
Size S, M, L, XL

9. Check and Improve Search Performance

Keeping an eye on how well your search works helps make shopping easier and sell more. By looking at important numbers and making changes based on what you find, you can make sure your store's search stays good.

What to Look At

To see if your search is working well, check these things:

What to Check What It Means Good Number
How many people use search Shows if people can find and use the search bar More than 30%
How many leave after searching Shows if search results are helpful Less than 20%
How many click on results Shows if results are what people want More than 40%
How many buy after searching Shows if search helps people buy More than 4%
How often no results show up Shows if your search can find all your products Less than 5%

Tools to Help Check

These tools can help you see how your search is doing:

  1. Google Analytics: Free tool that shows how people use your site
  2. Optimizely: Lets you try different ways of showing search
  3. Crazy Egg: Shows where people click on your site
  4. Glew.io: Gives tips on how to make your search better
  5. Woopra: Helps you see how search affects buying

Keep Making Search Better

To keep improving your search:

  1. Look at your numbers often: Set times to check how search is working
  2. Try new things: Test different ways of showing search and results
  3. Keep product info up to date: Add new items and remove old ones
  4. Use smart computer programs: These can help understand what people want
  5. Ask shoppers what they think: Use surveys to get ideas on how to improve

Conclusion

Smart search tools are changing how online stores work in 2024. By using the 9 tips in this guide, stores can make their search work better. This helps shoppers find what they want and buy more.

As computer programs get smarter, search will keep getting better. In the future, we might see:

  • Search that understands how people talk even better
  • Search that can find products from pictures more easily
  • Search results that fit what each person likes
Why Smart Search Matters What It Does
Helps more people buy Up to 6% more sales
Makes people spend more 15-20% bigger orders

Online stores need good search to do well. By making search better all the time, stores can:

  • Make shopping easier
  • Keep customers happy
  • Sell more

As more people shop online, having a good search tool will help stores grow and do better than others.

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