Your search function is potentially the worst enemy or strongest ally of your eCommerce store. Here are 3 features that make the difference.

More than 74% of us use Google search to find what we're looking for online.

That's 47% more than people, who believe that British is the world's sexiest accent (wild, right?).

This means that customers entering your eCommerce store are used to finding what they need by using a search function.

And it really makes sense when you think about it.

After all, why browse around on the great internet, when you can let a robot do your dirty work? It's fast. It's easy.

So, by offering customers that same service on your eCommerce store, you have much to gain:

A fast and intelligent search function will give your customers a better shopping experience, which increases both your conversion- and retention rates.

On the other hand, you risk losing many customers if they lose patience in the quality of your search function.

Ergo: to breed customers of that happy, returning kind, you can't afford to cut corners when it comes to the search functionality on your eCommerce store.

For your search function to be a driver and not a hindrance of success, it should include the following 3 features:

1. Intelligent live search

To make a difference to your customer, your search engine should be one step ahead of him from the very beginning.

This means that the second your customer starts typing a search query, your search engine should perform a live search that gives him product recommendations instantly (just as Google or Bing would do).

Live search is a central feature of your search engine, simply because it makes it much easier for your customer to quickly find what he needs.

And live search does this effectively simply by matching your customer's search query with the product descriptions on your eCommerce store... Right?

Weeell, let's hear what Roger has to say about that (with Spanish subtitles, no less):

You heard him. That doesn't quite cut it.

Your search function should also rank your customer's live search results according to his individual shopping patterns to display the items he's most likely to be looking for .

In fact, by combining the semantics of the customer's search query with the knowledge of his shopping profile, our experience is that 83% of customers find their product in the top 5 results.

And the less time a customer spends finding his new iPhone on Apple.com, the happier he will be, which also means that he'll be more likely to return.

However, live search is worth very little, if your search engine either jams up or goes nuts as soon as your customer types in more than one word.

2. Semantic-optimisation

That is why it's important to have a semantic-optimised search engine that is able to handle full-phrase search.

Semantic-optimised search engines have an average site abandonment rate of 2%, whereas search engines without this service have an average site abandonment rate of 40%

Safe to say that it makes a huge difference whether your search engine is semantic-optimised or not. A bad search function can actually mislead your customers, which can be extremely expensive for you.

This is important, so I'd like to stress my point by doing a little test for you.

Let's say that I'm looking to buy blue football boots for my kid. So I go to Nike.com and search for exactly that.

The result?

In a split-second, the semantic-optimised search function on Nike.com finds me all the blue football boots in kids sizes currently in the store:

This is the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that your search engine shows me every football boot in your store (because it's unable to combine the 3 keywords »blue«, »football boots« and »kids«).

However, an even worse outcome would be this (sorry, Pro-Direct):

I checked. Pro-Direct does have blue football boots for kids on their site. Just not if you search for them and that's... Yeah, that's bad.

A search engine being unable to find an item that is on your webshop is basically like having a sales assistant, who doesn't actually help your customers when they ask for it.

And this is where your search engine can go from being your closest ally to your worst enemy.

Because, what would I do next if I'm searching for blue football boots and the search function tells me that there's nothing there?

I would find another webshop that is able to sell me what I'm looking for... And Pro-Direct?

DOH! indeed.

But let's ease off Pro-Direct and move on the third and final search feature that will help increase your conversion- and retention rates.

3. Automatic spell-correction

A misspelled word should never be the reason why your search engine finds nothing for your customer.

Because we all misspell a word once in a while. Even these guys must have done it... In fact:

26% of all search queries made on eCommerce sites contain spelling mistakes.

This accentuates how important it is to have a search engine smart enough to disregard your customer's typos and figure out that she is looking for »dresses« and not »dreses«.

This feature is yet another service designed to make it effortless for your customer to do business with you.


So to make a relatively short story shorter, your search engine should pretty much be ready for anything your customers might through at it (unless they search for sledgehammers when you sell bath oils).

This means offering your customers the following 3 features:

1. Intelligent live search
2. Semantic-optimised search
3. Automatic spell correction

In doing this, your search engine will be able to give your customers that Google search-experience they've come to depend upon (and this will in turn increase the conversion- and retention rates of your eCommerce store).

However, these 3 features are really just the bare minimum if you're ambitious about giving your customers a seamless shopping experience online.

Another great feature is intelligent filtering, which gives your customers a vastly improved user experience when performing a detailed search for a product on your eCommerce store.

You can learn more about e-Commerce search on our website.