6 Reasons On-Site Search Personalization Should Be A Priority

February 8, 2018

Personalization is now considered merchants’ best opportunity to differentiate their brands and compete with the Amazon juggernaut. But when prioritizing how best to implement personalization technologies, many sellers overlook a crucial component of the shopping experience: on-site search.

Shoppers increasingly expect merchants to deliver contextually-relevant experiences that take into account their past interactions with the brand. For example, personalization features were three of the top five improvements shoppers sought during the recent holiday season, Kibo found — from on-point gift picks to loyalty reward tie-ins based on past purchases. And in general, two-thirds of consumers said they were willing to share data with brands in order to receive relevant discounts and loyalty perks, with 11% saying they wanted “totally personalized experiences,” according to a study by Bazaarvoice and the CMO council.

In response, most merchants have prioritized personalization features with rich, immersive experiences in mind. Using dynamic recommendations and content personalization from the home page onwards, merchants are tailoring the browsing experience to surface serendipitous finds as well as precisely-attuned picks that address shoppers’ immediate needs.

But as important as it is to entice browsers with personalized experiences, merchants must also cater to so-called “spear fishers” — shoppers who arrive at the eCommerce site knowing what they want, and who are apt to use on-site search to locate it. Indeed, technology researcher Forrester found that fully 80% of consumers say they know, in general, what they’re looking for when they start their shopping journey.

When these searchers are well-served by eCommerce site offerings, they reward merchants with orders. If they find what they’re looking for, searchers convert at double the rate of site visitors as a whole, MOZ.com reported.

For that reason, bringing the powers of real-time personalization to the on-site search experience is a crucial priority for merchants as they move past cross-sells toward true individualized shopping. Personalized search can:

Help long-tail shoppers connect with their intended products.

Shoppers on the hunt for rare or back-catalog items can benefit from the machine learning today’s real-time personalization technologies employ. By narrowing results based on what other shoppers have searched and clicked, merchants’ search technology can surface relevant picks more quickly. Furthermore, personalized suggested search terms that appear as shoppers type can draw on their past browsing and searching history to prioritize the most likely relevant matches.

Kibo client House of Antique Hardware has an extremely specialized product catalog thousands of SKUs deep, which posed a challenge for shoppers unfamiliar with standard industry descriptors or product classifications. “Zero results” searches were all too commonplace. But by applying personalization technology, House of Antique Hardware was able to offer shoppers relevant recommendations and prioritized search results, driving a 5% lift in conversion.

Help B2B buyers stay on budget. Business buyers who order items for their company online are often working within far narrower constraints than shoppers casting about for holiday gifts. Procurement requirements may include compatibility with existing office equipment or a defined set of brands, as well as an upper limit on the price tag — which means connecting business buyers with products that match their parameters is of utmost importance. Merchants can use personalization to key search results off stored order histories and other business rules so that buyers see only those products they’re authorized to consider.

Boost relevance of top results on small screens.

Mobile commerce is booming, and merchants are enhancing the mobile shopping experience accordingly. Fully half of sellers in a Forrester survey said improving mobile browsing and research functionality was of primary importance — the top priority on the mobile investment list. Given the primacy of on-site search for mobile shoppers reluctant to page through multiple screens to reach their intended target, it’s crucial to optimize the limited screen real estate to deliver the most relevant results set possible.  

Show shoppers on the go products that are in-stock nearby.

Merchants already integrate store inventory visibility with on-site search, typically by allowing shoppers to explicitly filter results based on local availability. But for shoppers whose past interactions indicate a preference for in-store fulfillment, merchants can streamline the process and automatically prioritize products that are available at nearby outlets.

Eliminate the “no results” page … or at least make it engaging.  

Misspellings happen — but they don’t need to lead to a search dead-end. By tapping into the big data that informs real-time personalization, merchants’ on-site search functionality can suggest keyword terms that will bear fruit and even return results for inexact matches based on how others searched previously. Should a query trigger the “no results found” page, displaying an assortment of product and content picks based on shoppers’ preferences increases the chance that they’ll stay engaged and eventually find the right item.

Position merchants for voice-driven search.

Usage is on the rise of digital personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa. While currently most interactions are information queries (about the weather, for example), Forrester predicts that in the next five years, consumers will engage these intelligent agents in commerce-related quests — and that the agents will begin to curate and recommend items based on past interactions. Merchants who hone their on-site search capabilities now will be in a better position to compete when the time comes to optimize for this emerging shopping format.

Learn more about Kibo’s industry-leading real-time individualization solutions and how they can drive on-site search relevance that leads to sales.