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eCommerce site search: 8 key trends for 2020

December 4 2019

Year after year, the eCommerce sector reports exponential levels of growth that has left other industries in the dust. But, in an ever-changing and competitive landscape, it’s important to remain responsive to emerging trends so you don't fall short.

Global online sales are predicted to hit $4.1 trillion in 2020, and many businesses are constantly exploring new ways to boost their online conversions, cater better to their customers, and enhance the online shopping experience. Site-search has proven itself as an integral means of doing just this – but how is it evolving for 2020?

We’ve filtered through the noise of ‘trending topics’, and identified eight major eCommerce site-search trends for 2020:

1. Customer experience is key

E-retailers are recognising that ‘customer experience’ is no longer just an optional extra that sweetens the buying-cycle, but a key competitive differentiator. Consumers are more connected to the internet than ever, and many are savvy to the range of devices, platforms, and channels available to them. So, expectations of the online shopping experience are now held to fiercely high standards.

In fact, 80% of customers find their experience with a company is equally as important as its products and services – highlighting the value of an intuitive and well-designed website for attracting and retaining customer attention.

Design a frictionless shopping experience for your users. Download our 'Search  and Navigation UX Design Guide'.

2. eCommerce personalisation technology

For site-search, heightened personalisation helps improve the customer journey. Site-search technology can gather data on individual user behaviour through current or previous site-search queries, and AI can automatically tailor the buying experience to personalise every journey.  

For example, a smart eCommerce search AI can recognise customer preferences automatically and infer purchase intent, instantly creating bespoke search results that help visitors quickly find what they’re looking for. Considering 48% of consumers will spend more when their experience is personalised, it’s vital that e-retailers embrace a site-search function that maintains personalisation from search to purchase.

Be 'customer-obsessed' by displaying the most relevant results and understanding the context of every search. This preserves customer loyalty and retention for the future. Plus, it'll improve the online user experience, making your site a more pleasurable place to shop.

3. Mobile-friendly eCommerce

The total global mobile share of eCommerce is forecasted to reach 70.4% in 2020, so it's essential to prepare for the rising number of people who complete online transactions away from a traditional desktop.

Businesses who don’t employ a platform-agnostic search function are missing out on key conversions and customer retention. Poor eCommerce search interface and design that doesn’t cater to a mobile audience will contribute to user frustration. 

If users are accessing your website on a mobile, your business should already know they’re looking for a more convenient and clearer path to purchase. And, your eCommerce site-search UX should be equally compatible on mobile as on desktop. 

If you don't think your website is mobile-friendly yet, it's not too late!

4. Progressive web apps (PWA)

Your website should be built as a progressive web app (PWA) that blurs the lines between websites and mobile applications.

Put simply, a PWA is a website designed to look and feel like an application, without your users needing to download one. This means your website is able to fit any form, be it a desktop, mobile, or tablet device. If your solution is able to provide the same experience universally, you can create a uniformed eCommerce experience for your customers and cater to the growing mobile generation

Alongside both UX/UI design and website speed, site-search is a critical component towards ensuring streamlined customer interaction on mobile. Users cannot effectively search your website on mobile if they don’t have the tools to do so.

5. Augmented reality for interactive product visualisation

Seeing a product in person is more persuasive than images online. eCommerce product photography and descriptions have come a long way since the emergence of online marketplaces, yet images of products can only go so far  and sometimes there's no real match for seeing the product in real life. 

Interactive product visualisation removes customer hesitation from the buying cycle. AR allows eCommerce customers to interact with products as if they were standing directly in front of them, creating a 360-degree shopping experience and enabling customers to flip, turn, or zoom in to products.

We've all wondered whether a product will be the right material in real life, or is the same colour is shown online. When consumers get to view high-quality visualisations of products, and view products in 3D detail with augmented reality, they're more likely to complete a purchase. Moreover, interactive product visualisation will be key to providing great customer experience in 2020.   

6. Speedy site-search experience

Today's shoppers are surrounded by innovations such as 5G, fibre optic broadband, instant messaging, and super-fast payment systems. They'll expect your website touch-points to be equally speedy.

Waiting for a pesky product page to load or the need to manually filter through navigation options will only slow your customers down, creating a barrier to purchase. In our digital age, consumers can simply move to your next competitor in a couple of clicks, so it's important they can find exactly what they're looking for, lightening fast.

To achieve this, you should embrace smarter eCommerce site-search tools equipped with machine learning algorithms that gives shoppers a personalised and quick search experience. 

7. AI & machine learning for site-search

This year, it will be commonplace for eCommerce websites to utilise the benefits of AI and machine learning in their site-search tool. Even smaller e-tailers are embracing the technology in an effort to maximise their customer conversions, as smarter search solutions are now more attainable (and affordable!) than ever. 

Machine learning offers a fully automated approach to merchandising, allowing businesses to dynamically show the most relevant products first – dependent on in-session intent, popularity, or previous customer behaviour data. Thus, the eCommerce site-search tool delivers a relevant experience to visitors while removing the manual work from the back-end of business merchandising. 

Additionally, AI technology learns from customer behaviour, so businesses can automatically build a search tool that retrieves more accurate results over time. This is crucial for the eCommerce sector, as customer search can inform about the most popular items, trending products, or frequent search queries. If AI technology can teach your site-search to match a popular search query with a product, customers will be able to find exactly what they're looking for.

8. Chatbots become the norm

Chatbots are a form of software that is able to hold a human-like conversion and assist website visitors with their queries or product search. They've been developed out of an increasing need for websites to recognise conversational search terms, as consumers are increasingly inclined to use informal queries to search a website.

Additionally, they offer a 'personal touch' for visitors, and improve customer engagement by handling questions or complaints promptly. If a visitor wants to source information quickly they can simply open the chatbox and type their query, to get instant results. It's no wonder the eCommerce industry is quick to embrace this trend, so how you cater to it?

Businesses should choose a search tool that responds to complex queries, understands colloquial ‘natural search language’, and recognises longer search terms. Most chatbot search queries won't be exact product terms or singular words, and instead, will likely be in the form of questions or informal language. Chatbots that only respond to unnatural or awkward language will be a major turn-off for visitors trying to search for products or information via a chatbot, so select machine learning technology that can cater to natural search language.

Prepare for the future of eCommerce site-search

By remaining customer-centric, focusing on each individual user's journey, and by understanding the contextual meaning behind search terms, eCommerce retailers can prepare for the future of search in 2020 and beyond.

Studies show that by 2021, businesses who optimise their website to cater to new trends will increase their conversion rate by 30%, so use our free handy guide to ensure your eCommerce site-search is up-to-scratch

Download our 'Site Search and Navigation UX Design Guide'


eCommerce Site-Search
Search & Navigation

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