Autocomplete has been with us for more than 15 years since Google introduced it in 2004. The practice of predictive search has quickly become a welcome part of our daily internet usage, helping us discover answers to questions before we even complete the questions themselves.
Interestingly enough, though some say quite predictably, as search is becoming more advanced, the users' search skills and ability to implement different search strategies to solve problems are getting weaker. This is perfectly illustrated in the research
published by Nielsen Norman Group.
It was a question of "when" not "if" before users started having certain expectations of the search performance on eCommerce sites as well. And as of today, 96% of major eCommerce websites offer the search autocomplete experience to their shoppers
to meet those expectations.
Having said that, it is worth pointing out that even the most popular platforms used for creating eCommerce sites, like Shopify
, and WooCommerce
, do not have the search autocomplete feature by default. Their native search functionality is quite basic and cannot return quick search results.
The absence of autocomplete can be especially painful for mobile users. With the limited screen, it is harder for them to type. However, when the search autocomplete is there, the shoppers have to type fewer characters to see the relevant search suggestions. That means greater user experience and translates into customer loyalty. After all, who would want to repeat the experience of using site search in an online store on mobile when the search took too long and proved too troublesome?
Integrating autocomplete functionality into a website has become a necessary component of building an online store. Autocomplete helps the user in more ways than just saving the effort of typing. The other key benefits: Avoiding the "nothing found" page.
When configured right, autocomplete suggestions almost eliminate the chances of a no results page
. They do so by suggesting users' most popular queries which are related to the input one that are guaranteed to retrieve results. Next, autocomplete is typo-tolerant and prevents returning a blank page because of an accidentally misspelled word. This is critical for products like, say, print cartridges that are typically searched by quite specific names: Epson 603, or HP 304. Engages users with more content.
Autocomplete suggestions are, by definition, highly interactive. If the autocomplete widget is designed well, it articulates the search query better, navigating through the site, and shows non-product educational content. For this reason, the widget can be broken into sections and provide "Products," "Categories," "Blog articles," and other suggestions. Reduces in-store friction in the customer journey.
Search suggestions provide instant smooth navigation to the products shoppers are looking for. Thus, they shorten the customer journey to the shopping cart. For repeat customers, AI and machine learning are applied to offer more personalized search
suggestions based on the previous product view history, which shortens time on searching and increases conversion chances. Improves user experience.
Assisting site visitors to find what they came for faster and simpler provides customer satisfaction with your service and on-site experience. This contributes to the brand image-building and can lead to a growing number of repeat customers.
We have a whole article dedicated to the website and customer journey optimization through site search.
Read it if you want to find out more about how the improved site search gives you an edge.