The Importance of Personalized Search
By Katie Lawson
Have you ever gone into a coffee shop or restaurant where the cashier already knows what you’re going to order because they recognize you? “Would you like your usual?” they ask.
This is personalization, and consumers love it. The ability to personalize search results for your digital commerce customers based on web history or other factors can differentiate your company.
- Personalized search is a feature that tailors search engine results to an individual’s unique preferences, interests, and past behaviors.
- Personalized search can offer numerous benefits that can help improve customer acquisition and retention.
- Personalized search can increase your revenue by as much as 8.5%.
There’s a reason why 89% of marketers see a positive ROI when they use personalization in their campaigns. People are social creatures, and personalized services provide a vastly richer experience than generic, mass-produced ones. The old models of simply trying to serve as many customers as you can as fast as possible will just not cut it anymore. Nowhere is this more true than in e-commerce, where it’s vital to establish a human connection with your customers who may only ever interact with your business on a computer screen.
76% of consumers say they’re more likely to purchase from brands that personalize. Online retailers that embrace personalized services will take the lead over competitors who miss the boat. This is where personalized search comes in.
What Is Personalized Search?
Personalized search is a feature that tailors search engine results to an individual’s unique preferences, interests, and past behaviors. One well-known example of search personalization is Google search, which often includes sites you frequently visit in search results. The main idea in e-commerce is that you go beyond providing the same search results to every customer or visitor to your site. Instead, using advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), personalized search engines factor in things like browsing history, geographic location, demographics, device (i.e., desktop vs. mobile device), social connections, and online behavior to customize the search experience for each user. So, the same search query can yield very different search results depending on the particular user.
The primary objective of search personalization is to improve the user experience by presenting personalized results that are more likely to be relevant to an individual user’s interests and needs. For example, if a customer recently purchased a tool from your site, the personalized results might include recommendations to buy attachments and parts for that tool. By understanding your users, personalized search can save them time and effort, enabling them to quickly find the most relevant information, products, services, or recommendations. Your users will also notice and appreciate the improved search quality and will appreciate the benefits it brings to their experience.
How Does Personalized Search Work?
To understand how search personalization works, it helps to look again at the Google search engine. When you type in a query in Google search, it returns a series of (ideally) relevant results. This is done through information retrieval on countless web pages to find the information that most closely matches your query. From there, the search engine learns the more you use it, using your past searches to inform future ones and make sure the content is tailored to you.
In e-commerce, you need to do the same thing with your search experience. It’s not enough to match keywords or deliver the same results to the same query. In order to personalize search on your site, you’ll need to implement a search algorithm that understands each user’s unique preferences.
Let’s take a closer look at different personalized search algorithms. There are several models and strategies that can be employed depending on the needs and preferences of your organization:
- Collaborative filtering: Analyzes user behavior and preferences to identify patterns and similarities between users. Recommends items or content that users with similar interests have found relevant in the past.
- Content-based filtering: Focuses on the characteristics and attributes of items or content to recommend similar items. Analyzes the content itself (i.e., metadata and keywords) to identify similarities and relevance. Does not rely on user preference but matches content characteristics with user profiles.
- Machine learning-based algorithms: Machine learning techniques such as neural networks, decision trees, or Bayesian models are employed in personalized search algorithms. Using a site visitor’s previous searches and interaction history, along with other data (e.g., desktop or mobile device, the user’s location, etc.), they provide personalized recommendations. Their ability to learn gives them the ability to update and improve personalized search results over time.
No matter what sector of the e-commerce industry you’re in, personalized search is a must-have feature for any team that wants to help their customers find what they need quickly while providing a tailored experience.
Why Is Personalized Search Important?
Adding search personalization to your site manually can be a very complex and expensive process, and organizations need to be confident that the effort would be worth the expense. There are several reasons why personalized search is a vital part of the modern digital shopping experience.
First, customers are not super happy with the current state of e-commerce. A recent survey found that most online shoppers rated their customer service experiences as underwhelming. In fact, only 15% of respondents say they are happy with how brands interact with them through online stores. These low scores represent chronic dissatisfaction with the status quo. However, they also represent an opportunity.
Organizations and stores that innovate and bring on new features to enhance the user experience can set themselves apart from the competition. In a world of dry, one-size-fits-all marketing and feature design, personalized search provides tailored content recommendations and can also help with the reduction of information overload. Information overload occurs when customers are given more information about products and services than they can handle. This can leave them irritated as they try to sort through all the clutter to get what they want. However, with personalized search, you can eliminate this clutter. In addition to these user experience improvements, personalized search is also important for a number of other reasons.
Improved Customer Engagement and Satisfaction
Personalized search is also vital to your business because of its ability to increase customer engagement and satisfaction. There’s nothing easier to do than click off-site in an e-commerce store. However, personalized recommendations and suggestions help keep users engaged and enjoying their shopping experiences. This is why it’s so important to add design features to your site that effectively attract and retain customers.
This increased engagement also leads to higher conversion rates and customer loyalty. Customers don’t tend to remember neutral search experiences. They generally just remember the stand-out times when a search bar either worked exceptionally well or was a pain in the neck. Personalizing your search can be a great way to create a memorable customer search experience.
Business Competitiveness and Growth
Even though the ROI of personalized search and other experience-enhancing features has been plainly demonstrated, these features still haven’t received widespread adoption. In fact, only 15% of retailers have fully implemented personalization strategies. This means that companies can invest in and effectively implement features like personalized search to gain a competitive edge. Providing personalized experiences that go beyond standard search results helps you set your brand apart from the rest, increasing loyalty and attracting more customers. Furthermore, by implementing personalized search, you bring your company closer to your customers. By understanding your customers’ preferences and behaviors better, you can create personalized campaigns that resonate with specific customer segments, increasing the effectiveness and ROI of your marketing efforts.
Data-Driven Decision Making
Finally, data is the other main reason for personalized search’s importance. Search personalization has the ability to deliver valuable insights into customer preferences, behaviors, and trends. Using the data gathered by personalized search algorithms, online stores and businesses can make informed business decisions, optimize product offerings, identify new market opportunities, and enhance overall operational efficiency. For example, personalized search uses predictive analytics techniques, and data can predict future user behavior. This insight could be used to make data-driven impacts on various elements of your organization’s operations, such as inventory management, pricing strategies, and marketing campaigns.
This personalization data can also be extended to product development and innovation, where teams can use these insights to create new offerings designed to suit the needs and preferences of specific customer segments.
A Real-World Example of Personalized Search
Now it’s time to take personalized search out of the theoretical and bring it into the practical. And what’s more practical than a grocery store?
Albertsons is a well-known groceries brand that has always been at the forefront of innovation. It was one of the first grocery store chains to start offering online delivery options for customers, and has always sought to provide a connected, personalized shopping experience, whether online or in-store. However, the company faced a challenge. The search engine used on its e-commerce website was poor quality and consistently returned irrelevant or inaccurate results to users’ search queries. This triggered higher bounce rates, with customers leaving the site after finding it difficult to search for what they wanted.
This clearly needed to be addressed, as over 50% of Albertsons e-commerce revenue came from search. Fortunately, Albertsons turned to Bloomreach and was able to easily implement Bloomreach Discovery, which includes powerful semantic search functionality. Instead of hiring a flock of developers and pouring valuable resources into trying to create its own custom search engine, Albertsons was able to rapidly deploy this powerful new service to its customers with the help of Bloomreach. Thanks to semantic search and personalization, Albertsons customers were able to increase basket-building speed by over 25% and convert at a higher rate.
Looking for more real-life examples of the power of delivering relevant results? Check out these 5 brands winning with personalized search.
Benefits of Personalized Search for Growing Businesses
For growing online businesses, personalized search can offer numerous benefits that can help improve customer acquisition and retention. By delivering personalized search results to match individual customers’ preferences and needs, businesses can increase the likelihood of customers finding what they’re looking for, leading to higher conversion rates and repeat business.
Additionally, personalized search can provide customized recommendations based on a customer’s search history, browsing behavior, and purchase history. This not only enhances the overall customer experience, but also increases the chances of customers finding and purchasing products that they may have otherwise missed.
Furthermore, personalized search can be used to take customers on a shopping journey that meets their unique needs and preferences. This can lead to increased satisfaction and loyalty. However, the benefits of personalized search don’t stop there.
Increased Revenue and Business Growth
With personalized search results, businesses can not only improve customer acquisition and retention, but also open up new upselling and cross-selling opportunities. For example, personalized search can provide customized recommendations based on a customer’s search history, browsing behavior, and purchase history. This can, in turn, lead to higher average order value through personalized product suggestions. The end result is that your customers will end up spending more money per purchase, ultimately increasing revenue for your business.
This personalization feature can also lead to improved customer lifetime value. For example, personalized search can increase the chances of customers finding and purchasing products that they might have otherwise missed. As a result, customers are more likely to return to the business for future purchases, leading to increased growth.
Enhanced Data Insights and Analytics
Data is key for any business to survive. As we’ve already touched on, personalized search delivers powerful data and insights that can give your e-commerce site an edge over the competition. Marketing campaigns, product development, and even customer service strategies can be enhanced by analytics coming out of search. Furthermore, many personalized search applications and products include detailed analytics on customer engagement, click-through rates, conversion rates, and time spent on site. This information can be used to optimize search algorithms and improve the overall customer experience.
Emerging market trends and opportunities can also be spotted quicker thanks to the power of the data you gather.
How To Get More Revenue Out of Site Search
Personalized search can increase your revenue by as much as 8.5%. In order to drive significant revenue growth for your brand, you’ll need a tool as powerful as Bloomreach Discovery. Our market-leading AI is able to continuously optimize both the searching and browsing experiences on your site, which helps you see a faster return on investment (ROI) than any other product discovery solution on the market. Plus, as your customers browse through your site, Bloomreach keeps track of their preferences and automatically uses that data for ranking factors to consistently deliver the most relevant search results to your customers.
And best of all, you don’t need to do manual busywork to take advantage of our solution. Our machine learning algorithms will handle the search for you, including ongoing maintenance, new segment testing, and segmented search for all site visitors. Ready to learn more? Find out how Bloomreach Discovery can help your site’s search engine deliver personalized results — every time.