[Autocomplete feature in your internal search engine] Boost your online store’s sales with search suggestions

Your customers are overindulged.

They go on Google, type two characters and the browser rushes to get them an autocomplete list of suggestions. And because most of the time they find what they are looking for on that list, they don’t bother to continue writing.

The same thing happens when you browse on Amazon, YouTube…

So, of course… What happens when they come to your store?

Well, they find your site search insufficient because it is much more basic than the ones of those big websites.  They think yours is too slow and doesn’t know how to “anticipate their thoughts” the way Google or Amazon do.

Worst case scenario, some users will end up losing their patience and leaving your store.

Any good news?

Well, having an autocomplete feature in your search engine that reads your customers’ minds like Google does is way simpler than you think. If your store has it, customers might prefer to buy from you before they do from competitors.

Would you like to know the standards an autocomplete feature must meet to make more conversions?

Keep on reading; we’ll tell you all about it. 😉

👉 What autocomplete is and why it is important for your e-commerce search engine to include it

First let’s see what we’re talking about in detail.

A search engine’s autocomplete feature shows the user different suggestions as they type in characters. 

In other words, it anticipates what the person will write next to make their search more agile, the way Google Suggest does (Google’s autocomplete feature). 

This not only applies to big websites but to any e-commerce’s internal search engine too.

However, before we continue explaining what autocomplete consists in, it’s best that we clarify two key concepts that are sometimes confused.

✅ 1. Search suggestions and search results: are they the same thing?

No, they are not. Let’s use Google’s search engine for you to see it clearly.

Search suggestions are the different options you get on the search engine as you type in, as you can see in this image:

autocomplete-google

If you look closely, some of them are quite different among them.

That’s because here, Google is giving us “possibilities”, not results.

Search results, on the other hand, are what you get when you press the Enter key and every hit you get is related to the search you’ve done.

autocompletado

To simplify, we can say that the difference resides in pressing or not the Enter key.

You must be thinking: “Well, that’s lame! That doesn’t make a big difference!”

Actually, there’s more to it than you think. 😉

✅ 2. So how can you benefit from the autocomplete feature in your internal search engine?

It’s very simple: it improves user experience.

The thing is that by including something as “simple” as “search suggestions” you can:

  • Optimize the purchase process: instead of pressing the Enter key, waiting for the site to load, and checking out the category products, the user needs only to type in a couple of characters and click on the suggestions they are interested in. The more user-friendly that process is, the more likely it is they end up buying from you.
  • Show them products they hadn’t considered: imagine you own a pet store and a person comes in looking for a dog bed. Their idea was to buy a regular basket, but when they see the autocomplete suggestions they learn you also sell viscoelastic foam dog beds (which they didn’t even know existed and are perfect for their older dog).

To summarize, search suggestions help the user find just the right product they are interested in.

And that means happier customers and a higher conversion rate.

Sounds good, right? 😉

👉 Key characteristics of a higher-converting autocomplete feature

So far, so good.

But if you really want your search engine to convert, the autocomplete feature must be as complete as possible —forgive the repetition.

So, pay attention to the characteristics it should have so you can make the best of it.

✅ 1. Loading fast as lightning

Imagine you go on a home appliances e-commerce and you type “was…” in the search bar.

As soon as you type the third character, the autocomplete feature should already showcase suggestions such as: washing machine, washing powder…

As you keep on typing, the suggestions change instantly. That’s exactly one of the main goals of the autocomplete feature: to anticipate user’s intention to optimize their search.

Therefore, if the autocomplete feature takes a while to load, it loses its efficiency.

✅ 2. Including images in its suggestions

A picture is worth a thousand product descriptions. 😉

It’s possible that “Oakley Radar EV” doesn’t say anything to you.

autocomplete function

But when you see the thumbnail (as in the image above) two things can happen:

  • It captures your attention if you didn’t know it and decide to have a look.
  • It helps you pinpoint it if you were looking for it but couldn’t remember its name.

And if you’re looking for a specific model among them, these suggestions with images will surely make it stand out.

✅ 3. Speak your customers’ language

A study conducted by Baymard Institute highlights that 70% of search engines fail at showing results because the user has misspelt the product’s name.  

That problem could make you lose sales.

Look at this example.

autocomplete searching

We type “trekking boots”. Even though there are no products in the store’s catalogue under that name, the search engine understands you might be referring to walking or trek boots.

On the contrary, a search engine without the ability of managing synonyms wouldn’t show us any product.

The same thing happens with typos.

Let’s suppose that, by mistake —anyone can make one—, we type “treking” instead of trekking.

autocomplete_in search engine

Again, a basic search engine would not find any product under that name and would show a disappointing “No results”. However, an advanced one understands what the user meant and shows product cards of these boots.

✅ 4. Learn from your customers to improve

No. It’s not a figure of speech; it’s artificial intelligence.

The most cutting-edge search engines use this technology to analyze search history and thus learn from:

➡️ A. The behavior of every individual user

Imagine you own a sports store and a user has searched boxing bags and hand wraps.

When they type “gloves” in the search bar, the autocomplete feature doesn’t show ski gloves or regular gloves. It shows boxing gloves.

Taking into account previous searches the same person has made, it assumes they will be interested in these products the most.

➡️ B. The behavior of the aggregate of customers

So, a good search engine also learns from the rest of the customers and uses that information to manage autocomplete suggestions.

Using the example of the sports e-commerce, imagine that the majority of users who search “coats” end up clicking on Reebok ones.

The search engine notices that and starts showcasing Reebok coats first in their suggestions.

✅ 5. It allows customizing results

So what if you could let the search engine know which specific products it must display first?

Fortunately for you, it is possible (as long as we’re talking about a search engine with advanced settings, of course).

Thanks to this option, you can:

  • Promote product references that sell well and/or leave a good profit margin.
  • Push products on sale.
  • Showcase unsold stock to get rid of it.

For example, let’s say you own a cosmetics e-commerce and it’s summertime.

It would be a good idea to let the search engine know that when someone’s searches “face moisturizer” it should first suggest “face moisturizer with SPF” (Solar Protection Factor). 

Maybe the customer didn’t search for this specific product, but it’s very likely that when they see it, they think “Boy, this is just what I need!”.

This way, your customer ends up fascinated by the experience (and you score a few more sales). 😉

👉 But how do I get my search engine to do all of this?

Of course, now you’ve become aware of all the possibilities a good search engine offers you.

The thing is that some basic search engines —those that come for free with templates— do offer an autocomplete feature, but (of course) it tends to be a very limited one (unlike the type we’ve reviewed in this post).

This is why you need a smart search engine.

One that:

  • Uses artificial intelligence: one that learns from users’ behavior, understands synonyms and recognizes typos.
  • Allows you to customize suggestions: and prioritize some specific products.

Ultimately, a search engine that works as one more piece of your sales strategy and helps you boost conversions in your store.

To give you an idea, customers who use Doofinder (which, by the way, is the same search engine in this post’s images) get 10% to 20% more conversions.

Better see it for yourself, right?

It’s very simple: you only need to click here and test Doofinder for free in your store for 30 days.

This way, you can try out the autocomplete feature at will as well as the other features it offers, so you can see for yourself the impact this can have on your sales.

👉 Usability, speed and relevance = happy customers

You’ve already seen how powerful the autocomplete feature can be.

Now you only need to implement it in your e-commerce to make sure the user will be able to find everything they need instantly.

No clicks, no waiting time, no getting lost on the results page looking at one product at a time.

Let the autocomplete feature do all the work and lead your customer by the hand. 😉