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What Will be the Biggest Disruptor of Traditional Online Retail Search?

amazon echo

eCommerce is still in its growth phase, although it is evolving quickly.

The handy product search box has been a reliable feature on Amazon’s site since the 90s. But as eCommerce grows and continues to evolve, is the search bar here to stay?  

This holiday season saw Alexa devices top Amazon’s Best-Seller List, with millions of Alexa devices sold worldwide. In an increasingly multi-screen (and even screenless) world, how will retail product search change?

I asked four industry experts for their view on what will be the biggest disruptor of traditional online retail search.

Artificial Intelligence + Voice

“I think Amazon’s Choice is a pretty good example. The combination of AI and voice is going to totally transform things. You’re going to end up telling the voice assistant what you want in a general sense, and it’s going to respond specifically — with, for example, Amazon’s Choice. The reality of voice interaction is it’s not going to give you a long list of results; it’s going to give you the best fit. And that means the stakes for discoverability are going to get even higher.”

Keith Anderson, SVP of Strategy & Insights, Profitero

Personalization

The biggest disruptor to online discoverability will be the increasing personalization of the online experience, including search results, based on various user-level inputs such as past purchases, location and demographics.

For example, a search for “coat” from someone in Minnesota during December could yield a different rank order of results than someone searching for “coat” in Florida at the same time.

This shift could also alter shopping via voice through Amazon Alexa, where a singular Amazon’s Choice designation could morph into many as consumers could be served a personalized Amazon’s Choice.

These changes to the consumer experience will require shopper marketers to adapt to new methods for product optimization and search performance measurement.”

Scott Hamm, Vice President of eCommerce Analytics, Rockfish

 

Rob Ciaffaglione

“I think in the very near term, search algorithms are going to get much smarter. Today, if me and my grandmother search for a broad product term such as ‘body lotion,’ we will be served the same list of products in the search results, when in reality we are likely interested in very different items from very different brands. 

With the amount of data that exists to develop more advanced user profiles, I believe we will certainly see progress regarding more customized search results based on shopper demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral data. 

We know certain e-retailers such as Jet and Boxed are already aligning search results with geography and warehouse inventory. So I imagine that even more customized search results based on the shopper will be here very soon.  

Providing smarter search results is particularly important due to shoppers embracing voice product search. A shopper does not want to sit and listen to Alexa recommend a long list of 10 potential products. Because of this, it is even more crucial for manufacturers to crack the code on the future of search optimization. We may no longer be satisfied with just appearing on page one of search results. In due time, it will be critical for a brand to have a top 3 recommended item, in order to be a part of the consideration set.”

Rob Ciaffaglione, Shopper Marketing Manager – eCommerce, Beiersdorf

Mobile + Visual Search

“The continued growth in mobile shopping will be the biggest disruptor of traditional online retail. The gradual introduction of mobile-optimized images is slowly improving the mobile shopping experience. However, brands and retailers still have much development to undertake to provide a simple and efficient search functionality. Mobile optimised search algorithms and visual search capability will become standard tools to achieve this goal.”

– Andrew Pearl, Director of Strategy & Insights, Profitero

Click here to view additional posts from our eCommerce Product Search Fundamentals & Tactics series. For weekly insights on improving eCommerce performance, you might also be interested in subscribing to Profitero’s Digital Shelf Digest.