Personalized search is tailoring search results to site visitors with metrics such as preferences, previous search history, location, referral source, device type, and demographic. Your users are more likely to return when they have a positive experience with your site.
Personalized search results use algorithms that assess a user's search history, location, and other relevant data to help site owners deliver search results that meet users' interests and needs.
Thus, personalized site search saves customers time, minimizes the need for repeated searches, and quickly matches search intent to outcomes —leading to more satisfaction, increased loyalty, high retention, and more sales.
So how do you arrive at this magical destination of enhanced user experience? And what goes into personalizing search results?
Dig in to find out!
What Is User Experience (UX)?
User experience is a user's overall experience when interacting with a product, system, or service. UX answers to all aspects of the user's interaction with your website, including their perceptions, emotions, and behavior.
Hence, UX design aims to create a positive experience for the user by considering factors such as usability, accessibility, aesthetics, and functionality. A good user experience design considers the user's goals, needs, and preferences and aims to provide a seamless and intuitive interaction that meets or exceeds the user's expectations.
The ultimate goal of UX design is to create a positive and meaningful experience for the user, leading to increased engagement, loyalty, and satisfaction.
And in the context of ensuring your users stay longer on your website and eventually move from idly-interested site visitors to converted traffic, personalizing search results to each user is primal.
Suppose your eCommerce sells clothing. In that case, you could analyze the user's past behavior on the site, such as their search history, items they viewed or purchased, and preferences, to personalize the search results by presenting articles similar to what they searched for or purchased in the past. The user experience will improve, and your buyers will keep coming back.
Dividends of Personalized Search for Businesses
A personalized and efficient search experience helps you take your customers’ user experience to the next level. You can have relevant and engaging content, higher conversion rates, and increased user loyalty by tailoring search results to interests, preferences, and past behavior.
Let’s break that down.
#1: Improved Search Relevance
When users search for something on your website, and the search results are irrelevant, users are likely to become frustrated and abandon the website.
By improving search relevance — tailoring search results to users' interests and preferences — you reduce the time and effort required to find the information or products they need, leading to a more positive user experience.
In addition to saving users time and effort, improved search relevance also helps build trust and loyalty. Users are more likely to return in the future and recommend the site to others. Engagement and satisfaction go through the roof. And your team’s life gets more fulfilling.
Furthermore, improved search relevance also leads to increased conversion rates and revenue, making it a critical factor in business success.
A notorious real-life example is Amazon's personalized search results. Suppose a user frequently searches for and purchases books on gardening. In that case, Amazon personalizes its search algorithm to prioritize search results for gardening books when that user searches for a book on Amazon.
Additionally, if the user lives in a cold climate and searches for a "winter coat," Amazon's personalized search algorithm may present search results for warm and insulated coats suitable for local weather conditions.
#2: Increased User Satisfaction
Providing relevant and valuable content makes users feel like the site understands their needs and preferences, leading to a positive overall experience. You can intelligently meet their search intent by analyzing users' search queries and behavior to identify patterns and trends.
Suppose many users are searching for a particular product or category. In that case, highlighting that content or providing additional resources may be beneficial to make it easier for users to meet their needs.
Another way to use the personalized site search for better user satisfaction is to present search results in a way that is visually appealing and easy to navigate. That includes using images, videos, and other multimedia content to enhance the user experience and make it easier for users to find what they need.
A real-life example of a personalized site search for increased user satisfaction is Netflix's search feature. Netflix uses personalized search algorithms to recommend TV shows and movies based on user's viewing history, ratings, and other preferences. Users find content relevant to their interests, and their satisfaction and engagement with the platform improve.
#3: Increased Business Efficiency
Personalized search results help customers save time in navigating your website. By presenting relevant results at the top of the search results page and reducing the need to sift through irrelevant results, you provide an joyous and satisfying search experience.
ASOS uses personalized site searches to analyze customers' search queries and behavior to identify patterns and trends. If many customers search for a particular dress style or brand, ASOS's search algorithm will prioritize those products in the search results.
This personalized site search approach has helped ASOS increase business efficiency by reducing the time and effort required for customers to find products on their site. As a result, ASOS has seen improved conversion rates and increased revenue.
Moreover, ASOS's personalized site search has also helped to reduce support costs by providing customers with relevant and accurate search results. That has reduced the need for customer support and allowed ASOS to focus on other business areas.
HeyDay uses intelligent, personalized site search to help businesses increase efficiency, and productivity, reduce support costs, and increase conversion rates and revenue.
#4: Better Conversion Rates
You can get better conversion rates by presenting users with products or services more likely to meet their needs, not unexpected results that piss them off your website.
Booking.com uses personalized site searches to help users quickly find the best deals on travel accommodations.
Booking.com's personalized site search algorithm provides users with personalized recommendations and deals on travel accommodations using data from users' search queries and behavior. That makes it easier for users to find the best deals and increases the likelihood of conversion.
Also, Booking.com's personalized site search provides users with a visually appealing and engaging search experience, using images and other multimedia content to showcase travel accommodations and increase the likelihood of users clicking on and engaging with search results.
Businesses using HeyDay’s intelligent search to personalize search results are getting better conversion rates by providing users with relevant and personalized search results, making it easier for them to take desired actions.
#5: Increased User Loyalty
Your users are more likely to return when they have a positive experience with your site.
Personalized search helps users discover new products and content tailored to their interests with relevant and accurate search results, thereby increasing the likelihood of engagement and loyalty.
Etsy uses personalized site searches to help users discover new and relevant products and provide customized recommendations based on user search history and behavior.
Etsy's personalized site search has helped to increase user loyalty by providing a more user-friendly and efficient search experience, making it easier for users to find unique and customized products.
Plus, Etsy's personalized recommendations and content have helped to keep users engaged with the site, increasing the likelihood of repeat visits and purchases. Etsy creates a loyal and engaged user base, increasing the likelihood of repeat visits and purchases, driving business growth, and increasing revenue.
Tap into personalized site search with HeyDay site search for increased user loyalty.
But how do personalized search results work in practical terms? Let’s go through that step by step.
How Search Personalization Works
Before we dive deep into that, here are some numbers that might be interesting to the reader:
80% of consumers are more likely to conduct business with a brand if it offers individualized experiences, according to a survey by the international marketing firm Epsilon.
91% of online visitors are more likely to buy from companies offering personalized offers and recommendations, a survey by Accenture said.
88% of marketers said their personalization initiatives significantly improved their business results, a poll by Evergage says.
These figures show that consumers have a sizable need for individualized services and experiences. And brands that deliver these experiences are more likely to draw in and keep customers
That said, here’s how personalized site search works:
#1: User Data Collection
User data collection involves gathering and storing information about users' interactions, behavior, preferences, and characteristics. Companies, organizations, and businesses collect user data to understand users better and provide more personalized services or experiences.
Data collection touchpoints and indices involve:
User search history. Companies collect information on the searches conducted by the user, including the keywords used, time, and frequency.
Location data. Another data touchpoint is the user's location, GPS data, IP addresses, and Wi-Fi networks.
Device type. A user's device, including operating system, browser type, and screen size, helps brands make sense of the user’s preferences, behavior, or demographics.
Demographics. The user's age, gender, income, education level, and other characteristics can inform decisions about the product offering.
Social media activity. Another data touchpoint is information on the user's interactions on social media platforms, including likes, shares, and comments.
Collecting user data helps companies and websites to provide more personalized services and experiences.
HeyDay maintains responsible and ethical data collection practices, respecting users' privacy and providing data usage and sharing transparency.
#2: Data Analysis
After collecting data on your site visitors’ interaction with your website, the next step is to analyze the data for informed business decisions.
User data analysis involves examining and interpreting the data collected from various sources about users' interactions, behavior, preferences, and characteristics.
Some methods for user data analysis include:
Data mining. Discovering patterns, relationships, and insights from large datasets involves using statistical and machine learning techniques to analyze data and identify hidden patterns and trends for informed business decisions.
Statistical analysis. That involves organizing and summarizing data using measures such as means, medians, standard deviations, and inferential statistics to make inferences or test hypotheses, identify patterns and relationships in data, and predict future behavior or outcomes.
Natural language processing. NLP is a branch of artificial intelligence that focuses on enabling computers to understand, interpret, and generate human language. NLP uses algorithms to analyze and process natural language data, such as text or speech, to extract meaningful insights or perform automated tasks.
#3: Personalizing Search Results
Leveraging the insights from user data analysis, you then program the internal search engine to tailor search results to the user's interests, preferences, and behavior.
Developing user personas based on the insights gained from data analysis to represent different segments of users with distinct preferences, behaviors, and goals.
Customizing search results for each user persona by weighting specific search terms or prioritizing distinct content types.
Using personalization features, such as autocomplete suggestions, related searches, or tailored recommendations, enhances the user experience and improves engagement.
#4: Test and Refinement
The search engine collects input from the user on the personalized search results and refines the algorithms to improve the accuracy and relevance of the customized search results.
A/B testing different variations of personalized search results help you determine what works best for other groups of users. And how to refine the search experience based on user feedback and analytics to continually improve search relevance and user satisfaction.
Internal Search Personalization Rule of Thumb
Personalizing onsite search is a powerful tool to enhance the user experience and maximize profits. So, you must do it responsibly and ethically.
Some rules of thumb to keep in mind include the following.
Transparency. Inform users how you use their data and who can access it. Present this information clearly and understandably.
Consent. Seek user consent by allowing them to opt-in or out of data collection and personalization. Make this choice clear and explicit – not buried in lengthy terms and conditions.
Data security. Keep data secure from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. Data breaches can result in significant harm to users and loss of trust in the service provider.
Fairness. Design your algorithms to avoid discriminating against certain user groups based on race, gender, or other characteristics.
Respect privacy. Don’t intrude on users' privacy or personal space. Users should have control over the “how and when” of the personalization to limit the use of their data.
The rule of law. Observe data protection rules and regulations, such as the US's California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU.
Continuous improvement. Monitor user feedback and make changes to improve the personalized experience.
In conclusion, the central message for the reader is clear:
Personalized onsite search is no longer a luxury but a necessity for any eCommerce website that wants to stay competitive in today's market.
In these times of overwhelming distractions and shorter consumer attention spans, tailoring search results to each user helps create a highly relevant and intuitive search experience for increased user satisfaction, sales, and customer loyalty. Use HeyDay to streamline the process of a personalized search experience.
Don't miss the opportunity to exceed your customers' expectations and take your eCommerce business to the next level.
About the Author
Tom-Chris Emewulu is HeyDay’s Digital Evangelist. With 8+ years of digital marketing and business development experience, he crafts high-intent, high-converting, data-driven SEO articles that put brands on page 1 of Google search. Forbes, DW, Business Insider, Businessss2Community, and many other publications have featured his works. You can find him on Social Media via @tomchrisemewulu.