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How An Outdated Search Dissuades Customers

When you last searched for a product online, you most likely started by entering a few seemingly relevant keywords into a search box. After pressing submit, an assortment of results would have populated the browser screen. From the top, paid ads from larger retailers would have been displayed followed by organic results. And so began the long journey to purchase as you sifted through thousands of results which were displayed to you via multiple channels.

To put it plainly, search experiences are not always easy or enjoyable. Consumers are content finding products but are not so enthusiastic about actually searching for them. The process of identifying the right keywords, applying filters and product / price comparison becomes exhausting for a user and turns the pleasure of shopping into an arduous task.

Search Hasn’t Changed

Digital technology has altered where we purchase from, but the methodology behind how we search and find consumables has its roots back in the 1930s. There are three elements to the modern day search: faceted / filtered search, keywords and page rank. Each of these components has its own impact on how consumers journey through online search experiences.

Faceted / Filtered Search

The idea of filtering based on predetermined groupings to sort, and identify, relevant data stems from the Colon Classification system. This system was developed in 1933 by an Indian academic. Its purpose was to aid scientists and librarians find relevant books and studies more quickly. Faceted search is the most common function you will find on ecommerce sites. This is the sidebar where a user checks boxes to refine their search results further.


Some speculate that the use of keywords dates back to the early 1990s when SEO was in its infancy. The idea of giving weight to specific terms based on relevance was conceived by scientists at Cornell University back in the 1960s. The modern-day search box demands that a user know what they are looking for because of the way that businesses classify their products through keywords.

Page Rank

Page rank is one of the newer components of modern day search. Google introduced this feature into its search results back in 2000. Google’s PageRank assesses the trustworthiness of, and number of links pointed at, a search result to determine what pages show up for a user’s search query.

These elements ignore the way a human intuitively searches for a product. For example, you would not enter a shop and state, “Show me the most popular product whether it fits my needs or not.” Every instance where a user decides to buy something online means that they are gambling with the functionality of the search box.

It is an outdated experience and, as a result, consumers run into a plethora of issues whenever they shop online.

Search Issues Faced by Modern Consumers

If we draw upon our initial thoughts about when you last shopped online, how did you feel when your browser displayed an endless list of purchase options? You probably experienced at least one of the following challenges that consumers face each time they search.

Choice Overload.
A basic search for “face cream for wrinkles” generates over 46 million Google results, and over 9,000 Amazon results, at the time of writing this article. If you try and refine this using various faceted search values, the results still run into the thousands. Over 54% of consumers experience overwhelm by the sheer amount of choices that are available.

Fear of Better Options is that feeling that there is something better out there but the consumer just hasn’t found it yet. It disables a person’s ability to make a concise decision.

Confusion Over Products.
Businesses cram product pages with technical wording and keywords thinking that it has relevance to a consumer. Users, however, are not product experts and shouldn’t be expected to sift through technical and industry jargon to assess whether the item is right for them.

So how do you overcome these consumer stumbling blocks? Delivering a superior and enjoyable search experience requires implementing conversational search or product finder functionality.

The Solution To Outdated Search

The antiquated way of shopping, when you went in store and a salesperson worked through your individual needs, is the ultimate consumer-centered experience. The expertise of the salesperson meant that they could understand what you wanted and this exchange was genuine and personal. Conversational search and product finders, or conversational commerce, replicates this human experience online and reintroduces the intuitiveness that has been otherwise lost in the online search experience.

Conversational search better converts online shoppers by optimizing their journey to purchase. Instead of relying on keywords, or faceted search, the consumer is asked a series of questions which refines the products results that are displayed to them. Rather than thousands, the list of relevant options numbers about 5 – 10.

Consumers deserve an optimized search experience and conversational search or product finders are the only way to deliver it.