AI powered site search optimization

How to reduce search abandonment with AI-powered site search


Search abandonment – where a visitor uses the search bar to find something on your website but does not get the desired results – costs retailers over $234 dollars in the US and over $2 trillion across the globe annually. These numbers not only represent lost sales opportunities but also point out a recurring problem of poor site search optimization, which leads to poor user experience. 

A Google Cloud study on website search abandonment in 2021 revealed that 

  • 3 out of 4 consumers went to a competitor after an unsuccessful search 
  • 75% said they were less loyal to a brand if they found it tough to locate the right product/information through a website search

A follow-up study in 2023 found that subpar search experiences remained costly in terms of sales and brand loyalty. An average of three items were purchased following a successful search experience. At the same time, 53% of US consumers abandoned the website if the site search results did not meet their expectations. 

The picture is clear- being unable to deliver accurate and relevant results directly affects the consumer experience and positions you for potential losses. But there is an effective solution to this all-too-common challenge: AI-powered site search. In this blog, we will explore how AI site search optimization can reduce search abandonment. It will cover the potential reasons why people are abandoning their search, how AI improves their experience, and how professional AI/ML developers can streamline this process for you.  

Assessment: Are people abandoning your site search or your website?

Before implementing search abandonment solutions, it’s critical to assess two scenarios: 

1. Users are abandoning the search functionality

In this case, users arrive at your website and use the search function to find specific information. However, they abandon their search for various reasons and resort to manual navigation through the menu and pages.

2. Users are dropping off the website

Here, users leave the website entirely, irrespective of their interaction with the internal search functionality. If this is the case, it may indicate a more critical issue than a poorly optimized site search system. It is likely that users are not finding any value on the page. At this point, re-strategizing page intent, content, and utility might be the best move for you.  

Why are people abandoning search on your website?

We will focus on the first scenario (where users abandon internal site search due to poor UX). It could happen for a variety of reasons, including-

1. Poor search functionality

An unoptimized site search system can be a source of frustration for the user. If it takes too long to process queries and return results, it can create a perception of poor overall website performance. Moreover, an unresponsive search functionality undermines its primary utility, i.e., to provide a convenient and efficient UI. 

2. Inaccurate product data 

When users search for a product, they expect the most relevant results. However, if your product information is insufficient or lacks proper descriptions/attributes, it can hinder the search function’s ability to identify relevant matches for user queries. This results in inaccurate or irrelevant product suggestions, leaving users unsure of products’ suitability and causing them to abandon their search.

3. Ineffective filtering options

Random filters prevent users from refining broad searches within large product categories. It can significantly impact user satisfaction as they’re forced to sift through many irrelevant results. As a result, they may conclude that the product or information they need isn’t available on the website and abandon the search entirely. 

Unpack your website’s search abandonment problem

Recover lost opportunities with an optimized internal site search engine

How can you reduce search abandonment with AI-powered site search?

An AI-powered product discovery engine can enhance your website’s overall search experience and reduce search abandonment. Let’s see how that works.  

1. It improves UI responsiveness

AI-powered search engines rely on machine learning (ML) models trained on vast amounts of data relevant to your website’s content. This training process involves iterative testing and refining the model’s ability to understand search queries and retrieve the most relevant results. After sufficient training, the internal site search systems can deliver faster results, reducing the lag while ensuring accurate outcomes.

2. It offers relevant results due to advanced search query processing

AI-powered site search systems can have advanced query processing modules to retrieve the closest-matching results for a given query. These modules modify the search terms (remove suffixes and punctuations, correct spellings, extract keyphrases, and identify entities such as nouns/verbs) and implement intent detection to enhance the search results. As a result, the user gets more relevant search results, adding to their satisfaction and preventing them from abandoning their search. 

3. It allows hyper-personalization

AI-powered site search systems personalize the search experience by using advanced ML algorithms to accumulate and analyze user data. This data of users’ past search queries, clicks, and purchase history is analyzed to gather insights into user preferences and behavior. Using these insights, the system then creates detailed user profiles and captures additional information, such as the device used to search, time of the day when the user runs most searches, user location, etc. These user profiles help personalize search results by prioritizing products, content, and services likely to be explored by a particular user. 

4. It allows dynamic content-based filtering

Besides examining user behavior and purchasing patterns, AI-powered site search systems can analyze product categories, including all finer details such as material composition (fabric, metal, etc.), technical specifications (weight, size, etc.), style attributes (for example, color), and brand-related information. Based on this data, the system groups similar products together. Combining product attributes with user data, the site search system dynamically adjusts the search filters. 

For instance, consider a user who searches for “running shoes” and explores a few products with attributes such as “lightweight” and “breathable.” By analyzing this behavior, the AI site search understands the user’s preference for lightweight and breathable options, so it starts filtering products using these attributes instead of others like “color” or “brand.” As a result, the user continues exploring each relevant option without abandoning their search.

Benefits of AI site search for online retailers

AI-powered site search offers a host of benefits for websites, but especially for those in the eCommerce space. Below are a few of them. 

1. Increased average ticket size

Beyond improved user experience, site search optimization can increase the average order value by offering intelligent product recommendations. For example, when a customer is skimming your website to purchase a laptop, the AI can understand their needs and recommend complementary products like a high-resolution monitor, ergonomic mouse, or extended warranty. It may persuade some customers to purchase these higher-margin add-ons in addition to the laptop they were initially seeking, ultimately increasing the total value of the sale.

Secondly, AI site search identifies frequently purchased-together patterns. That allows it to recommend and cross-sell related products alongside a user’s initial search. For example, a user searching for a phone case might see a screen guard displayed as a frequently bought-together item. It helps increase the average order value for many customers. 

2. Enhanced product discovery

Traditional site search systems work on rule-based keyword-matching programs. When a user types in a query, the search engine logic is to scan the website (particularly product descriptions and titles) to find the exact words as in the user’s query. This approach, however, does not generate accurate results if 

  • Consumers use synonyms or are unaware of the correct terms related to their product search 
  • There are typos or misspellings in the original query 

However, with AI, the website’s product discovery engine can automatically consider typos, synonyms, and related terms and still retrieve the most relevant results. That enhances the user’s experience and educates them about newer options, allowing you to upsell. 

3. Reduced cart abandonment

eCommerce search optimization solves a fundamental problem in the shopping journey: finding the right product with extreme ease. With advanced search and product discovery capabilities, users can explore the most relevant options, reassuring them that they’re on the right track and can consider purchasing from you. This helps build trust and confidence in making the final call, further reducing their likelihood of cart abandonment. 

Discover how SunTec India helped an international retailer achieve 30% higher conversions

With AI-powered search engine development

Pitfalls of implementing site search optimization with AI

While AI-powered site search offers significant benefits in enhancing the search experience, several factors surrounding the common pitfalls associated with AI warrant careful consideration before you implement it. Let’s look at some of them. 

1. Reliance on data

AI relies heavily on data to learn and function effectively. The search results might be inaccurate or irrelevant if you lack sufficient data on user behavior, search queries, and product information.

2. Data bias

Biases in AI-generated results may arise from various sources, such as inappropriate training data, bugs in the algorithms, or improper implementation. Failing to address these biases may have the opposite effect on your AI site search functionality. 

3. Security concerns

Like many technologies handling large amounts of user data, AI-powered site search systems are susceptible to attacks from malicious actors. It can happen in two potential ways:

  • Attackers may exploit vulnerabilities in the system to gain unauthorized access to sensitive user data and use it for identity theft or financial fraud. 
  • They could manipulate the AI algorithms to display misleading or harmful search results in an attempt to harm your business reputation.

How can professional AI/ML developers help you optimize search abandonment with AI-powered site search?

Professional AI/ML developers can be your strategic partners in optimizing search abandonment with AI-powered site search. They can help you in the following ways.

  • They begin by understanding your requirements and the intended scope of AI integration within your existing site search functionality. 
  • Based on this knowledge, they gather relevant website content, including product catalogs, manuals, articles, and historical user search queries.
  • This data then undergoes processing to address inconsistencies (spellings, formats, etc.). This may involve techniques like text annotation, where different elements within the text (parts of speech, semantics, roles) are labeled for clarity.
  • This processed data is converted into numerical vectors, allowing the AI model to retrieve the most relevant results for a given user query. Following this, they use advanced algorithms to help the model develop an understanding of the semantic relationships between different words. 
  • Ultimately, the AI site search model undergoes rigorous training using the vectorized data. Its performance is evaluated based on key metrics such as recall, precision, accuracy, and, most importantly, the relevance of search results delivered to users. 

Besides streamlining the process, an experienced AI/ML developer can ensure compliance with all data security and privacy rules and regulations applicable in this space. 

Ultimately, this approach will reduce your load. Your website will get an efficient site search engine, the visitors and consumers will be rewarded with better experiences, and you can capitalize on all this while still being focused on other core business activities. 

Rohit Bhateja
Rohit Bhateja

Rohit Bhateja is the Director of the Data & Digital division at SunTec India. With over a decade of experience in the industry, his core expertise lies in digital marketing, customer acquisition, marketing analytics, and brand communication. He likes exploring data trends and devising transformative marketing solutions. He is also an avid writer who enjoys sharing his thoughts and insights on trending topics shaping the industry & transforming businesses.