AI-Powered Search 101: A Beginners Guide

Ellie Bradford
Jun 7, 2024
3 min read

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm with tools such as ChatGPT, Bing AI, and Bard AI being hot topics. More and more we’re seeing how this technology can be useful in daily life and for eCommerce.

Previously, the high price tag of AI-powered site search meant it was something only the big eCommerce players could enjoy. Fortunately, things have changed. AI-powered site search is now a whole lot more accessible as e-merchants can choose which layers of AI to integrate into their site search. In this article, we’ll provide a simple breakdown of AI search and show you how you can apply it to your Shopify store.

What Is AI-Powered Search?

ai-powered search 101 | boost commerce ai powered search for shopify

Let’s first look at AI and site search separately.

Site search is a tool that helps visitors to an eCommerce store find the products they’re interested in. This is done via the search bar and search results page. Traditionally, keywords associated with products are used to help surface results. Some advanced site search tools can enhance the search process with autocomplete, auto-suggest, and manually added synonyms.

AI is a branch of computing that aims to mimic human intelligence. It does this by taking in vast amounts of data, which it then analyzes to learn and adapt in real-time. This means AI can be used to perform specific tasks, all it needs is to be given the right information and data related to the task.

boost ai search and discovery

So when you apply AI to site search, what happens? Essentially, your site search function will learn from search data, user data, and store data in real-time. As a result, it produces the most accurate and relevant site search experiences.

How Does AI Search Work on E-commerce stores?

how ai search works in ecommerce | ai powered search shopify

AI-powered search on eCommerce stores can be broken down into three layers; natural language processing, machine learning, and personalization.

Natural language processing

Natural language processing (NLP) is the ability of site search tools to understand the complex nuances of human language. Human speech is often unstructured and complex, which is hard for traditional search algorithms to understand. NLP aims to get over that hurdle by adding meaning and structure to search queries. This allows the search function to have a better idea of the intent behind a user’s search query thus generating more accurate and relevant results.

One of the ways NLP gives meaning and structure to search queries is with facet extraction. Put simply, facet extraction involves identifying and drawing out the product attributes contained in a search. This includes attributes such as price, color, size, style, material, and more. So, a user can conduct a search for modern gray sofa and the algorithm will know precisely what to present them with.

ai search uses facet extraction and intent understanding to enhance keyword matching

Another method NLP employs to gain a better understanding of search queries is enhanced typo tolerance. Rather than requiring the user to make very minimal mistakes or only spell keywords precisely, AI-powered search tools can detect the intent behind a search as they are less sensitive to errors. These tools look at the misspelled words and compare them with error-free keywords to find the closest match. This is especially important as research has found that around 25% of searches on eCommerce sites contain spelling errors.

The 3.0 generation of Boost offer NLP capabilities with intent understanding, facet extraction, and so on.

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Machine learning

Machine learning (ML) is what gives AI the ability to mimic the way humans process and learn from the information. It focuses on data and algorithms to help it learn and become more accurate over time.

When ML is applied to site search, it uses search data to help results become more accurate and relevant without human interference. It gathers and analyzes information from various sources like previous search data, search behavior, and a store’s product data in real-time. It then uses this information to continuously adapt and refine its algorithm. An example of this is synonym detection.

AI-powered search automatically detects synonyms in searches and presents results that match. It looks at data from past search queries, search behavior, and product data to identify patterns and relationships between search terms. This is then used to generate and detect synonyms.

This basically gives it the ability to group similar words together, so the right result is found through search. For example, a user searching for blue skinny pants will get the same results as someone searching for blue slim-fit trousers. The algorithm knows that these search terms are the same.

Personalization

AI search can provide a more personalized search experience. It can do this by analyzing individual users’ search and browsing behavior in real-time and in the past, to inform the ranking of products on the search results page. For example, if a user has shown a greater interest in floral patterns, a search for “dress” by the same user could rank floral dresses higher in the results.

The point of this aspect of AI-powered eCommerce site search is to provide an experience that is more attuned to customers as individuals. It focuses on each shopper’s personal shopping patterns alongside user profiles to dictate their search experience.

What Are The Benefits of AI-Powered Search?

benefits of ai search for ecommerce stores

We’re sure you’re beginning to see how valuable AI search could be for your eCommerce store. With increased relevance and accuracy in site searches, there are several rewards you’ll be able to reap.

Enhanced shopping experience

With AI-powered search in your store, virtually any search a visitor conducts is guaranteed to be understood. The bar to getting relevant search results is significantly lowered, even with typos or colloquial language searches will be understood. With AI-powered search, store owners relieve the stress of inaccurate results which will ultimately lead to greater satisfaction from customers.

AI search also makes it a lot easier for shoppers to find products in an eCommerce store. They can craft searches in a more natural way to them thanks to NLP. Shoppers can even be more detailed within a search, stating the exact features they want in a product and still getting relevant results. This is a game changer as just simply adding a price in a traditional eCommerce site search can throw results completely out of whack.

Increased conversions

With a site search tool that has a greater depth of understanding, the likelihood of shoppers being presented with “No results found” is greatly reduced. Searchers will be able to find the products they desire in an instant, rather than after some failed or inaccurate attempts.

Search experiences are a lot more relevant with AI, making the pathway to purchasing a whole lot smoother. This smoother and more relevant process will inevitably lead to more visitors turning into paying customers.

Moves in line with how shoppers search

Searchers are becoming a lot more complex when it comes to typing queries. Rather than using a few keywords to find what they’re looking for, they’re more likely to take a conversational approach. In fact, 70% of online searches contain long-tail keywords.

Long tail keywords and complex phrases are difficult to optimize for with traditional site search tools. However, with AI-powered search and its NLP abilities, these complex search queries can be understood to generate accurate results.

Cost effective

A huge benefit of AI-powered site search at this moment in time is that merchants no longer have to be priced out. There’s now the opportunity to add one or some of the layers of AI search to your store which makes it a whole lot more affordable. You can provide more accurate and relevant search experiences for the price of 10 Starbucks coffee!

Saves time and increases productivity

Traditionally, to give on-site search the capability to recognize synonyms, merchants need to manually input all possible words related to specific search terms. This undoubtedly takes quite a bit of time and also carries the risk of missing related words to add.

With AI-powered search this task can be taken off your hands as synonyms are generated automatically. This reduction in manual labor will give you more time to focus on more productive tasks.

AI-powered search is also scalable, so as your business grows and evolves, your search function will be able to keep up and adapt with ease.

How Boost 3.0 Brings AI Search To Shopify Stores

The Boost app is getting a massive upgrade. Boost has already proven to be a valuable search tool, loved by 14,000+ Shopify merchants. The new iteration of the Boost app will see search taken to new heights with AI.

Boost 3.0 Search & Discovery will bring more accurate and relevant results to searches by using NLP. The tool will be able to understand the intent behind a user’s search query no matter how complex it is.

Boost’s AI-powered search function will use facet extraction to identify and extract product attributes included in a search query. Attributes like color, style, size, price, and more can be picked out from a search query and matched to products.

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This will be especially useful for long tail queries or those with a price range. Searchers can type in “dresses from $20 to $50” and see accurate results. There’s also enhanced typo tolerance, automatic recognition, and the generation of synonyms.

ai search of boost ai search and discovery auto detects synonyms

Besides these awesome AI search features, Boost 3.0 will be going a step further to help propel product discovery. AI-powered and rule-based product recommendations and new merchandising rules for search terms are also coming to Boost 3.0.

These new features are set to make Boost AI Search & Discovery a complete solution for product discovery. From recommendations to AI search and enhanced filtering, Boost has got you covered!

Leverage The Power of AI Search With Boost

AI-powered search wields so much power. Thanks to its advanced capabilities, store owners can provide search experiences that resonate with their visitors. With a better understanding of what shoppers are searching for, results become much more accurate and relevant. And with more accurate and relevant results, you’ll have more happy customers making purchases.

The upgraded Boost AI Search & Discovery is guaranteed to give you the best solution not just for search but product discovery as a whole. It allows you to leverage the power of AI search and product recommendations alongside the smart search and filter functions merchants have come to love.

Ellie Bradford
In-Product Marketing Lead
June 17, 2024
6 min read