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Natural Language Search – Encouraging the use of more descriptive search

How a Natural Language Search Engine sets you apart

The ultimate goal of any online retailer is to increase sales. What sets you apart from other retailers are the enhancements you continually do to your site to improve the customer experience. Providing an experience that is pleasurable for your shopper will increase the likelihood that they will make purchases on your site and return for more products in the future. As a retailer, you need to take advantage of emerging technologies to help drive site improvements to keep your site fresh and your shoppers interested.

One such improvement is the addition of an accurate and flexible natural language processing (NLP) system to aid in product search. EasyAsk search allows your customers to be far more descriptive when describing the products they are looking for. Our NLP system means that your users can express what they are looking for in their own words and be provided with highly relevant results. This technology easily lends itself to scenarios where a shopper could use voice input to make requests, which is a much easier way to search, especially when using a smartphone. Voice searching will continue to become even more prevalent in the future. A ComScore study predicts that 50% of all internet searches will be voice-driven by 2020!

Today, EasyAsk customer sites are already optimized to handle “conversational search queries.” For example, the EasyAsk engine can correctly process the following searches:

Timberland“Show me some ladies high heeled field boots in tan”

The North Face “Looking for a red waterproof jacket for my wife, for less than $150

The ability to handle linguistic requests such as these gives you a distinct advantage over other retailers. If retailers aren’t using NLP, their systems will fail when presented with searches of this type. Encouraging users to express themselves using their voices and getting the right results will increase conversion, satisfaction and quickly expand your customer base!

The challenge today is that most users have grown accustomed to specifying their search requests in simple keywords. We have been conditioned to believe that typing in simple keywords is natural behavior.

In fact, that is changing as technologies such as Alexa, Siri, etc., make voice input “normal” for everyday users. These users may currently type in keywords but they still speak in sentences. As they get used to speaking in sentences with these new technologies, it will become more natural to search in full sentences, too.

There are some things you can do to encourage adoption of voice technology and get users to really take advantage while on your website.

Make sure that the placeholder message text in the search box is right

Many sites use placeholder text such as “Enter Keywords” or “Search” in the search box. Boring. Try using a more descriptive message such as “Im looking for” or “Type or speak your search here” and make the text bold. Also consider the placement of the search box itself – especially from the point of view of a mobile user. A large search box prominently featured at the top of the page gets noticed immediately and increases the chance of its use.

Use the “no results” page to show examples

While we try to avoid “no results” situations, there are times when it is going to happen. The “no results” page is an opportunity to let your shoppers know how advanced your EasyAsk search box really is. Here is a typical message from an EasyAsk site:

Put a microphone in the search box

Putting a microphone in the search box makes it obvious to users that voice input is available and will encourage users to utilize voice search. This can be achieved using the Web Kit Speech API in HTML 5 and although this is not compatible with all browsers it’s availability can be checked and the functionality enabled as required. For details of the Web Kit Speech API refer to:

https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2013/01/Voice-Driven-Web-Apps-Introduction-to-the-Web-Speech-API

Of course this is not a requirement, as all modern devices have great voice to text capabilities already built in and your customers are adopting them at high rate. Who hasn’t tried at least to “compose” a text on their iPhone or android device?

Why should you do this? Voice shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion in 2022, up from $2 billion today, suggesting the new channel may well be the next major disruptive force in retail, according to data from OC&C Strategy Consultants.

What retailer wouldn’t want a piece of that pie?

Corporate communications (email newsletters, etc.)

The next hurdle is alerting your customers of your adoption of this technology. One way to get their attention is to use your normal customer communications to notify your shoppers that your site supports this functionality. Perhaps a blog entry highlighting the technology used in your site that shows how the customer benefits.

In Conclusion

To summarize, if you have the capability to make your customers’ lives easier through voice/natural language searching – let them know! Spreading the word amongst your customers will not only enhance their experience on your site but will increase your conversion rate and dramatically increase your revenue. EasyAsk guarantees it.

Gartner: The Case for Mobile Voice Search
Humanizing Your Website Gives Shoppers that Warm and Fuzzy Feeling
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