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State of Search: B2C Ecommerce Site Search Trends

- Updated Apr 16, 2024
Illustration: © AI For All
For B2C companies, dynamic, AI-powered search and discovery tools are a key part of the online experience and have a critical role to play in delivering the outcomes that businesses and consumers expect. For companies, no matter the size, artificial intelligence (AI) is an increasingly important part of this technological mix—fine-tuning the business offering, helping shape customer demand, and delivering outcomes that translate to better, more powerful tailored user experiences.
Expected Consumer Trends
According to our recent B2C Ecommerce Site Search Trends report, AI will continue to play a critical role in the search and discovery space. We will witness an even larger impact in shaping major trends around both user experience and interactions, along with improving how we collect and incorporate the rich data and analytics it makes available.
The majority of IT and business decision-maker, at 64 percent, are well aware of the importance of AI in their search strategy and how it affects their business. Respondents view AI as an important tool to help drive the accuracy and the relevance of search results, while generative AI is clearly connected to better product comparisons (51 percent) and improved buyer guides (46 percent).
When thinking of customer interactions, 46 percent of respondents believe that AI-driven interactions will see a significant increase in the coming year, followed by an increase in special offers at 35 percent. Close to 2 out of 10 expect to see more demand for voice-initiated searches, a trend that will make online information easier to access.
Additionally, over half of respondents indicated that customers were seeking a greater variety of payment options. Linked to the increase in online shopping caused by the pandemic, users also demande a seamless experience through all points of the customer journey.
Enabling Search Capabilities
Search and discovery are an increasingly important part of the user’s online journey, shaping the shopping experience at key points along the sales funnel. This makes the power, utility, and adaptability of search tools and technologies, including the integration of AI functionality, increasingly important.
An inability to adapt quickly to market trends, lack of expertise, and shortage of development staff are the biggest challenges associated with in-house search development. 
This has led to third-party collaboration continuing to lead the development of business search capabilities, with 49 percent of businesses choosing this approach over in-house development or off-the-shelf packages—a very marginal increase from 47 percent in 2022.
Revenue, Personalization & Ecommerce Strategy
Bottom-line concerns remain at the core of most important business decisions, and the data from our report confirms this. Revenue growth serves as a critical factor driving search upgrade and adoption, but so does improving the customer journey through increased personalization and product recommendations.
Nearly half (49 percent) of businesses believe revenue is a strong driving factor for search implementation and the majority (61 percent) are satisfied by the revenue achieved via search. Although it has dropped marginally, from 70 percent in 2022, satisfaction with search-generated revenue continues to remain high.
Personalizing the online experience is an integral part of ecommerce strategy for 70 percent of survey respondents. The main types of personalization that businesses offer to consumers are personalized shopping profiles (56 percent) followed by product recommendations (46 percent).
Further, for respondents, speedy delivery (58 percent) ranks with product recommendations (52 percent) as the most important factors in customer service overall and the most relevant areas when it comes to customer experience.
The lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to cast a shadow over search and discovery investment in 2023. Though 23 percent of businesses claimed to have invested a lot more this year on site search, this is down from 33 percent in 2022. Although these levels of investment have been touched by the overall macroeconomic uncertainties, more moderate investment levels have remained broadly consistent and are expected to continue into 2024.
AI's Impact on Merchandising
The increasing importance of merchandising in the ecommerce space is clear. With access to more advanced tools and technologies, merchandisers can better curate the user’s shopping journey, shaping the digital store experience at multiple points along the sales funnel.
The majority (68 percent) of businesses surveyed have a dedicated merchandising team and slightly more than half (52 percent) are planning to implement AI tools to help merchandisers. With 64 percent of respondents planning to hire more merchandisers and 73 percent planning to invest in a developer team to support digital merchandising strategies, it’s transparent that this will continue to be a large focus area for retailers.
The Power of AI Technology
At the time the survey was conducted, over half of the businesses employed a combination of manual and automated merchandising processes. 
Given that only around a third (32 percent) of these businesses think that out-of-the-box solutions can fully meet their needs, and over half are already using solutions that allow customizations, we envisage AI-driven merchandising solutions taking an even more important and valuable place among merchandising teams, playing a key role in shaping ecommerce platforms and the customer journey.
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Algolia is the world’s only end-to-end AI search and discovery platform. Our engineers invented a breakthrough use of AI to create exponentially better search & discovery. Algolia’s proprietary NeuralSearch tech combines vector-based natural language processing & keyword matching in a single API. Algolia powers 1.75 trillion search requests a year or more than 30 billion a week.
Author
Algolia is the world’s only end-to-end AI search and discovery platform. Our engineers invented a breakthrough use of AI to create exponentially better search & discovery. Algolia’s proprietary NeuralSearch tech combines vector-based natural language processing & keyword matching in a single API. Algolia powers 1.75 trillion search requests a year or more than 30 billion a week.
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