A retailer’s website search function is arguably the most important part of the customer experience but is often overlooked, according to Lucidworks CMO Vivek Sriram.

“If potential customers don’t find what they are looking for on the first search results page or if their search returns ‘no results’, they are not likely to try again until they can figure out a combination that works,” he told Retailbiz. “If customers can’t find what they are looking for quickly, it means the system is not sufficient enough and will end up making customers turn to another retailer.”

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) search comes in as it facilitates communication between the business and its potential customers.

Three-quarters of organisations increased their customer experience technology investments in 2018, indicating that retailers know technology is important in delivering personalisation, however they fail to bring it all together, according to Gartner research, which also revealed that personalised customer experiences saw greater levels of customer engagement and higher retention.

“Retailers often overlook search as part of their customer experience strategy. Many prefer to invest millions in CMS, ecommerce platforms and analytics solutions, which are important but don’t have the critical component which enables systems to work together – search. This connects the CMS and ecommerce platform – taking the user from intent to execution – from an initial query to the purchase.”

There is a key difference between search and hyper-personalisation though, with the former making assumptions about the user based on static traits and the latter customising the experience based on historical and real-time signals such as browing behaviour.

“The ultimate goal of hyper-personalisation is to maximise the opportunities to tailor content that fits the wants and needs of different customers. In order to do this, gathering and analysing data is imperative. Search helps to deliver that goal by identifying what a customer is looking for and presenting it to them immediately. In turn, this will improve a retailer’s KPIs including add-to-cart, average order value and click through rates.”