eCommerce Search & Personalization

    Shaik Ismail

    This article was created in partnership with KTree. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

    This article discusses various features that are essential for your eCommerce store’s search engine. If your store search experience is bad, your customer might hop to the next available site to make that purchase.

    If you have huge a product catalogue, optimizing and organizing it and improving the search experience is key to the success of your store, and is the most important job of the eCommerce manager. Before we go further, let’s go over some key terms which will help us understand the article better:

    • Category listing page or catalogue listing page: A list of products segregated based on category with filters/facets typically on the left side.
    • Search result page: This is similar to a category listing page. The only difference is that the list of products may come from different categories.
    • Customer: One who is visiting the site to make a purchase from your ecommerce store.
    • Filter/facet: These are the options usually displayed on the left, up top, to narrow down product listings.
    • Admin: You or your store eCommerce manager.

    Minimum eCommerce Search Engine Features

    Breadcrumb navigation

    Breadcrumb navigation helps users get back to the previous category or page. This is normally available in ecommerce or CMS applications.


    Facets give users the ability to iteratively refine or expand their search results and ultimately helps the user to browse the list of products which he intended to quickly. This filtering is now usually done via Ajax or using Single Page Applications to make the results load faster.

    1. Refine or expand results
    2. Show the count for each filtering option
    3. Show only popular filtering options — for the rest, provide a 'More' link.
    4. Show certain filtering options as a range of values

    1. These facets/filters are product attributes and they should be configurable, meaning a product attribute should have config settings to make it searchable and to show as facet or filter in the catalogue list view.

    Sort By

    Users should be able to sort the search results. For example, sort Price (Low to High) helps the user find products in the budget range they’re looking for.

    Various 'Sort By' options which are normally found in eCommerce search engines:

    • Price (Low – High)
    • Brand (A – Z)
    • Best match
    • Created date
    • Category
    • Sorting order options, such as newly added products first
    • Sort by reviews
    • Sort by best sellers
    • Recommended products
    • Featured

    Auto-suggest Functionality

    Made popular by Google’s search engine, this helps the user to choose the product based on a few letters entered. This helps customers search products with keyword or partial key terms, or some other attribute of the product. Typically, this is one of the most used features that customers use to search for products.

    In auto-suggest, these can be displayed:

    • Search terms: These are the terms that were already searched by other users on your sites. These can be created by store admins, and if necessary synonyms can be added to search terms. See the next picture.

    • Actual products.

    • Attributes of the products, such as color or size.

    • If there is no result, or too few results, we can correct the user by using 'Did you mean' or auto-correct functionality.

    Other advanced eCommerce search functionalities:

    • Search within result
    • Enhance search with snippets & highlights
    • Enhance search with redirects to a particular page

    What Technical Products Are Best for Search Engines?

    There are plenty of choices for implementing search engines, and again it depends on your eCommerce application and the language which it is written in. In general, these are good suggestions:

    • A regular database (MySQL, PostgresQL, MongoDB).
    • Sphinx: Sphinx is a full text search engine that provides text search functionality to client applications.
    • Apache SOLR: Open-sourced by Apache, SOLR is a merged effort of the former SOLR and Lucene. This is also one of amongst the popular option available.
    • ElasticSearch: ElasticSearch is currently the number one leader in the search market. This product is also open source, and also a fork of Lucene.
      • Inbuilt cluster.
      • Has many features out-of-the-box.
      • Plugins are typically available for major ecommerce platforms such as Magento and OpenCart.
    • Amazon ES service: Amazon AWS’s provided service for ElasticSearch.
    • Amazon CloudSearch: An Amazon AWS product, can be used as a solution for your eCommerce search engine.