| Mar 30, 2023 | | 14 min read

How to choose the right search engine for ecommerce


Creating a top-notch user experience on ecommerce sites is all about reducing friction. The easier it is for customers to find what they’re looking for and buy it, the less likely they are to get frustrated or distracted by something else before checking out.

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You’re probably aware of the role of having clear calls to action (CTAs), informative product pages, personalized offers, and other important ecommerce optimizations. However, one element of ecommerce web design doesn’t quite seem to get as much buzz, despite being critical to the customer experience: choosing the right search engine for ecommerce— and that’s exactly what we’ll dive into.

What is a search engine for ecommerce?

A search engine for ecommerce is a specialized search tool designed to help users find exactly what they're looking for when shopping online. It usually appears in the header section of a website and users cancan be used to easily navigate to a desired product page or discover appropriate products without having to scroll through a catalog.

A key feature of ecommerce product search engines is their ability to understand and interpret natural language queries. This means that, for example, instead of typing in the specific name of a product (or service in some cases), users can type a description of what they're looking for and the search engine will return the most appropriate products.

Why do ecommerce search tools matter?

Simply put, choosing the right search engine for ecommerce matters because it can dramatically improve user experience and conversions. When building and proposing sites, it’s easy to get bogged down in aesthetic design elements and overlook the way users actually interact with a site. Search tools are one of those things that may not contribute to the look of a site, but vastly improve its functionality for customers.

Here are some reasons to invest in a high-quality search engine for ecommerce:

  • Saves customer time. Particularly on sites with large catalogs, it can be frustrating for users to discover and navigate to the product they need. The best ecommerce search engines make this process fast and easy, saving customers time and hassle.
  • Allows for a personalized experience. Search engines for ecommerce can personalize results based on user history, behavior, and preferences. This means each user sees products that are most relevant and interesting to them.
  • Offers a better search experience. By choosing an ecommerce search tool that can handle natural language processing, users are less likely to miss out on products they would have liked just because they don’t know the exact name.
  • Creates larger average order values (AOVs) through product recommendations. Personalized product recommendations based on search and purchase history help users discover products they might not have found otherwise, potentially boosting AOV.
  • Increases conversions. By making it easier for customers to find what they're looking for and speeding up the shopping process, search engines for ecommerce can boost conversions and drive more revenue.
  • Creates a competitive advantage. Given the choice between similar retailers, users will likely prefer the one with an easy-to-navigate catalog.
  • It’s a source of valuable user data. Analyzing data such as frequently used search terms and phrases can uncover important information about customer preferences, helping businesses make better decisions.

Factors to consider when choosing a search engine for ecommerce

Not every ecommerce search tool is created equally, and some are more feature-rich than others. Let’s take a look at some of the most important factors to take into account when selecting the best one for your projects.

Full-text search

More limited search engines for ecommerce can onlywill only be able to satisfy searches for exact product names or, if they’re slightly more advanced, broader product descriptors. A robust full-text search feature goes beyond simple product search to help users find any kind of information they seek. It can search across all the text fields of a product listing, including the title, description, and other attributes, as well as information on non-product pages. This ensures that the search engine can provide the most accurate and relevant search results possible.


Synonyms are important because they ensure that the search engine can understand and interpret natural language queries. For example, visitors to a clothing website might use the search term “coat” when searching for outerwear. If the search engine can’t handle synonyms, it might show zero search results, when in fact the catalog includes products with “jacket” in the name that match the user's search intent. By understanding synonyms, the search engine can provide more accurate and relevant search results.

Advanced analytics

Analytics can help businesses make data-driven decisions informed by the way users interact with their search engine. Analytics can include the ability to track search queries, customer behavior, and conversion rates for products accessed through search. By using advanced analytics, retailers can continually improve their search engines, provide a better shopping experience for customers, and even make product development decisions.

Speedy loading times

Just as slow page load speeds can lead to high bounce rates, a slow ecommerce search tool can increase the likelihood of customers getting annoyed or distracted, and navigating away. A fast-loading search engine can ensure a smooth shopping experience for customers, preventing frustration and abandoned shopping carts. Make sure to choose an ecommerce product search engine that has a reputation for fast load times, and can handle high traffic volumes without slowing down. Even if your clients aren’t currently getting very high traffic volumes, the best ecommerce search engines can easily scale and handle more demand as a business grows.


Merchandising is the process of curating and promoting specific products or product categories based on customer behavior and preferences. The best ecommerce search engines will offer robust merchandising features, including the ability to promote best-selling or high-margin products and to target specific customer segments with personalized promotions. These highlighted products appear directly in search, increasing traffic to those product pages and boosting their sales.

Social proof

Social proof refers to the use of customer reviews and ratings to help validate a product’s value and guide purchasing decisions. The best ecommerce search engines will offer robust social proof features, including the ability to display reviews and ratings directly in search results. This can provide further motivation for customers, leading to increased conversions.

Product images in-search

A related but distinct feature is product images in-search which enables users to view the products that meet their search query at a glance before clicking on a search result. These thumbnail previews convey product information and entice visitors to click the result and explore the product further. Plus, if a user types in a query with multiple relevant results, this features makes it easier to find the best one, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Returning to our example of a clothing store, someone searching for “coat” might see four styles appear in search, giving them the opportunity to click on the most interesting one. This reduces the number of clicks needed to land on the optimal product page, reducing friction on the path to conversion.

Suggestions and autocomplete

By making smart suggestions and autocompleting partial queries, this feature gives users a speedier and more efficient search experience.  As customers type, related or popular search terms pop up, helping users find what they’re looking for faster.

Multilingual support

If your ecommerce business serves customers in multiple regions, it's important to choose an ecommerce product search engine that offers multilingual support. This means that the search engine can understand and interpret queries in multiple languages, and can provide search results in the appropriate language.

You may not require every one of these features depending on the needs of your clients, but knowing they’re available can help you make an informed choice when choosing an ecommerce search tool.

Benefits of integrating a quality ecommerce search engine in your websites

The perks of using a search engine for ecommerce extend both to the ecommerce business and its visitors. Regardless of what products your ecommerce clients sell, these benefits make it worthwhile to invest in an ecommerce search tool.

Improved customer experience

Users are busy, distracted, and easily lost to competing sites in a crowded ecommerce ecosystem. By improving the customer experience (CX), ecommerce businesses can give their prospects and customers another reason to choose them over the competition.

By making it easier and faster for customers to find what they're looking for, ecommerce search engines can reduce frustration and improve overall user satisfaction. This can promote increased customer loyalty, positive referrals, and glowing reviews. A good ecommerce search tool can also provide a more personalized and relevant search experience, by using customer data to customize search results and provide relevant product recommendations.

Increased sales and revenue

By making it easier for customers to find what they're looking for, ecommerce search engines can increase the likelihood of a purchase. Average order value (AOV) can also be increased with a good search engine by promoting best-selling and high-margin products, as well as personalized promotions and upsells.

Enhanced product discovery and searchability

Search engines for ecommerce help customers discover new products that they might not have otherwise noticed. If a customer has an idea of what they’re looking for but isn’t aware of a specific product that meets their needs, suitable products can be discovered through natural language queries, synonyms, and other advanced search features. Finally, ecommerce websites with vast, difficult-to-organize catalogs can become much more navigable through the use of a robust ecommerce product search engine.

Reduced workload for ecommerce businesses

Ecommerce product search engines can reduce the need for manual search optimization and merchandising by automating and streamlining the search process. This can save time and resources for ecommerce businesses, allowing them to focus on other important tasks, such as product development and customer service. Additionally, the best search engines for ecommerce also offer advanced analytics and reporting features, which can provide insights into customer behavior and help retailers make data-driven decisions.

Choosing an ecommerce website platform: key considerations

Hopefully, by now, we’ve made it clear that incorporating search engines in ecommerce is a smart move both for the business and for its clients. However, ecommerce search tools don’t exist in a vacuum. Choosing the right ecommerce platform can maximize the benefits a business can gain from the use of an ecommerce product search engine. It also establishes the tech ecosystem in which the business operates.

Whether you already offer website services or you’re thinking of adding them to your agency’s roster of digital solutions, keep these features in mind when deciding which ecommerce website platform to use.

Ease of use

This may seem like a lesser priority than other, more exciting features, but ease of use should be one of the first factors to look for when choosing an ecommerce website platform. If a platform is difficult or clunky to use, it simply won’t get used as much as it should. This can mean that website updates get put off, troubleshooting is more difficult, and clients generally have a more negative experience interacting with the back end of their website.

The ideal platform is intuitive and user-friendly for your agency team, your clients, and their customers interacting with the front end of the site. Look for a platform that offers a simple and easy-to-use interface with drag-and-drop functionality. It should also offer robust support resources, including tutorials, documentation, and customer service.

Payment gateway integrations

One of the key elements that distinguishes ecommerce websites from other sites is the fact that they need to process payments—sometimes in large volumes. Payment gateway integrations should support multiple payment options, including credit card payments, PayPal, Apple Pay, and other popular methods.

Secure ecommerce payments

Look for a platform that offers seamless integration with your preferred payment gateway, and that provides a secure and reliable payment processing system. Security is one of the most important factors when it comes to setting up ecommerce payments, since putting customer data at risk can open a business up to considerable liability.

Templates and customization options

Well-designed and easily customizable templates can provide an excellent starting point for the creation of new ecommerce websites and ensure every project feels unique for your client.

Look for a platform that offers a range of customization options, including:

  • Custom branding, colors, and logos
  • Modifiable layouts and designs
  • Custom fonts
  • Ability to add custom functionality using third-party apps and plugins or custom code


When a business grows, its ecommerce platform should seamlessly grow with it. As the customer base expands, the platform will need to handle increased traffic and sales volume. Look for a platform that offers scalable hosting plans, with the ability to upgrade to higher-tier plans as needs change. A good ecommerce platform should also offer robust load balancing and caching features, to ensure your site can handle high traffic volumes without slowing down.

Another facet of scalability is the ability to offer different types of products. For example, a small ecommerce business may sell straightforward individual products today, but in the future, they may want to sell subscriptions, digital products, and product bundles. A robust ecommerce platform will be able to handle an evolving catalog of products.

Mobile responsiveness

With an ever-growing number of customers shopping on their mobile devices, it's essential to choose an ecommerce platform that creates mobile responsive websites. Responsive designs automatically adjust the layout of a website to fit the screen size and resolution of the user's device. Some platforms also offer mobile-specific features, such as mobile checkout and mobile-optimized search functionality.

SEO features

Search engine optimization for ecommerce is essential when it comes to driving organic traffic and generating sales. Look for a platform that offers robust SEO for ecommerce websites, including the ability to add meta tags, optimize page titles and descriptions, and add alt tags to images. The platform should also offer SEO-friendly URLs, with the ability to customize URLs for individual products and pages. The best platforms will also offer integrations with popular SEO tools, like Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Shipping and fulfillment

Shipping-related features to look for include the ability to calculate shipping costs, manage shipping rates and rules, and integrate with popular shipping carriers such as UPS and FedEx. Integrations with preferred fulfillment providers also make it easier for businesses to quickly and easily manage inventory, orders, and returns.


Ensuring that an ecommerce website platform is secure can prevent headaches down the line in the form of security breaches, hacks, and other violations. Look for a platform that offers features like:

  • SSL encryption
  • Secure payment processing
  • PCI compliance
  • Automatic backups
  • Disaster recovery options

These features can prevent breaches from happening in the first place, and offer some peace of mind in the event that something goes wrong with the site.


There is an endless stream of digital solutions out there for businesses to explore and while many are useful, they work best when they can integrate with each other. Popular this-party tools and services like email marketing providers, accounting software, and social media platforms should be easy to connect to your ecommerce website platform of choice.

Analytics and reporting

We’ve talked about the value of choosing a search engine for ecommerce that offers analytics, and the same holds true for ecommerce websites more broadly. Analytics should make it possible to track traffic and conversion rates, monitor inventory levels, and analyze customer behavior. Integration with popular analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, can come in handy to provide even deeper insights into website performance and optimization opportunities.

Pricing and fees

Look for a platform that offers transparent and reasonable pricing, with no hidden fees or surprise charges. The platform should also offer a range of hosting plans to suit businesses of all sizes and budgets. Be sure to factor in the costs of payment processing fees, shipping fees, and other variable costs when evaluating different ecommerce platforms. This will help you understand exactly what your costs are so that you can price your agency services appropriately to hit your target margin.


Around-the-clock support is one of those things that may not seem particularly important until you need it. When something goes wrong with a client's website, the last thing you want to do is wait until the next day for support to become available.

Using Vendasta to build and host ecommerce websites

Vendasta offers a suite of ecommerce solutions to design, build, manage, and host your clients’ digital storefronts. With Website Pro, you can:

  • Create beautiful, completely custom layouts using a drag-and-drop builder, no design skills required
  • Access a library of templates across a range of verticals to get started in just a few clicks, if you don’t want to design from scratch
  • Integrate powerful conversion-boosting tools like a chatbot or custom form builder
  • Offer safe, secure, always-on hosting with Google Cloud
  • Manage all your clients’ WordPress websites from a single admin dashboard
  • Turn any website into an ecommerce website with a few clicks

Website Pro works with you, no matter what your business model is. Are you a website builder reseller looking for a comprehensive builder you can sell your clients at a markup? Website Pro is white-label and completely rebrandable, making it perfect for resellers.

Or maybe you’re happy to handle website design, building, and managing in-house. In that case, your team can use Website Pro to create eye-catching and functional designs for your clients easily.

Finally, if you prefer to focus your efforts on selling, just leave the web design heavy lifting to Vendasta’s white-label team of design pros. They’ll work under your agency’s banner, giving you the power to grow your client roster without having to build the in-house team to handle the increased workload.

Frequently asked questions

How do customers search for a product on ecommerce?

Customers search for products on ecommerce sites through ecommerce search tools. These usually look just like search engine search fields, but they can be used to find products and other information on an ecommerce site.

What's different between a regular search engine and an ecommerce search engine?

Regular search engines search for relevant content matching the search query from across the web. Ecommerce search engines only search the information contained on an ecommerce website, such as product pages, blog posts, and FAQ pages.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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