Seconds later, you’re faced with hundreds or thousands of options, complete with sponsored ads and tech-spec jargon. The long journey to purchase has begun.

Simply put, search experiences are not enjoyable. Consumers like finding products, not searching for them. The exhausting process of refining keywords, checking filters on and off, and comparing product descriptions in order to make a purchase has taken the joy of shopping and made it impossible for consumers to feel confident in their purchase.

While the methods of shopping have evolved over the last two decades, the search experience has been pieced together from outdated practices.

The way we search hasn’t changed in nearly a century

The digital age revolutionised how we shop, but the ways we search and find products online date back to the 1930s, with a handful of optimisations made over the last 60 years. The two major components to our ‘modern’ search experience are: faceted or filtered search, and static keywords. Each has its own impact on how consumers navigate digital search experiences.

Faceted or filtered search

The use of filters based on predetermined groupings to organise data and identify relevant information originates from the Colon Classification system developed by an Indian academic in 1933. The intent was to help scientists and librarians find the right data or information without spending hours (or days) looking for a specific study or book.

Faceted search dominates ecommerce sites – the side bar where consumers check boxes to attempt to narrow down search is the modern-day Colon Classification system.


Depending on the source, some say the use of keywords dates back to the development of SEO in the early 1990s, but the concept of weighing specific terms based on relevance and term dependency was developed in the 1960s by scientists at Cornell University. Today, the search bar requires consumers to know exactly what they are searching for, because the use of keywords is the preferred way for businesses to classify their product.

Neither of these components considers how humans intuitively make decisions or purchases. Each time a consumer decides to purchase something online they are gambling with the search bar. The experience is outdated, and consumers are facing a myriad of challenges whenever they shop.

Three challenges modern consumers face

Now that we’ve established the origins of today’s search experience, it’s time to understand how it impacts consumers as they shop on digital channels.

Remember how we asked you to think about the last time you shopped online? How did you feel when your browser flooded with options? Chances are you experienced one of three (or maybe all three) of the challenges and frustrations your consumer feels every time they search:

Choice overload

A simple search for ‘eye cream for wrinkles’ generates over 10,000 results on Amazon. Try narrowing that down with faceted search by selecting options only for women and combination skin: 3,000 results. Over 54% of consumers are overwhelmed by the amount of choice available.

FOBO (Fear of Better Options)

The consumer cousin of FOMO, the fear of better options is the feeling that there is something better available but they just haven’t found it – yet. It paralyses our ability to make a decision.

Product confusion

Businesses stuff product pages with technical jargon and keywords, thinking a consumer understands it. Consumers are not product experts and should not be expected to parse technical specifications and industry jargon to determine if a product is right for them.

If you’re exhausted thinking about how daunting searching online for products or services is, then you should know it is possible to solve all these problems. Delivering a superior search experience that consumers will enjoy requires leveraging conversational search.

Conversational search: the answer to outdated search experiences

The old way of shopping – when you went into a store and a salesperson would ask a few questions to narrow down options to the most relevant to your needs and requirements – is the model of a consumer-centric experience. That salesperson, with all their knowledge and experience, could anticipate and understand what you wanted; it was authentic and personal. As its modern-day equivalent, conversational search digitises the human experience and intuitiveness lacking in the search experience we’ve outlined in this article.

It is the ultimate way to convert consumers, by leveraging AI to optimise every step of their journey. Rather than using keywords or faceted search, the consumer is asked a series of needs-based questions to narrow down choice to five to 10 options, not thousands. AI then understands and predicts what the customer needs in order to increase conversion and customer satisfaction. In turn, brands and retailers ascertain valuable insights into their consumer, like product performance, channel efficiency, and buyer profiles.

Consumers deserve a better search experience, and at Zoovu, we’re here to help you deliver just that. Join a webinar with Christopher Baldwin, VP of marketing, to learn more.