We have a growing number of customers implementing Rich Auto Complete. We have some preliminary data from them and the results are looking very interesting. First of all some background…
What is Auto Complete
The precursor to Rich Auto Complete is Auto Complete. This shows search terms below the search box that match the characters you have typed into a search box. This is a common feature on web search engines, such as Google and is now a standard site search feature on many sites. We have been providing auto complete to our clients for a couple of years now. It’s a great feature because it helps searchers with their query formation, it reduces errors, and adds a little serendipity to the search experience.
What is Rich Auto Complete?
Rich Auto Complete is a search feature that shows search results as you type into the search box. This is normally implemented using AJAX, which captures the keystrokes as they are made and sends the partial search term to a server which provides search results which match the partial search term. The example below from Best Buy Eyeglasses is showing a mixture search suggestions and products.
Some sites, such as Apple have had Rich Auto Complete for a long time. We have begun offering it to our customers over the past few months and are getting a lot of interest in this feature. The initial data from the analytics are looking very promising.
So what difference does it make?
First of all some qualifiers – this data is very preliminary, taken from only a few sites (not from the sites mentioned above).
We haven’t done an A/B test yet, so it could be that the people who use this feature would convert at a higher rate, with a higher average order value anyway. However the indications are that this is going to be a popular feature that significantly improves the performance of your website.
Why does it work?
Rich Auto Complete shortens the path from searching to buying. By allowing people to click on products directly from the search box it skips the need to see the search page.
I’m sure that you will see Rich Auto Complete appearing on many sites over the coming months and years. It will start to become a standard feature. Linda Bustos from the Get Elastic blog predicted this last year. I’m only a year behind – but I support that prediction.
PS: Interestingly this hasn’t become a standard feature on the web search engines. Maybe this is because it significantly increases the bandwidth and query volumes they would need to support on their servers. I do remember seeing reports that Google was testing something like this a while back. This week there was another report about a Google test where they would update the whole search results page as you typed.