January 15, 2020

The Three Ways People Will Search on 2020

It is almost time to ring in the New Year and say “Goodbye!” to 2019. While the holidays are a time to reflect and take stock of the successes and setbacks of the previous year, it is also a time to look forward to the year ahead. When it comes to your website and how your visitors will be interacting with it in 2020 – search will play an even more important role than it already does.  We all know that search is already critically important, so how do we see that importance shifting and growing in 2020? To answer that question, let’s break down the three ways you can expect people to use your site search functionality in 2020.


The Traditional search user is someone who expects to find and use all the standard search functionality of a modern site search tool. This includes features like:

Spell Correction– The Traditional user expects misspellings to be automatically corrected. Regardless of whether the misspelling is from not knowing the correct way to spell that brand name, or through their smartphone autocorrecting to some other unintended word, the expectation is that the search will know what the user meant.

Faceted Navigation  – Users expect to be able to do a search and further refine through the results using navigation options like ‘Price’, ‘Material’, ‘Rating’, ‘Color’, etc.

AutoComplete  – The Traditional user expects that when they start typing into the search box, suggestions of popular searches, relevant categories, and top result matches will be returned.

Proper Relevancy  – The days of users having to structure their site search with operators and flags are long over. The expected functionality of a search request is to work with ‘and’ by default. For example, if someone searches for ‘blue gloves’, they expect to receive all results that contain BLUE and GLOVE, not all results that contain BLUE or GLOVE.

Redirects  – Not every search entered is technically a search request. The Traditional user expects if they search on a term like ‘returns’ they’ll be shown the Customer Service page on “Returns”, not a search results page for the term ‘returns’.

The Traditional user can be further refined to a hyper-specific user. Forrester recently coined the term ‘Spearfisher’ to describe a user who comes to a website knowing exactly what they are looking for. They expect to be able to use the search box to enter in their specific keywords or even the exact part number/SKU to find that precise item.  Supporting the Traditional user ensures your website is meeting the standard functionality most users consider to be the basic experience for a 2020 site search.


The Beyond search user is someone expects the site to go beyond just the ‘Traditional’ search experience. They expect the site to remember who they are, where they are, what they like, what is popular or trending on your site, and to generally be more reactive and dynamic to them as an individual. Some of these features might not have been previously thought of as ‘search’, however with HawkSearch, this is standard functionality.

Remember Who They Are  – This is the foundation of the ‘Beyond’ functionality. By being able to identify visitors who have previously been to the site and remember their actions on the site the last time they visited, you can start to drive a truly personalized experience.

Where They Are  – The Beyond user expects their physical location to be factored into their search experience. This can be used to show inventory from the closest store or warehouse. Another use is to change the order of results so that snow shovels show up above dirt shovels when a search for ‘shovel’ is performed in the winter in Chicago versus Austin.

What They Like  – By tracking the individual user’s actions – what they search for, what navigation choices they make, what items they add to their cart, and what they eventually purchase – a unique profile can be made to predict what the ‘Beyond’ user likes. This can then be used to influence search results to highlight the kinds of results the individual user is likely to be looking for, as well as drive rich personalized recommendations throughout the site.

What Is Trending  – Understanding what is popular on your site, and within your search results, is key to engaging with the Beyond user. As HawkSearch is building out the unique profile, before the results are fully personalized, they still expect the most popular and trending items to be shown first within their searches. This creates a dynamic experience each time the visitor comes to the site and keeps them engaged.


The Guided user is not sure exactly what they are looking for and so is unlikely to use the search box. To help the guided user, you will want to provide other ways to leverage your search functionality. If they do use the search box – it will be broad terms, looking for a category to start with specific products. When they do settle on a set of results, they will leverage tools like ‘Compare’ to further guide them to the right result. Buying Guides can be a clever way of leveraging search functionality to help your Guided users.

Comparison  – By having a built-in comparison tool, you can leverage all of the product data you have to give the Guided user additional information to help them make an informed decision.

Category/Landing Pages  – Using curated pages of content and items built around categories or use cases, you can quickly get a guided user to the set of results they are trying to find. With HawkSearch, these landing pages can be easily created and influenced through all of the automation and merchandising available in our search experience.

Buying Guides  – By presenting the facet/navigation options as a decision tree, you can provide a way for the Guided visitor to answer simple questions guiding them to the results they are looking for. A common example of this kind of functionality is a Year Make Model selector.

When thinking about the three ways search is going to be used in 2020, you can see how search will be an even greater force for how your visitors will interact with your site. After all, if the Traditional user finds their misspellings not corrected, the Beyond user finds their experience not personalized, and the Guided user unable to find the helpful information they need – they’ll go elsewhere.

By keeping these three kinds of users in mind when planning for 2020, you can position your business to meet their needs and expectations keeping you ahead of the competition.


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