The amount of content available to the average digital shopper is astronomical. On the other side of the coin, service agents must contend with an equally dense amount of information in order to deliver positive customer service experiences for shoppers. To help both parties navigate the ever-growing mass of content and information, brands are turning to smart search to pick up the slack in such a densely packed world of information.

What Is Smart Search?

Smart search is a broad term that refers to search systems powered by machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and artificial intelligence (AI). It encompasses semantic vector search, intelligent search, and cognitive search. Through the combination of these technologies, smart search can intuit what a user is looking for by taking into account their goals, history, and the theme of their search. In other words, smart search streamlines a customer or service agent’s ability to find what they are looking for.

How Does Smart Search Work?

Smart search relies on the combination of technologies listed above to create a picture of what the user is looking for as accurately as possible. Natural language processing allows smart search to create meaning out of the search terms even if they aren’t exact point and click queries. AI and machine learning combine forces to determine the context around which a user is searching for something using signals – taking into account history and how it may inform their future goals. This is how brands can create highly personalized digital shopping experiences that replicate an in-store experience, or empower service agents to be able to find the materials they need to provide high quality customer service on the fly when digging through their knowledgebase.

What Are Table Stakes for Smart Search?

Smart search is highly personalized and therefore dependent on the user. Even so, there are several capabilities that should be a part of every smart search strategy that should be considered:

  • Smart search should be conversational. A search session is not typically a single query or single set of responses. It is a fluid conversation with an understanding of the bigger picture. There is often a specific goal in mind for the user, and they may not necessarily have the perfect search terms at their disposal. Smart search fills those gaps by understanding how a normal person would speak and respond appropriately, and is still able to return accurate results.
  • Smart search should be natural. Similarly to the above point, people do not think in terms of “search queries.” They want to be able to simply input the words that will convey what they are looking for and hopefully find it in the results. Long gone are the days of stop words, tokenizers, stemmers, or lemmatizers. Technologies like NLP make it easier for systems to understand what a user is trying to convey when they communicate in the language they are familiar with, and ML makes it easier for systems to improve on that communication.
  • Smart search should be personalized. Everyone has a unique set of goals when they are making a search. With the near-limitless amount of answers to a single question, personalization is what allows smart search to be a meaningful experience wherein the user feels understood. Personalization can be achieved when the system has a full picture of the user: their search history, search frequency, and more. These small elements of data add up to creating an accurate picture of the intention behind anything they may search for.
  • Smart search must be responsive. To run a natural and personalized smart search system, brands need to hear what the users are asking, understand their true intentions, and be able to serve those true intentions. This isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem. For example: is a click always a positive signal? Not always. What if the user goes back to double check something? For this, systems must have virtuous cycles built in – meaning consumption of queries, impressions, clicks, and other feedback should be part of the primary service API.

Curious about what smart search can do for your brand? Get in touch with us.

About Dev Bhat

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