December 02, 2019

Product search is perhaps the most overlooked feature of ecommerce stores. When it works well, nothing is said. When it doesn’t, consumers flock to the competition, where they don’t have to try and hunt down the product they want.

Despite the importance of search, many merchants continue to ignore it. If you’re not sure if you’re hitting the mark, now is a perfect time for you to implement an effective search tool that helps your consumers cut through the clutter and find the products they want. For Magento merchants and developers, that tool is now Elasticsearch. 

Originally developed in 2010, Elasticsearch has grown to become one of the biggest players in the product search space, largely replacing rivals SOLR and Sphinx. For Magento sites, it’s now the default search option – replacing MySQL. 

Yet despite the advantages of Elasticsearch, many Magento merchants still run their store’s search functionality through obsolete and outdated tools. 42% of companies don’t try to optimize search at all. But with searcher conversion rates more than 2x that of non-searchers, you now have an impetus to drive growth by revisiting your product search strategy. 

Here, we take a look at why Elasticsearch has become the dominant product search tool for enterprise stores. We’ll explore the different reasons for its unparalleled search experience, and show how you can implement it on your store quickly and efficiently. All so you can drive sales faster than you ever have before. 

  Improve your Magento search with the Nexcess Elasticsearch Container.

How Elasticsearch Works for Ecommerce

As consumers, we use search engines every day and are accustomed to a sophisticated search interface that can turn our vague and often badly spelled queries into useful results. Historically, Magento’s built-in search functionality has relied on a MySQL database. MySQL and its variants are powerful, but they aren’t the ideal back-end for product search. For this reason, in prior iterations, Magento would often return less-than-useful search results.

The bottom line is that in a modern, highly-competitive ecommerce landscape, MySQL doesn’t offer you the flexibility you need to realize powerful buyer journeys.

ElasticSearch, on the other hand, is highly optimized for fast and accurate search. As a Java-based document store – what used to be called a NoSQL database – it’s engineered to store huge numbers of JSON documents and retrieve them according to criteria supplied by the user. This means faster, more relevant results that provide your customers with a clear path to purchase. 

Elasticsearch takes what was great about MySQL and makes it even better. 

Imagine wanting to find a specific set of headphones but you can only remember the keyword “Master Class”. With MySQL search engines, the query “Master Class” would return a large selection of irrelevant products. This would mean increased bounce rates as consumers turning to competitors for ease of use. 

Frustrated with Magento search experiences?

Customers frustrated with their Magento search experiences?

Elasticsearch circumvents this issue by allowing you to specify different criteria consumers may be searching for – beyond just the product name. This includes the description, the manufacturer, the release date, and more. 

In short, instead of hoping that the right results appear, you can now define what search results look like in detail. This makes Elasticsearch an ideal product search back-end for your ecommerce store, due to both its flexibility and performance. 

Looking for Magento Search alternatives? See your other Magento search options.


Extremely Fast Search

ElasticSearch is much faster than Magento’s default search, especially when searching through large product catalogs. It can run searches over millions of products without breaking a sweat, and it’s a rare ecommerce store that approaches that number of products.

Faster search means faster buyers journeys, which means they’re more likely to make a purchase. 

The speed at which Elasticsearch returns results can be used to continuously update results. As the user types their query, the search results update immediately because ElasticSearch searches faster than users can type. Speed, in the ecommerce world, is vital to success. Site optimizations drive the consumer experience and set up your store for success.


More Accurate Results

Nine times out of ten, shoppers don’t want to have to carefully craft search queries. They want to enter a vaguely appropriate query and have the search engine provide relevant results. It’s important, now more than ever before, that you offer core search functionality that aligns with your consumers’ desires.

ElasticSearch provides numerous features that help match queries to relevant results, even when the queries aren’t especially well-formed. 

Among the features is fuzzy searching, which matches products similar to the query, but not exactly the same, with a technique called the Damerau-Levenshtein distance formula. Fuzzy searching will help your store to surface and rank the right products from its catalog, even when the shopper mistypes or searches for a related product that isn’t in the catalog.


Easy to Use

Poor search results can be just as detrimental to store performance as no search at all. However, given the complexity of what ElasticSearch does, you might expect it to be difficult to use. It couldn’t be easier. 

Indexing is the process of taking information from a large data source, and then storing it in an easy to retrieve format. MySQL’s indexing techniques can quickly become a bottleneck, increasing search times, and pushing your customers away from your site. 

ElasticSearch ships with sensible indexing defaults and can begin returning better results almost instantly. It’s for this reason that once you connect ElasticSearch to Magento, search is almost immediately improved without any complicated configuration. 

Aligning your store’s core search functionality with an experience consumers want doesn’t mean having to sacrifice development resources. With managed ecommerce, Elasticsearch can be set up quickly through your Client Portal. You can begin delivering the experience you want in no time. 


Improves UX

It has long been known that in a modern, digital world consumer attention spans are short. One of the first studies into how long users spend on web pages, from Microsoft Research, found that the average user spends just 10 seconds looking at a webpage. That’s 10 seconds to provide them with the right answers – in this case, products. Miss that time frame and you’re at risk of them turning to competitors. Would you stay in a store if the attendant kept trying to sell you something you didn’t want?

Elasticsearch is often overlooked in terms of UX, but search is a core part of the user journey – searchers are 200% more likely to make a purchase than non-searcher. Key to your store’s success is driving this part of their journey successfully to maintain their purchasing momentum.

Elasticsearch improves Magento UX by combining all of the features mentioned above. Faster speed means customers are able to find products faster. More accurate results mean they’re able to find the right products. And ease of use means merchants are able to enable it without too much extra work. 

Consumers are spending less and less time looking at a page before moving on. In a world where relevancy is only becoming more important, Elasticsearch gives merchants less to worry about and helps them provide the user experiences consumers want. 

Elasticsearch is often overlooked in terms of UX, but search is a core part of the user journey – with searchers 200% more likely to make a purchase. 



Get Started with Elasticsearch for Magento the Easy Way

Earlier this year, our analysis of enterprise ecommerce stores revealed that 76% of stores offer a desktop search bar but only 36% offer one on mobile. One of the reasons for this was the lack of an easy to implement and maintain product search offering. 

With Nexcess ElasticSearch containers, retailers can now deploy a scalable and secure product search platform in minutes. Once signed up for a managed hosting solution from Nexcess, you can activate an instance through your Client Portal. 

If planning to integrate with Magento, then it’s simply a case of moving the right credentials (available after the Elasticsearch instance has been set up) into your Magento settings. If running a WooCommerce store, it’s as simple as downloading an Elasticsearch plugin to connect it to your store. 

The time to act is now. By implementing an Elasticsearch install, you’re able to drive your customers to the products they want by helping build purchasing momentum. Combined with a Magento storefront, Elasticsearch makes it possible to better curate results so they align with consumer expectations and maintain engagement. 

Learn more about how Magento and Elasticsearch can help drive your store’s growth, and get started today. 


Nexcess, the premium hosting provider for WordPress, WooCommerce, and Magento, is optimized for your hosting needs. Nexcess provides a managed hosting infrastructure, curated tools, and a team of experts that make it easy to build, manage, and grow your business online. Serving SMBs and the designers, developers, and agencies who create for them, Nexcess has provided fully managed, high-performance cloud solutions for more than 22 years.

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