Common Problems with Shopify Search and How to Solve Them 

Did you know that 30-60% of E-commerce site visitors use a search bar when it’s available?

This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to have a powerful search engine with better-than-basic functions, that goes beyond looking for exact matches in keywords.

Shopify Search & Discovery is a search app Shopify offers for store owners looking to enhance their sites’ default search functionalities. While it might be an easy (and free) choice, it also has limitations. 

In this article, we’ll explore common pain points experienced by Shopify Search users and discuss potential solutions.

Shopify Search issues blogpost headline illustration

About Shopify and Shopify Search

Merchants looking to expand their businesses and set up their own online store often turn to E-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Salesforce and others. Shopify has emerged as one of the most popular e-commerce platforms due to its highly customizable solutions, catering to stores of all sizes and categories.

As we like to highlight every once in a while, the power of search cannot be overstated when it comes to online stores. Just consider the fact that search users spend almost 3 times more money shopping online, compared to non-searchers. 

Given that 60% of E-commerce internal search engines offer low-quality search results, and using an advanced search solution can lead to a ~20% boost in sales, it’s no surprise that store owners (including those using Shopify) constantly seek ways to take their search functionalities up a notch.

Many of them give Shopify’s own Search & Discovery app a chance, considering how it already has some additional search features compared to many themes’ default engines. 

Before delving into why this app might be a good but somewhat limited solution for your search problems, here’s a fun fact you might not have heard:

E-commerce search queries can be categorized into 8 (!) very different types.

Shoppers might search for:

  • exact product names and specifications
  • features alone
  • describe the problem they need a solution for, or
  • use slang and abbreviation for the product they have in mind, among others. 

In an ideal world, your search engine could return relevant results for every one of these search query types. However, 72% of retailer sites still can’t.

Limitations to Shopify Search and Discovery app

After thorough analysis of the reviews left by Shopify Search & Discovery users on several platforms, let’s examine the most commonly experienced challenges and pain points Shopify platform users have to face: 

1. Filtering Issues

Most store owners that reviewed Shopify Search complain of the filtering function in some way. In general, filters on Shopify aren’t very sophisticated or “smart”, even with the app’s added functionalities. 

For instance, filtering is not available (or doesn’t work as intended) on every site with Shopify Search & Discovery. For example, filtering is not available for product collections (like men’s clothing) containing more than 5,000 items, and search result pages with more than 100,000 items. This is unfortunate as stores with large product catalog need filters the most in order to facilitate a great online shopping experience.

If a product fits the filter selected by a shopper, it will be shown in the results, even if it’s out of stock and can’t be ordered. There is an “Availability” filter however, which your customer can tick to only see products currently in stock, but this can be quite frustrating and illogical for many.

On the topic of availability, many retailers agree that filter values should only be displayed if they correspond to items that are in stock. For example, if there’s no red women’s t-shirt in stock, the filter value ‘red’ should not be available under women’s t-shirts. However, Shopify’s search does not filter these options out, which means shoppers may still end up with zero results when navigating via filters.

Some users also find it a disadvantage that they can’t set their own minimum and maximum prices on the price filter.

Shopify’s filtering options are also quite rigid, as there’s minimal space to customize them in order to fit a product collection. This could be problematic for stores that sell products with unique features that should be filterable values. Moreover, Shopify Search & Discovery only allows you to display 1000 filter values maximum, which can be a pain point for retailers with a wide product catalog. 

2. Typos and Synonym Management

Most traditional search engines rely on keyword matching alone, which is not the latest, state-of-the-art method of search (vector search is). Outdated engines aren’t always able to recognize typos, conjugated versions of the same word, or synonyms that are used to describe the same product.

Unfortunately, Shopify Search & Discovery is not much better in this regard, as it mainly looks for a full-text match between the product titles, descriptions, and the search query.

On the positive side, however, it partially recognizes typos and misspellings. It’s able to decipher a query if it only contains 1 misplaced letter, or 2 exchanged ones. Typo-tolerance is only applied for product titles, product types and product variants. Additionally, the first 4 letters of the search term need to be entered correctly for it to work. 

There’s the opportunity to manually add and manage synonyms as well, which could lead to more accurate results with a bit more effort and time invested. However, there is a limit of 20 synonyms per synonym group, and a maximum of 1000 synonyms for the entire store.

The Shopify Search & Discovery team suggests having product tags that contain any words a shopper might type in the search bar when looking for a specific product, as a loophole in the matter of synonyms.

Shopify Search illustration - search bar

3. Limited Personalization

According to BigCommerce, personalization can boost conversion rates up to 50%.

According to reviewers, Shopify Search & Discovery does not automatically utilize previous user behavior, thus can’t offer your site’s visitor an advanced personalized shopping experience.

In practice this means that if a user searches for “tiles,” the search engine won’t consider that they were exploring bathroom tiles and bathroom decoration just two days ago. It most likely won’t prioritize similar results based on their recent activity; instead, it will simply display everything containing the term “tiles.”

Check one of our previous posts on the importance of personalized (AI-driven) product recommendations, and best practices to maximize their impact.

4. Weak Multi-language Support

Many Shopify stores are available in more than one language, which means they need a search solution that can support multiple languages.

Shopify Search & Discovery is lacking on this front, as it is not entirely language-agnostic. For example, predictive search is only available in English, and not all filter types can be translated either, as of now.

5. Poor Customer Support

The quality of customer satisfaction plays a key role in a customer deciding whether to keep on using a product or service. 

Unfortunately, the users of Shopify Search & Discovery often experience issues with Shopify’s support team, ranging from being hard to reach at times to working with pre-written material and documentation alone.  

Shopify Search issues illustration - customer support

6. Limited Analytics, No Predictive Analytics

Insights into your customers’ search habits, purchasing patterns and user behavior in general can serve as invaluable assets in your future decisions. 

Shopify’s Search & Discovery app is equipped with some insightful metrics, but based on users’ experience, they’re not quite thorough when it comes to analytics.

You can check your:

  • click and purchase rate,
  • your customers’ top searches,
  • top no-result searches,
  • most searches that result in no click on products.

These can be helpful, but will prove to be insufficient when it comes to providing you with predictions for the future.

Predictive analytics can assist in identifying customer needs, recognizing shopping patterns based on purchase history, and forecasting future customer behavior.

If you’d like to know what other metrics you should be monitoring in order to have deeper insights into different areas of your business, and the performance of your online store, check out our article about E-commerce KPIs.

App Store Alternatives to Shopify Search and Discovery

There are many other apps available in the Shopify App Store, developed by companies specializing in search and discovery, that can help you take your store’s search capabilities to the next level. Most of them offer a free trial, and different packages for different search needs.1

Implementing an alternative third-party search solution with enhanced features can alleviate stress for you and your team, and most probably lead to an increase in revenue. To help you with discovering them, we’ve gathered a few of these available third-party search apps below.

1. Fast Simon

Fast Simon is available for Shopify and Shopify Plus stores, and offers advanced search functionality for large E-commerce retailers. The platform leverages shopper behavior, store inventory, data and visual signals to enhance the online shopping experience. 

They offer 6 different search packages, with the features changing from package to package, so you can choose the best fitting one based on your needs and budget. 

2. Searchanise

Offering Site Search, Filtering, Merchandising, Upsell and Cross-sell, and Analytics features, Searchanise advertises itself as a solution that improves customer experience across all stages of the shopping journey. 

Their Search&Filter app is available on a wide array of platforms, such as Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce or WooCommerce. The packages start at $0 (best fit for small businesses) and include custom plans, depending on your product catalog and overall usage. 

🔍 Smart Site Search Engine for Ecommerce Stores - Searchanise

3. Prefixbox AI Search

Prefixbox is an AI-powered, data-based search and discovery solution for E-commerce retailers. Prefixbox’s Rich Autocomplete, Hybrid Search Engine, dynamic filtering, Merchandizing and automated synonym mining functions are made to improve your conversion rate and your customers’ experience on your site. 

The solution is fully managed, meaning that their customer support team will optimize your settings to maximize revenue. Prefixbox Search Analytics are the most detailed on the market, and offer unmatched insights.

Prefixbox uses vector search, the latest search technology that sees behind keywords, and learns from user behavior to return the most relevant results.

The Prefixbox Hybrid Search package on Shopify comes with custom plans, each offering a 30-day free trial. 

4. Boost AI

Boost AI advertises itself as a smart search app leveraging AI to ensure swift and relevant search results. Users like it because it’s customizable, offers insightful analytics, and good customer support. 

The app integrates with Shopify easily, and prioritizes increasing your conversion rate via relevancy. Their four product suites are: AI-powered Search, Product Recommendation, Merchandising, and Advanced Analytics. 

Boost AI is fit for Shopify stores of various sizes, as there are various packages available, starting from basic plans for smaller stores, to custom subscription offers for bigger ones. 

5. Findify

Having been working with Shopify since 2015, Findify is a Certified Shopify Plus App. It offers high-level personalization and customization options, utilizes NLP and lets your customers search for content besides your products. 

Merchants have the option to rely on Findify’s personalization algorithm for automated assistance, or they can customize the customer experience according to their preferences.

It can be integrated with various platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce. 

What is Findify?

Wrap Up

In conclusion, optimizing the search functionality on your E-commerce site is crucial, since the vast majority of shoppers rely on search bars. While Shopify’s Search & Discovery app may provide a convenient starting point, it does come with limitations such as filtering issues, a lack of robust support, and insufficient analytics.

Several third-party alternatives in the Shopify App Store, however, offer advanced features for basic search engines to overcome these challenges. Exploring these allows E-commerce businesses to tailor their search functionalities based on specific needs, leading to improved user satisfaction and potential sales and revenue growth.

Prefixbox AI Search is one of these alternative apps, addressing common pain points such as filtering issues, recognizing typos and synonyms, lack of personalization and limited language support.

Karolina GecseMarketing Assistant – Prefixbox

Karolina is working with Prefixbox’s Marketing team on projects related to content, online presence and PR. She lives in Budapest, has a Bachelor’s in English, and is currently a Business student.