Synonyms: the essential search tool for eCommerce

Synonyms: the essential search tool for eCommerce

If you were to write a list of all the names you respond to, how long would that list be? What do people call you? Right now you might be thinking of your given name - Anna, Peter, Luke, Sophie - or even a nickname. But the list starts to get a little longer when you realise people call you other things too. You might be known as mom, sister, boss or neighbour. In fact, you might be known by them all! Depending on what your relationship is with someone, you can be known by a bunch of different names. But no matter how long the list of names gets, one thing’s certain; they’re all referring to the same person. You. 

The same naming rituals apply to products. Take your mobile phone for example. There are tonnes of different words you can use to talk about it, including the brand of the phone itself. 

At first glance, the variety of definitions we have may seem pretty trivial when it comes to an online store. In practice though, this variety can be the difference between the failure or success of your shop. And it’s here that two critical variables come into play in any successful eCommerce shop: The search tool, and the power of synonyms. 

What are Synonyms in a commerce search tool?

As with people’s names, shoppers might ask for the same product using a number of different terms. That might be down to a lack of knowledge about the product, forgetfulness, or even linguistic differences. When you’re not sure in a physical shop, you can chat with the shop assistant, who can show you the different options they have until you find what you’re looking for. 

In the online store things are a little different. The only way to communicate with the shop is through the search tool. What if the customer types ‘mobile’ instead of ‘telephone’? What if they just type ‘phone’. A shop with an advanced and well-configured search tool will be able to offer relevant results even if the query is not exact. So, where’s the magic? It’s in the Synonyms, one of the features that makes search much more than just a box where you type what you’re looking for.

By using Synonyms, one particular product can be found under different names, meaning shoppers and shop owners can avoid the dreaded zero-results page. But the success of the search depends on previous configurations of the tool, taking into account the most common spelling and grammatical errors as well as variations people use when searching for a specific product or brand.

The keys to getting Synonyms right

The Synonyms tool often goes unnoticed by many retailers. They’re unaware that when used right, it can be a turning point for both sales and shopper confidence. When customers consistently fail to find the products they need - because they’re not using the exact search term - they end up frustrated and leave the shop, sometimes never returning.

So, what should you take into account when setting up Synonyms in your shop? Following the example of the multiple words for mobile phone we used before: 

  • Think of synonyms in the broader sense of the word. "Telephone" can work as a synonym for "mobile". But don't forget words like "smartphone" or "phone".
  • Be aware of spelling and grammatical mistakes. We’re not always sure how to spell a word or we type it in haste. So don't be afraid to include alternatives such as "mobil" or "ifone" in your list of synonyms for "mobile".
  • Keep brands in mind. Sometimes a product is so closely linked to a brand that it is the brand that dominates searches. With this in mind, "iPhone", "Apple" or "Samsung" could be part of the list of synonyms for mobile phone.
  • Use related products to your advantage. Shoppers may be looking for products in your shop that you don't have. Before offering them an empty results page, you can recommend related products such as "phone case" or "screen protector".  

These are some of the key points you can take into account when setting up Synonyms, just one of the features of Motive Commerce Search. If you’re already up and running with Motive’s synonyms feature and have any questions, we’ve more information over on our Knowledge Hub.