Search is an essential feature of an ecommerce store. And for any store with more than a handful of products, it’s one of a handful of ways that customers can narrow product selection to a manageable number. So finding the right search engine for your store is vital. For Magento merchants and developers, that search engine is Elasticsearch.
Despite the advantages of Elasticsearch, many Magento merchants still run their stores on obsolete and outdated search software. In fact, 42% of companies don’t try to optimize search as all.
Originally developed in 2010, Elasticsearch has grown to become one of the biggest players in search offerings. It has largely replaced rivals SOLR and Sphinx. For Magento sites, it’s now become the default search option, replacing MySQL which has been deprecated.
How Elasticsearch Works for Ecommerce
Magento includes built-in search functionality that previously, by default, used a MySQL database. MySQL and its variants are powerful, but they aren’t the ideal back-end for a search engine. We use search engines every day and we are accustomed to a sophisticated search interface that can turn our vague and often badly spelled queries into useful results.
MySQL isn’t well-optimized for that use case, which is why Magento previously would – on occasion – return less-than-useful search results.
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.
Imagine wanting to find a specific set of headphones which have something to do with Master Class about them, but it’s not their name. You type it in and you’re given a large selection of products you really aren’t interested in.
Don’t worry, Elasticsearch is here! ES allows for a merchant to specify different criteria the user may be searching for – beyond just the name. This may include the description, the manufacturer, the release date, and more.
In short, it makes an ideal search engine back-end for ecommerce stores and many other types of website. It also makes the ecommerce search experience just that much better.
And when combined with Magento, ElasticSearch’s built-in functionality augments ecommerce search with a host of useful improvements.
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.
The speed at which ElasticSearch returns results can be used for features such as continuously updating results: as the user types their query, the search results update immediately because ElasticSearch searches faster than users can type.
More Accurate Results
Shoppers don’t want to have to carefully craft search queries. They want to enter a vaguely appropriate query and have the search engine to figure out what they mean. ElasticSearch is packed with 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 helps stores to surface and rank the right products from their catalog even when the shopper mistypes or searches for a related product that isn’t in the catalog.
Easy to Use
Given the complexity of what ElasticSearch does, you might expect that it would be difficult to use. In fact, it couldn’t be easier. Once you hook ElasticSearch up to Magento, search is immediately improved without any complicated configuration. ElasticSearch ships with sensible indexing defaults and can begin returning better results in no time at all.
The average user spends just 8 seconds looking at a search results page. That’s 8 seconds to provide them with the right answers – in this case, products. Miss that time frame and you’re at risk of them looking somewhere else. After all, would you stay in a store if the attendant kept trying to sell you something you didn’t want?
It’s for this reason that product search is so vital. And with that browsing time only decreasing, the benefits of Elasticsearch give merchants less to worry about.
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.
Get Started with Elasticsearch for Magento the Easy Way
With Hostdedi ElasticSearch cloud hosting, Magento retailers can deploy a scalable and secure ElasticSearch instance in minutes.
We’re happy to help Magento hosting customers to integrate their ElasticSearch instance with Magento. Get in touch today to learn more about Magento and ElasticSearch.
With more than half a decade of experience in the tech industry, Robert has worked as a marketing consultant, product strategist, and content developer. At Hostdedi, he spends his time helping clients find the best hosting solution for their needs through online content and as a brand ambassador.
As a Brit raised to ignore umbrellas, when he’s not in the office you’ll find him either climbing a mountain, kayaking a river, or trying to find his next outdoor adventure.