One of the challenges with the eCommerce stores is that despite having a great user interface and tools for their users to navigate their products, the users fail to find the relevant item. The usual culprit being item description which fails to match up with user's search queries.
For eg. a furniture store might have multiple items for Sofas but users searching for couch will end up with empty results. Similarly, for an electronic store, for Multi-Function Printers, users searching for All in One Printer will find nothing.
Synonyms help bridge such differences by providing a convenient and consistent method for store owners to eliminate such dead queries.
What are synonyms
A synonym is a word or phrase which means exactly the same or nearly the same to another set of words or phrases.
For eg, in the above scenario, if we define couch & sofa as synonyms, users searching for a sofa or couch will see the exact same set of results. You can further expand this synonym set to include words like divan, settee or even include words from different languages like canapé (French), 沙发 (Chinese) if you have a user base which searches in multiple languages.
In eCommerce, synonyms are further refined into two-way synonyms and one-way synonyms.
Two Way Synonyms
When all words in a synonym set are equal to each other, we club them into a "two-way synonym". Such words are interchangeable equal to each other and searching for any word will show results from all other words as well.
A common example is that if we define a two-way synonym like trousers, pants then a person who searches for "trousers", will also see results for "pants" but after results for "trousers" are exhausted.
One Way Synonyms
When all words in a synonym set are not equal and have only one-way relation from source word to destination word, we define them as one-way synonyms. For eg., in an electronics store, a person searching for a phone would like to see results such as iPhone, Google Pixel, Samsung S10 but a person searching for iPhone would not want to see generic phone results from other brands.
In such scenarios, we define one-way synonyms set such as phone => iPhone, Google Pixel, Samsung S10. This ensures that a person only sees results when searching for a phone but not otherwise.
A recent study by "Baymard Institute" claims that more than 70% of stores do not use synonyms and fail to provide users with relevant search results when users enter a slight variation of actual words.
This provides stores with the opportunity to be prudent about the usage of synonyms in their stores. If stores use basic synonyms, they should be able to capture user interests much more correctly and provide them with more purchasing options than competing stores.
How to determine what synonyms to use
It's an easy decision to decide to use synonyms or not, mostly the answer is yes. The difficult part is to understand which synonyms to use and what relations to build, one-way or two-way. Thankfully there are quite a few tips on how to build synonym sets and with Sparq's advanced analytics, you can track their performance.
Users love to use abbreviations and expect those to be handled by search engines. Its a common practice to set synonyms for known abbreviations like USA, United States of America, America, North America or LOTR, Lord of the Rings, NBA, National Basketball Association etc.
If you have users with multiple languages but have content only for a single language, Sparq advises you to set up synonyms for each language you support, especially for high volume search queries. For eg. setting up synonyms for sofa, canapé, 沙发, सोफ़ा will let your user see results for sofa if they search in English, French, Chinese or Hindi.
For store owners, understanding the context of a search query and setting it up with relevant keyword can be managed by the usage of synonyms. For eg., a person searching for Black Friday would be interested in discount, sales, Xmas
Sparq handles basic spelling mistakes out of the box. If a person makes a typing mistake within 1-2 characters out of the original word, we automatically show them the relevant results. This leaves the store owners to only setup synonyms for spelling mistakes which can only occur due to colloquialisms or slangs or for extremely long words, where typing mistake beyond 2 characters might be possible.
Sparq Advantage for Synonyms
Sparq search provides an easy way to manage synonyms directly from the app dashboard. You can define both one-way and two-way synonym sets using the app. You can also track the usage of synonyms via our Advanced analytics and see which synonyms set are performing vis-a-vis non-performing synonym sets.