No doubt with astounding increase in the digital consumption, technology is on the front seat and it is definitely easier to reach consumers when they are online. It is evident that all the laptops, phones and tablets of the world have literally become our 'body parts'. And this is where the make shift happens; technology to 'smart technology'. The basic premise being that the purpose of technology is to make life easier and achieve what was far-fetched in offline world. To put it in one sentence- "I want technology to read my mind".

Let's look at how shopping has changed over the time. There is a drastic shift in shopping from brick & mortar stores  to online stores. Online shops are now striving hard to improve a visitors experience and create more and more personalized experience every time someone shops. The idea is to learn from the browsing behavior and shopping history of shoppers in turn displaying and promoting products in the most customized way. Similarly, offline shops are also adopting ways to retain and improve the shoppers experience. This is possible by virtue of technology where you can now check out products, prices and offers from your device itself and then go to shop. This has also moved to futuristic in-store wearable technologies.

But what remains UNCHANGED is that the shopper is still the 'smart shopper' and will not buy anything that is pushed on him. He always has something in mind but is just not sure about it. It is highly unlikely that he will buy whatever is shown to him first. Thus, your promotions have to be very subtle so as to be in the consideration set. Always let the shopper take the first step and let it be a guided journey form a visitor to conversion.

Search- the double edged sword

Nobody can deny the power of search! Google has completely changed the way we search and interact with technology. The basic premise of 'technology should read my mind' is effectively worked on by Google, hence the success. Google search has changed our search from 'keyword based' to 'query based' search. For example, when we search for- 'movie based on character made from trash', Google tells me its WALL-E. Bang on!

Same trend is now shifting to online shopping and hence the shopper expects the search-box to be smart and become his personal shopping assistant. This very fact can turn out to be good, bad or ugly for your online business. Let us see how- Remember, as mentioned earlier always let your consumer take the first step and at the same time be his guide, because he does not know exactly what he wants. Let's consider that as a first step shopper enters a query 'gift for girlfriend' in your search box and following are the possibilities:

1. Outcome is "0 results found". What happens next- customer leaves your website. And this is pure UGLY for your business

2. Search provides suggestive items which are not 'relevant' to the search. i.e. your search is not returning results related to 'female' or even related to 'gifts'. This is BAD as I'll not buy what you are suggesting

3. Search gives results which can qualify as 'gifts' and for 'females'. Congratulations! you are doing GOOD and you might turn this visitor into shopper.

But how to be the best? :)

Here are some of the points where you can score above your competitors and convert a visitor into shopper more effectively: If your search supports synonyms, spell checks, location based preferences and trends, semantics, automatic ranking of products, advanced filters, etc. then most definitely this visitor is going to shop from your store. These features basically transform your search into a 'smart search' as they are part of a broader entity called natural language search. Which is a major tool for understanding machine learning and artificial intelligence. So it's high time to find out who are you-

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly or The Best?