“blue backpacks under $50” – Natural language search is changing the way we shop online.

The push to use Natural Language Processing (NLP) was really big a few years ago, today, it’s expected.

If your eCommerce site does not have some level of Natural Language search technology then you are most likely missing out on a lot of revenue. The advancement of natural language processing, voice to text, and vice versa has made talking to computers a reality and many households have an Alexa or Google Home and are ordering products with their voice.

Voice may still be a future for many, but natural language search is real and is here today. I did a small test to see what eCommerce sites actually have this capability and it is no surprise the big boys not only do it but do it very well.  Let’s take a look, I searched for the exact same phrase on every site – “blue backpacks under $50“. I will be rating each of these sites by the following criteria:

  • Were the results accurate?
  • Were all SKU’s “blue” or a blue variation
  • Were all prices $50 or below
  • Did it show a “Best Seller” matching the criteria
  • Did it show non-generic facets for further navigation (outside of price, etc)
  • Did facets have shipping options, to narrow cheaper shipping options
  • Did the products have ratings?
  • Did the products have SKU swatches
  • Did the user interface let you compare products?

My comparisons where Amazon, Wal-Mart, eBay, The North Face, and Dicks Sporting Goods in this 9 point assessment.

You will quickly see that each of these sites is really good overall. I picked them a reason. This is where “most” people do their shopping. This is the expectation and this is why all eCommerce sites should get on board if they want to stay competitive.

Let’s get on with the comparisons!


Amazong did a really nice job. Their entire result set showed images only in shades of blue (Except the top three displayed items which are actually part of a promotion ad).

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 9.47.46 AM.png

The only odd thing were some products in the result set that actually are not even backpacks at all.  And this wasn’t on the second or third page but within the first 30 results – strange. The other odd piece of the Amazon results were the facets weren’t really good: (a sleeping bag and a tent??)

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Amazon covered the basics but check out someo of the other sites and see what they had for facets.


Wal-mart did a really nice job. Lot’s of information in the results, realy good facets to break it down even more, for instance “Womens Backpacks, Girls Backpacks, etc”. They also show pretty high in the facet list “Shipping & Pickup”. The fact you can see different facets right in the search listing is really nice.

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eBay is a little different market because its other people selling stuff and they don’t necessarily have “SKU’s”. Regardless, eBay does a really great job with their search engine. To get “other” peoples products to show up nicely means they have some good standards in place to make sure products can be searched for in this manner. While they scored on the lower end overall, I don’t think the scoring is totally fair for this space but they still got a lot right!

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The North Face

The North Face site is so refreshing, easy to use and works very well. They pretty much had everything on the list and more. While the results were not totally accurate for this particular query, it is very accurate for other ones and the layout is very nice, fast, and responsive. As a regular retailer, the North Face’s user interface is better than excellent. They know they are competing with the Amazons, etc and you can clearly see a big difference in this user interface over the “shopping mall” experiences of the others. This UI works very well on mobile, big beautiful images and easy to read text. The team over at Zobrist Consulting implemented the EasyAsk search engine in The North Face site. You may recall, Zobrist is the company behind Mobiecom – a REACT based single page store front for all versions of WebSphere Commerce.

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 12.50.46 PM.png

Dicks Sporting Goods

One of my favorite sites and often copied by other retailers is Dicks Sporting Goods. Scoring the highest of all sites, the DSG site is really nice. It is more of an “Amazon” type search experience but works well on the browser and in mobile. Each tile is packed with all kinds of information. Like “Top Seller” banners, or manufacturers logos or even “Free Return on Apparel” offers. You can switch swatches, compare products and also see ratings and review counts. If they had shipping facets the Dicks Sporting Goods site would have gotten all 9 points!

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You can see for yourself in the screen shots but in case you want to see the raw scoring spreadsheet I put together, take a look below.

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 12.59.45 PM

To end, all sites are pretty good and cover most of the basics. There were a lot of sites out there that were really bad. I didn’t want this to be a blog about ripping apart sites so I used the best ones out there (that I experienced) and used them as “where the market is today”. If you know of any great products, sites, or search solutions that go beyond these then please share!  I would love to look at them.

1 thought on ““blue backpacks under $50” – Natural language search is changing the way we shop online.

  1. Pingback: Stretching natural language search by example, who does it best? | Bobs Blog

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