When it comes to e-commerce, having a user-friendly website is critical for engaging consumers and driving sales.

To better aid merchants, Google has launched a pilot program that enables you to display relevant search items before an individual has finished typing his or her query.

The initiative, called Search as you Type, uses predictive text to provide instant suggestions. Previously included in Google Commerce Search, the company is turning it into a stand alone feature.

Search as You Type enhances your existing website search functionality by offering visitors product suggestions and photos. By making it easier and faster for consumers to locate the product they’re looking for, you could potentially boost sales.

“The Search As You Type pilot is one of the many steps we’re taking to provide technology, tools and traffic to help power the retail ecosystem,” explained Jennifer Dulski, product management direct for Google Shopping. “And we’ll continue to develop and invest in tools, such as Google Trusted Stores and Google Commerce Search, to help retailers connect with shoppers and drive conversions.”

Currently the program is only available to US-based AdWords advertisers. It’s free up to 25 million searches annually, after which licensing fees would apply.

The pilot has launched with two partners, and Google plans to expand to include more online retailers over the coming months. If you’re interested in participating, you can fill out a form to be notified of its roll out.

[Image credit: DennisCHEN.me]