One of Canada’s Top Startups Is Shaking Up Searches

As e-commerce keeps growing, having useful internal search engines will be key for businesses. That's where machine learning comes in.


Internal search tools on business websites are common, but they are often limited in what they can do for the user. This leaves some customers unable to find the product or information they need and limits the online sales potential of the company.

Coveo equips companies with AI-powered cloud search tools (called “insight engines”) that learn the complicated network of a website and the behaviour of users to deliver a superior digital experience that drives results. The Quebec-based startup supports major corporate clients like American Express and Salesforce.

COVID-19 has forced many businesses to adapt to an increasingly online world and scale up their digital tools to remain competitive. CEO Louis Têtu believes that Coveo and other innovative tech groups are primed to play a major role in driving this transformation.

An in-house Google for businesses

Clients can embed the tool on their website, and from here, the AI’s machine learning component will begin monitoring user behaviour and providing tailored search recommendations. The extracted data are more relevant, personalized, and immediate than what is possible with a typical site search engine.

“It’s like Google for me — I see no gaps,” said Krystel Perreault from Bombardier Recreational Products to the Globe and Mail. “It’s a better user experience for the dealer; user-friendly, intuitive, and easy to browse.”

By making niche queries more discoverable on a website’s information portal, Coveo helps customers to avoid dealing with a call centre. This reduces operational costs and keeps customers satisfied.

Take Tableau Software as an example. They integrated Coveo and increased client self-service on the website, resulting in a significant drop in the number of customer service calls. The upgrade reportedly saves them approximately $18 million USD a year.

E-commerce sites are another big winner with Coveo’s technology. The AI analyzes the click-stream data and behavioural patterns of site visitors and subsequently serves up content that is most likely to result in a sale.

The technology makes intelligent recommendations based not only on the user’s history but also on that of other users with similar profiles. This includes suggestions they had not originally looked for, thereby broadening the scope of potential sale avenues.

Coveo also features an analytics platform that details the customer’s journey through the site. Clients can use this data to monitor and improve online shopping experiences, for example, by checking how easy it was for buyers to find exactly what they needed in a product catalogue comprising thousands of items.

Digital transformation

The popularity of search and personalization services as an area for investment has exploded in recent years. Coveo reaped in a further $227 million in its last round of financing and is now valued at over $1 billion. The organization is currently the most well-funded Canadian start-up, according to Disfold.

Têtu has been the CEO of Coveo since 2008 and is a renowned veteran in the tech world. He is a co-founder of Taleo, a cloud software group that was acquired for $1.9 billion in 2012, and he is also a chairman and board member for several groups including iA Financial Group, PetalMD, and Couche-Tard.

In an interview with Betakit earlier this year, he outlined his belief that COVID-19 could be a catalyzing moment for both the tech industry and the many businesses in need of a digital transformation. Things like AI and data, workplace virtualization, cloud networks, and digital commerce would all fall under this bracket.

“It’s going to be a digital rush, because following this crisis, companies are going to rush to accelerate their digital transformation agenda,” said Têtu. “As a result, the tech sector will greatly benefit.

“Tech, in general, will emerge the winner.”

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.