The world of e-commerce is constantly evolving. When site search was first introduced, the functionality was clumsy at best and completely frustrating at worst. Shoppers typed their entire search query before seeing if the site had what they were looking for. This involved a lot of guesswork and often led to no results or irrelevant results – even when the site had the product shoppers wanted.
In 2008, SLI Systems launched Auto Complete. As soon as users started typing their search query, a search box dropdown instantly displayed search suggestions. In 2011, we were the first site search provider to add images and product suggestions to this experience, which gave birth to SLI Rich Auto CompleteTM and allowed shoppers to find relevant products faster. Each improvement to our Auto Complete experience has increased conversions and customer engagement.
The E-commerce Evolution Continues
Today, we are excited to announce industry-leading enhancements to Rich Auto CompleteTM. Our new Rich Auto Complete experience has been designed from the ground up to speed the path to purchase and engage shoppers on any size device.
After considering a number of usability factors, best practices and client requests, we redesigned the entire experience to increase e-commerce sales, enhance product discovery and reduce the risk of returning “no results.”
Our latest version of Rich Auto Complete provides better guidance to shoppers as soon as they engage with the search box. We added the ability to show search suggestions based on category, brand or department, which lets shoppers jump to the right section of results. For example, a search for jeans at a large department store might show options for jeans in Women, jeans in Men and jeans in Kids.
Our new dynamic content feature allows users to preview products of interest right within the Auto Complete box. We do this by updating products displayed when users hover over search suggestions, which gives them more choices and increases engagement.
In addition, the new Rich Auto Complete helps you capture more sales from your small-screen shoppers. We’ve created dedicated mobile and tablet designs that automatically display options correctly regardless of device size and orientation. As a result, shoppers can type less and buy more.
Rich Auto Complete uses patented SLI Learning Search® technology to continuously re-rank product suggestions based on user activity. This allows you to showcase the most relevant products to your shoppers, and you can tune the results to control the order in which products appear.
SLI Systems has always customized the look and feel of our solutions to match your e-commerce site. Our new Rich Auto Complete now includes a variety of design options so that you can choose an experience that fits your brand and delights your shoppers.
Our SaaS platform allows your site to evolve alongside our e-commerce solutions. Existing Rich Auto Complete customers will enjoy these new features at no additional cost. New customers can look forward to combining the power of Learning Search® with industry-leading Rich Auto Complete to create a premium search experience
Learn more about accelerating your e-commerce by reading our Rich Auto Complete product brief.
Great site navigation helps visitors avoid wrong turns and dead ends, but poorly designed navigation has the opposite effect: Shoppers lose their way and their patience, causing them to abandon the path to purchase before the journey even begins.
As an e-commerce retailer, you don’t want your visitors to fall into even a second of frustration, or they could be lost. A staggering 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience (Econsultancy).
One challenge of creating intuitive site navigation is accounting for different shoppers’ preferences. Some visitors are familiar with your site and others are new. Some will start at your home page, while others enter your site through a product page or landing page. Certain users always start at the search box, while others strictly navigate or use a mix of search and navigation. No matter the path, all visitors want you to bring them to the exact products or information they are looking for as quickly as possible.
The design of great site navigation is both an art and a science. After more than 14 years of helping the world’s leading e-commerce retailers turn shoppers into buyers, experts at SLI Systems have gathered an array of best practices to speed the path to purchase for shoppers in every industry, which we share in our “Big Book” series.
Our newest release of “The Big Book of Navigation Tips” includes more than 50 site navigation tips to help you lead your shoppers straight to their desired destinations.
Topics include best practices for:
- Overall site design
- Integration with ratings and reviews
- Refinement display
- Smartphones and tablets
Download your copy today and stay tuned to this blog for more articles about site navigation in e-commerce.
In the drive to turn your visitors into buyers, navigation is a critical part of the shopping journey. More than 70% of site visitors navigate their way to the products they have in mind. But if your navigation is clumsy or confusing, those shoppers are more likely to bounce than buy.
Site Navigation as a Tool for Merchandisers, Content Marketers and SEO Pros
Originally we launched SLI Learning Navigation® in 2006 to provide a consistent experience across a site that also uses SLI Learning Search®. Learning Navigation® has always leveraged our patented learning technology to continually re-rank products based on user activity. Over the years, our navigation solution evolved based on customer feedback.
Today we are excited to introduce the next generation of SLI Learning Navigation – completely rebuilt for improved SEO and better merchandising. The newest version of Learning Navigation is designed to give you more control over your SEO while creating a better user experience based on industry best practices.
Our revamped navigation solution dynamically generates clean, search engine-friendly URLs, making it easier for shoppers to find your products during an organic search. Our new interface allows you to quickly edit URLs, titles, headings, meta tags and page descriptions, giving merchandisers and content marketers more direct control over factors that affect their SEO.
Learning Navigation also helps you avoid SEO issues with duplicate content by controlling which pages search engines index. The navigation pages provide refinement and filtering options for the whole product catalog.
Adapting to the evolving e-commerce experience and expectations of our customers is at the core of SLI – to continuously enhance our offering, accelerate your sales and provide these improvements seamlessly via our SaaS platform. We are excited to help you bring your e-commerce to the next level with this newest version of Learning Navigation.
For new customers, we recommend signing up for Learning Search together with Learning Navigation to gain the maximum benefits of SLI learning technology. For existing SLI Learning Navigation customers, our SaaS platform allows us to easily upgrade your Navigation for no cost at your discretion.
To learn more about Learning Navigation, click here.
No matter how advanced conferencing technology becomes, there’s no substitute for meeting someone face-to-face. Shaking hands, sharing conversation over a nice meal, sitting together to brainstorm new strategies for online retail success – none of these experiences is replicated through meetings using Skype, WebEx or GoToMeeting.
The Wall Street Journal article “The New Face of Face-to-Face meetings” cites an Oxford Economics study showing that every dollar invested in business travel results in $12.50 in added revenue and $3.80 in new profits. Face-to-face meetings are necessary, and even profitable, for reasons both obvious and research-based:
- A handshake tells a lot about a person, and you can’t shake hands with a monitor
- Facial expressions and other body language can communicate more than the words we use
- Non-verbal cues help us predict a person’s trustworthiness (Science Daily)
- In-person meetings are usually more casual and more likely to be considered “off the record,” so it’s possible to get more done in less time
- Sharing a common experience is a building block of a long-term relationship
- In-person meetings are simply more memorable than digital conversations
Connecting with Customers
Knowing the importance of connecting in-person, we hold SLI Connect events each year in North America, Asia Pacific and the UK. It’s a unique opportunity to mingle with our customers, other retailers and industry leaders to discuss current e-commerce topics, explore future possibilities and learn from each other’s experiences.
Our SLI Connect event is Thursday, September 24, at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and there’s still a couple days to register. Our agenda, speaker list, venue details and sign up form are available at www.sli-connect.com.
If you’re already scheduled to attend, you can follow real-time updates on Twitter using the hashtag #sliconnect. We can’t wait to share some non-verbal cues and build some common experiences (i.e. shake hands and have some fun together).
Tags: holiday, Infographic, Refinements, smartphones, User Experience
This latest infographic by SLI Systems was also published in Multichannel Merchant on September 10.
The business-to-business industry is rarely considered glamorous. But don’t let its reputation fool you. Think of the almost-invisible wallflower who shows up to prom transformed and looking like a knockout. That’s B2B, and based on the numbers, it should stand for Big and Beautiful.
With more B2B buyers expecting to find what they need online, a growing number of B2B companies are embracing e-commerce. According to a survey by TradeGecko Pte. Ltd., 41% of wholesalers said e-commerce would be their top sales channel in 2015, up from 31% in 2014. In addition, 24% said they will sell online for the first time in 2015 (TradeGecko).
B2B Shoppers Have Higher Expectations
Shoppers have come to expect a customer-centric online experience, and B2B sites would be wise to step up their game. The addition of Amazon Business to the e-commerce scene only increases the pressure to act more like B2C. Why should shopping for work be any less efficient (and fun) than shopping for yourself? B2B buyers want a seamless online experience – even though the B2B path to purchase is usually more cumbersome.
The B2B buying process often requires in-depth research, approval from multiple stakeholders and possibly price negotiation. This combination of complexity and great expectations means your site has more chances to hit (or miss) the mark.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
Showcase Your Expertise
Nothing against your sales team, but your corporate web site is the first choice among executives for learning about business products and services, according to the 2015
Sullivan survey “Executive Buying Behavior.” Make sure potential buyers can easily find the information they desire, whether it’s demo videos, case studies, consumer guides or blogs. A superior site search experience will deliver product results and non-product content, so your visitors find everything they are looking for and more.
Go Anywhere, Be Everywhere
Work-life balance often means blurring the lines between both – and getting tasks done when you can. Research is no longer constrained to the dual-screen desktop at the office. Your customers might be traveling for business or couch surfing from the comfort of their home. Either way, go with them via their smartphone or tablet. As a bonus, the more mobile friendly you are, the higher you will rank in Google’s search page results.
Set a gold standard for customer service. While today’s B2B shoppers want to independently scope out what you’ve got, they also want to know you’re there when they need you. Make it easy to place orders, track orders, make payments, get answers to frequently asked questions, find technical documentation and talk to a real person.
For more tips on creating an exceptional online shopping experience that will win loyal customers, take a look at this B2B Industry Brief from SLI Systems.
My last blog outlined the main SEO tools that businesses need. Tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, when set up correctly, help you monitor both the positive and negative factors that affect your site’s SEO.
Mobile friendliness – The degree to which your site is mobile friendly will affect your SEO. In April 2015, mobile friendliness became a significant ranking factor for Google in determining a page’s position on the SERPs for Google visitors on mobile devices. Use Webmaster Tools (WMTs) such as Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to monitor and improve your site’s mobile friendliness. As a separate tool, Google offers a quick test that reviews your URL and reports whether the page has a mobile-friendly design.
Keyword rankings – When your site contains relevant, quality content related to search phrases frequently used by visitors of Internet search engines, then these are positive signals for your SEO. Use WMTs to see which keywords and pages rank highest; use this information to determine which content on your site is most influential. Avoid the temptation to pack more of those high-ranking keywords into every page of your site – this could backfire and send out negative signals. Instead, use the keyword data to guide your content development and focus.
Links from other sites to yours – The links you naturally earn from sites with high domain authority (like when you’re mentioned in an e-commerce industry article) equate to positive signals that increase your rankings. However, resist the urge to outright ask publications or associations to add a link to your site – Google has mysterious ways to discern whether a link is simply requested or actually earned. Instead, create standout blogs and provide valuable industry news through social media and PR efforts. When you deliver information that others want to share, you truly earn links that boost your overall SEO efforts.
Structured Data – Structured data improves the bots’ understanding of the entities (products, organizations, blog posts, video objects, etc.) referenced on your site. You can improve the visibility of your pages by marking up the main entities and ensuring organizational markup is present on all pages. Check that structured data used on your side is understood correctly using the tools provided by Bing and Google. Keep in mind that incorrectly implementing structured data might do more harm than good.
Negative signals to watch and minimize include:
Crawl errors – A common crawl error that triggers a warning from WMT is a soft 404. If search engine bots pick up on pages that no longer exist and a no-results page is shown but not accompanied with a 404 http return code, this is a negative quality signal against the domain. To be clear, showing no-results pages is not a bad practice in itself – there are even possibilities to engage with visitors on them. However, they always need to be accompanied with a 404. On spotting soft 404s, you should immediately engage with your web designers to ensure the no-results page behaves as expected. Once the fix is in place, you might choose to “fetch” or “fetch and render” the no longer existing page to ensure it is returning the desired 404 response.
Large number of URLs on site – WMTs will send you warnings if you use too many URLs on your site, which could negatively affect your SEO. To correct this problem, you need to take a hard look at the pages that are already found. The WMT warning message will contain some example URLs; go through the list and confirm whether you want all of these URLs to be indexed. In addition, check for canonicalization issues. Ensure you have blocked access to your site search so that the bots cannot crawl your search. Even if someone links to a result page of your local site search, you don’t want Internet search engine bots crawling the page and adding it to their indexes.
Also think about indexation depth within your site navigation so you can avoid too many pages getting indexed. Generate an impressions/clicks report from the top pages to understand how much attention your deeper pages generate. Limit access to deep pages and consider not allowing all navigation refinements to be indexed.
HTML signals for missing, duplicate, too long or too short meta descriptions or title tags – Meta data still matters, and it’s easy to add any missing meta descriptions or title tags. WMT offers HTML improvement suggestions to show you any meta data that needs correcting. Simply add a description or title that is relevant to the topic and content of the page, within the provided character limits, and then you’ve resolved your problem.
If these tips were helpful, feel free to download our SEO Guidebook, “How to Get the SEO-Driven Revenue You’re Missing.”
The time-honored tradition of buying new clothes, shoes, backpacks, pencils and notebooks in anticipation of the school year is a serious retail event – second only to the winter holiday season.
The National Retail Federation predicts the average back-to-school family will spend $630 while the average back-to-college family will spend $899 for an industry total of $68 billion this year.
But the tradition is changing. Shoppers are shifting how and when they will buy back-to-school supplies, according to recent surveys by the National Retail Federation and Deloitte.
Regarding the when, there is a trend toward procrastination. Deloitte’s 2015 Back-to-School Survey reveals 31% of consumers won’t complete their shopping until after school starts this year. Many are reusing supplies and restocking as needed.
How parents and students are shopping is also changing. Brick-and-mortar stores are still the main place of purchase. But for the first time in the Deloitte survey, online shopping was the second most common response when participants were asked, “In what types of retail environments do you plan to do your back-to-school shopping?”
In 2012, only 20% of respondents said online sites were among their top five back-to-school shopping destinations. This year, that number was 44%.
The top back-to-school spending categories are clothes, electronics, shoes and school supplies such as notebooks and backpacks, according to the National Retail Federation. Deloitte’s survey broke spending down even further to find that electronics are more likely to be bought online than other back-to-school purchases.
As online shopping gains popularity among the back-to-school crowd, the use of smartphones and tablets is also increasing. More than 40% of back-to-college shoppers are using mobile devices to research and price compare, and more than 30% plan to make purchases via their smartphones or tablets, according to the National Retail Federation.
Free shipping is a big selling point, but so is the option to buy online and pick up at the store, which will be used by almost half of back-to-school shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation.
Mobile shoppers are also using smartphones to find store locations and locate in-store products. Meaning retailers that want an A from parents and students should focus on providing a strong omnichannel experience, including mobile-friendly sites with geolocation services and accurate in-store inventory.
Just as in retail stores, making sure your online site is geared to sell most effectively can’t be overstated. Building online merchandising equivalents of in-store experiences promises that shoppers will not only find what they came to your site to find, but will also discover other products too.
Good in-store merchandising can:
- increase traffic by offering attractive visual experiences
- increase sales by featuring products through promotions and displays
- build loyalty through appealing, easy-to-access settings
As you build out the merchandising functionality on your site, keep these best practices in mind.
Let Your Data Drive Programs
Knowing what your shoppers are interested in helps you respond to current trends and anticipate future promotional opportunities. When customers search, they’re telling you exactly what they want. Leverage data from search keywords and browsing behavior to power your email and advertising campaigns to get the most traction for your time and money.
Make Discovery Easy
Isn’t it helpful when you enter a store and a sales associate helps you find the exact item you’re looking for? Make the same true for online experiences. You can do this in a few ways: first, offer search that provides the most relevant products in the first couple rows. Second, show the most relevant products visually as the search query is entered, through rich autocomplete. And third, tie the most popular keywords to promotions that you feature on your home page.
Merchandise Across Channels
Don’t forget the mobile experience! A streamlined mobile experience that works around the physical constraints of a mobile device will make it easier for shoppers to find (and buy!) what they want. For instance, keeping your search box front and center on every page is critical to keeping shoppers on your site so they don’t waste time navigating an entire site. Additionally, adding refinements in large, tap-friendly dropdowns lets shoppers narrow down to the most applicable results.
These ideas just scratch the surface of making your site a super-powered merchandising machine. We recently spoke with Sri PV, E-Commerce Internal Marketing Manager at Dressbarn, about how he puts these online merchandising fundamentals (and many more) into practice every day. You can hear the full discussion here.
For baseline measurement of your site traffic and SEO performance, not only should you have a GA account, along with Google and Bing WMT accounts, but you need to ensure they are set up correctly. They will provide valuable insight on your site’s performance and monitor the factors that affect your site’s SEO.
This blog covers offers tips on getting the most out of GA and WMT, as well as suggests third-party tools that are helpful to improve your SEO. This is part of our blog series on SEO.
Google Analytics (GA) offers all the basic knowledge you need to track your site traffic and evaluate factors that affect your SEO. When set up properly, GA provides analytics on:
- Search Traffic – amount and quality of traffic coming from search engines, including visitor demographics and how they found your site
- Keyword Effectiveness – which keywords are driving traffic and conversions
- Content Performance – which site pages and landing pages are driving the most traffic
- Sales and Conversions – which search results and pages users click on that result in a sale
- Engagement Metrics – which parts of your site have the best/worst engagement metrics
- Rich Segmentation of Traffic – specific segmentation of metrics (e.g. segmenting metrics by device type)
To get the most out of your GA reports, Google offers a setup checklist that includes steps for installing a tracking code, identifying goals for what you want to track, linking to AdWords and/or AdSense, optimizing keywords, and tracking e-commerce performance against keywords and marketing campaigns.
There are a number of common mistakes made with GA setup that can significantly skew your results – and therefore, the quality of the data you’re using. For Google Analytics to be effective, you need to make sure you filter out fake traffic from botnets and avoid using too many profile filters. Also, it’s a good idea to use other analytics tools to double check your GA numbers. For more on common mistakes to avoid when setting up Google Analytics, watch this SLI recorded webinar.
Webmaster Tools are both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools (WMTs) provide you with important information needed to monitor factors that will influence your site’s SEO. WMTs go beyond Google Analytics to provide insight on how your site is viewed by search engines. It will notify you of broken links, crawl errors, HTML errors and other potential problems. You’ll most likely want to set up Google Search Console first. With recent changes to traffic distribution, however, Bing’s Webmaster Tools (showing data for both Bing and Yahoo!) should not be ignored.
To decide which WMT to focus on first, check your GA statistics for insight into which organic search sources drive the most traffic to your specific site. Then set up your WMT account. SEO expert Bruce Clay has a free online newsletter that goes through the WMT set up process in detail. Or you can get yourself started with Google at www.google.com/webmasters/tools.
Once your analytics, Webmaster Tools, site pages and URLs are properly set up, it’s time to monitor, tweak and repeat on a regular basis. Your Webmaster Tools will become your best friend, as they offer insight into how you can increase the positive signals and reduce the negative signals that will affect your site’s SEO
Third-party SEO Tools
There are hundreds of third-party tools available to further improve your SEO. Take a look at a few of these resources to see what might work well for you. Also, don’t forget to look at what third-party tools your direct competitors are using – if they’re more successful than your site in SEO, it’s a good idea to know what they’re doing to get there.
Here are a few third-party SEO tools that are popular:
- Moz, SEM Rush, Search Metrics: Several inexpensive, powerful tools that track your ranking of keywords over periods of time include Moz, SEM Rush and Search Metrics. These tools can also show you when a competitor started a campaign that targets your keywords.
- SpyFu: For between $79 and $1,000 per month, SpyFu shows you your competitors’ most profitable keywords and ads. This offers insight into their success so you can build a strategy to beat them at it!
- Screaming Frog: This low-cost tool crawls your site and provides an onsite SEO audit so you know where to improve SEO elements like URL, page title, meta description or duplicate page issues. Screaming Frog can also reveal issues with your site navigation and discoverability of content.The free version may be sufficient for spot checks. Make sure your site can sustain the load the tool might generate.
- Google Instant Search: For an incredibly simple, free tool for keyword discovery, start typing a keyword into a Google search box to see which suggested, common search phrases pop up first. As an example, when you type “pants for,” you’re shown different suggestions than when you type “jeans for.”
- Ubersuggest: Another easy-to-use tool for keyword generation, Ubersuggest.org is a free resource where you can plug in keywords, choose a language and source, and receive further keyword suggestions.
For more on improving your site’s SEO, please download our free white paper, “How to Get the SEO-driven Revenue You’re Missing.” Also take a look at SLI Systems’ solution for improving SEO, SLI Site Champion.