This is first in a series of success stories on eCommerce sites that are growing their business with advanced site search. See live presentations of these stories at the SLI Theater at IRCE June 4-6.
Every eTailer knows this: You can’t get people to buy what they can’t find.
In the online party supply world, for example, a consumer has dozens of choices for where to buy a $250 life-sized Dr. Who TARDIS. If your site doesn’t appear high in Google results for this item – or if your customers can’t find the science fiction party supplies on your site – then your conversion rates will be as unpredictable as is the TARDIS’ ability for accurate time travel.
PartySuppliesDelivered.com is one among dozens of online party supply stores. With more than 4,000 products and the backing of parent company Mattress USA, PartySuppliesDelivered.com had a couple great things going for it. But there was one major problem: Customers could not find what they were looking for.
The party supplier’s original site search technology was the default search included with its eCommerce platform. It ranked search results only by the number of times the search term was found in the description, instead of ranking search results by relevance. This limited approach led to skewed results and frustrated potential customers.
To solve this problem, Party Supplies Delivered put its search function and site navigation into the full-service care of SLI Systems. As customers began to find more relevant results for their searches, the business improvements were remarkable; the bounce rate dropped 40 percent, page views increased by 132 percent and conversions went up by 203 percent. Key features like focused category pages, rich auto-complete and user-generated SEO are among the changes that are turning the business around.
“Now when customers drill into a subcategory, they really browse around; pages per visit are up 111 percent. This increases their average order too,” said Ian MacDonald, VP of eCommerce & Marketing for Party Supplies Delivered.
To learn more about how advanced site search and navigation technology helps Party Supplies Delivered, read their case study. If you’re coming to IRCE, stop by the SLI Theater at booth #501, where you can see a live demo from our customers including Ian from Party Supplies Delivered – plus get a free site critique. We look forward to seeing you there!
A/B testing is one of the most important things you should be doing for your eCommerce site. In eCommerce, your site’s layout, design and feature set are a crucial part of the product – not just the physical products you sell. Yet many businesses don’t place high importance on testing. Without it, you’re essentially displaying products without ever knowing how your customers respond to your layouts.
A/B tests compare a variable against a control to determine which one is more popular. For eCommerce sites, elements of control page “A” are compared to the new version “B” to find which one increases interest in the page. This could be in the form of click-through rates, conversions, pages viewed per visit, or whatever goal is specified.
Say you want to encourage more people to click a button on your page to sign up for a service. To test the effectiveness of the button, you’d use the current page/ button design as your control and a test it against a new design. Both designs would be released simultaneously to a customer sample, and their clicks during the test period would be tallied to see which button drove more clicks. You’ll usually see a pretty clear indication of one particular design that users prefer. A/B testing is a simple, yet effective way to determine which version “wins”.
With the results of individual tests and the collective results over time, testers will get actionable data about what design, layout and features users prefer.
But repeat after me: “one design does not fit all”. User demographics and preference play heavily into what works for one site but not for another. Even though your site may sell something similar to another, your audience may be different and users may behave in very dissimilar, contradictory ways. It’s important to test your site specifically, and not necessarily follow others in your industry.
Instead of grasping at straws when deciding on design or feature changes on your eCommerce site pages, consider A/B testing to help give clearer, data-driven insights that can provide concrete recommendations to improve your site’s performance. The only thing you should not A/B test is the decision to A/B test.
Have you been shocked by results from A/B tests? We’d love to hear what you learned.
Guest blog post by Sasha Butkovich from Ecommerce Outtakes
Though online retail trends continually change, there are some tried-and-true rules for successful cross-selling and up-selling.
Don’t: Waste white space
Product pages are the perfect section of the site to suggest other items to shoppers. Of course you don’t want to clutter the page, but leaving too much empty space is such a waste. Why leave it blank when you could be suggesting similar products or making recommendations? This is the perfect spot for a cross-sale.
Take True & Co, for example; they have lots of white space here! This is such a missed opportunity for cross-sale or up-sale items that could add to the total value of the shopping cart…
Do: Provide relevant suggestions at checkout
It’s not enough to recommend just any old product on the site. Recommendations need to be relevant to the item being viewed and the purchase being made. The whole concept of a “people who viewed this item also viewed” recommendation engine is nice in theory, but not all customers shop the same way. Just browse around on Amazon.com for a while for proof of the seemingly arbitrary suggestions this feature can provide.
As a counterpoint to this, here’s a good example of relevant suggestions from B & H Photo. When I added a camera to my shopping cart, there was an additional “Essential Accessories” section in the pop-up window that showed other items to accompany this specific camera. This is a great cross-sale feature, because it saves the shopper having to look up or find each item separately. It’s all provided right here. Plus, featuring these items right in this “added to cart” window is a great way to draw attention to these products without adding a step in the checkout process. Good timing is definitely a big part of good cross-sale!
A great strategy for up-sale is to offer additional products at a discount. For instance, a customer who adds item A to their cart can get item B for 50% off. Similarly, nail polish site Julep offers add-ons for a lower price. When you go through the checkout, one of the steps is to select your add-ons. You can of course choose none, but it seems hard to pass up a product that’s typically $14 for only $5… Customers are limited to three add-ons, so the logic is to get the most product for the money by choosing the maximum amount—at least that’s what I did when I ordered from the site! Speaking from personal experience, I can say this is an effective strategy for sure.
Do: Integrate cross-sale on search pages
Another really cool way to provide a cross-sale feature is to offer it right on the search page. Here’s a great example from CP Toys. When you perform a search, like for “construction,” the results page shows some of the items available from CP Toys, of course. But if you look below this, it also shows products available on their sister sites, U.S. Toy and Constructive Playthings. This is an excellent cross-sale strategy because it creates a connection with the customer. It shows that if the shopper can’t find what they want on this site, they can still get help finding what they’re looking for.
Don’t: Be overly aggressive
Of course, cross-sale and especially up-sale features run the risk of feeling aggressive to the shopper. It’s important to not become too intrusive in their shopping experience. Provide suggestions and recommendations based on their preferences and behaviors, but avoid becoming too pushy with multiple pop-up windows or repetitive reminders. Otherwise, you create a shopping experience that feels a lot like this:
Ecommerce retailers strive to give customers fast, efficient, and convenient shopping experiences, from the comfort of their home. While it is no surprise that eCommerce continues to grow, online retailers are taking steps to ease some of the pain points that customers have when shopping online.
A new trend is emerging with online stores creating a physical presence with their businesses. Additionally, online-only superstores are exploring innovative ways to improve shipping products so customers never miss a package again.
Although the initial belief behind online retail was that consumers dreaded taking time out of their day to visit a physical store, the benefits of being able to touch, feel, and experience products has been shown to be an incomparable driving force for decision making.
According to the New York Times, companies like Etsy, eBay, Piperlime and Bonobos, which have typically had an online-only presence, are now testing small showrooms in large cities across the country. These smaller stores, with smaller square footage than standard “big box” retailers, allow these online retailers to customers interact with products physically before they buy. These stores are not meant to house all products, but rather serve as a showroom for new or popular items. Because they carry limited stock, they are able to afford more expensive, high-visibility locations in major cities.
Another program being tested seeks to improve the burdens that come with shipping. Amazon is rolling out “lockers” in various test cities. Deliveries are dropped off in conveniently-located locked boxes so users can pick them up anytime, eliminating the need for them to be home for a FedEx delivery.
Many people aren’t home during the day to wait for packages to arrive. We’ve all been there – we’ve missed the delivery of a purchase…for the third time. Then we’ve needed to fetch it from a far-off warehouse that kept inconvenient hours. Improving the flexibility customers have in receiving their packages makes a lot of sense.
While eCommerce continues to grow, it’s interesting to see the changes, experiments and improvements that are made to make the online shopping process as pain-free as possible. We look forward to seeing how it evolves and strives to best serve customers.
We always like to stay updated on the eCommerce industry as it unfolds – do these pain points apply to you? What changes are you anticipating for your online business?
The best eCommerce websites understand the needs and buying behaviors of their customers. In the case of hair care and beauty products, shopping for the right product is very personal. Whether considering hair type, brand, or treatments being sought, being able to quickly sift through a wide variety of products and find the right one can be tricky.
Join our webinar tomorrow to hear Sylvia Zori, General Manager of Folica, a leading hair care and beauty site, share her strategies for improving customer retention and conversion rates with site search and merchandising. Learn how she’s pulled from user analytics and site behavior a streamlined shopping experience for customers.
You can sign up here to attend this free webinar. Don’t miss out on learning valuable tips to increase your sales volume with stylish eCommerce tools!
Terry Costa, VP of Marketing at SLI Systems, spoke last night at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) in San Jose, Calif., on how to improve your eCommerce site’s search engine optimization (SEO). In addition to using techniques like User-Generated SEO, he also highlighted the importance of improving the user experience of landing pages.
According to Costa, most consumers use similar keywords when searching the Internet for an eCommerce site that offers the product they want. When searching for a product on a retail site itself, they tend to vary their search phrases more. He also mentioned that the search box on an eCommerce site is one of rare places where visitors actually tell a retailer what their intent is. Matching those keywords with products they actually click-on and capturing this data is very important in improving not only your conversion rates, but also your SEO efforts.
Costa also talked about how imperative it is that you help customers find what they’re looking for quickly once they land on your site. Focusing on the user experience by showing visitors more sorting options, refinements, similar products, merchandising information like “3 left” or “free shipping”, is important to help reduce abandonment.
It’s also helpful to show users other recommended products when they enter your site through a link from an Internet search engine. Let’s say a customer searches google for “scorpion exo 900” and clicks on the first link with that title. It will take them to a Motorcycle Superstore product detail page.
However, if that exact helmet isn’t what they want, Motorcycle Superstore uses that search term to recommend other relevant items that match the phrase, to ensure that customers see other possible items they might like.
Surveys by SLI Systems have shown that 73% of visitors will leave a site within two minutes if they are unable to find what they are searching for. By giving them other options, you’re increasing the chance they’ll stay on the site and make a purchase.
To learn more about improving your site’s SEO, email us at email@example.com
Many eCommerce companies just starting out may not have the budget or need for a large, full-service platform. Because of this, they may choose an eCommerce platform that works for them at the time. But as companies grow, the original platform they started with may not fit the needs of the company they may consider changing platforms or moving to on-demand solutions for more flexibility, reliability and cost savings. This is otherwise known as re-platforming.
There are obvious benefits to re-platforming – upgraded technology, better features or reporting may all fit the company’s current needs and help address major pain points. However, switching platforms should be carefully considered before a big decision is made.
Re-platforming requires a huge commitment not only in dollars but in time, project management, dedicated project team, staff training and overall learning curve. Additionally, a new platform may still not have all of the features that your site needs. For companies that cannot afford or choose not to re-platform, there are alternatives that can help delay or avoid it altogether.
So is it right for you? Join our webinar tomorrow, Thursday, March 7th with Fit for Commerce to learn more about their findings that they published in their recent white paper on the subject. You’ll also hear how from Brandon Finch, Director of eBusiness for Jelly Belly, how they augmented their existing platform and avoided re-platforming altogether.
Are you stuck between a rock and a hard spot when it comes to your eCommerce system? Does it have some features that you still like, but is missing crucial others that can make or break your business?
It could be time to change to a new platform. Or maybe, it’s time to explore ways to enhance your existing site with additional site search and merchandising features that will meet your current need while giving you breathing room to look for new solutions. In some cases, eCommerce sites have been able to completely avoid expensive, time-consuming re-platforming entirely by using site search to fill in the gaps that their platforms were not adequately providing.
If you’re at a crossroads about the best way to move forward to grow your site’s functionality efficiently and cost-effectively, you shouldn’t miss our upcoming webinar this Thursday, March 7, on Site Search vs. Re-platforming. You’ll hear from Fit For Commerce about the considerations around re-platforming, and can find out from Brandon Finch, Director of eBusiness for Jelly Belly, about the challenges Jelly Belly faced and the solution that has helped their site grow.
Enhancing the most fundamental abilities of your site’s search and navigation can help remove the pressure to re-platform immediately or entirely, because customers can still complete the most fundamental, revenue-driving actions of searching and finding a product to purchase.
When you are considering re-platforming, it’s best to ask yourself these questions:
- Am I completely unhappy with everything about my existing platform?
- Do I have 3+ months to devote to changing and implementing a new platform?
- Do I have a dedicated cross-functional team that can handle the change in platforms?
- Are the goals of all departments met by re-platforming?
If you answered “no” to any of the above, you won’t want to miss our webinar to learn more about the best available options for you. Every company’s business and growth plan is unique, and a one-size-fits-all solution is not the only option.
Also, download the Fit For Commerce white paper on Site Search vs. Re-platforming.
The SLI Engineering team has been regularly participating in what we call “Innovation Days”. The majority of the engineering team is based in New Zealand, so we hold this day when it is a public holiday in the U.S., usually a Monday, to ensure we don’t get behind on our client-facing work. It is a day where you can work on a project that is not related to your normal day-to-day work. This is a way for the engineers to stretch their creativity, and possibly dream up ideas that can eventually lead to real products. We did this for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity and challenge to create a project in a single day.
While we spend Innovation Day brainstorming and creating, the day after Innovation Day is when the fun starts. Each engineer gets 5 minutes to present their findings and show the end result to the rest of the team.
Last year our Innovation Day was open to any kind of project, and the presentations revealed many creative ideas. One idea was a way to make our search software more efficient, another idea was to create a movie from the automated daily search screenshots, and a third idea was to create infinite scrolling on search pages.
We completed another Innovation Day on February 18th, however this time the challenge was themed. SLI’s CTO, Wayne Munro, delivered us the challenge to create something from a real-time data system. This system is a stream of all the live searches on all clients.
The wackiest idea from this year was a live race track infographic game which showed cars accelerating around a track at differing speeds depending on their input. The input for each of the cars is searches per second, Rich Auto Complete calls per second and clicks per second.
As you can imagine, there were a lot of cool and unique perspectives of what could be done with the data we had given to us. Now the Product Management team has the challenge of deciding which of the other ideas will be promoted into new dashboard widgets or front-end products – watch this blog for updates!
Andrew Grieve is a senior software developer in the engineering team at SLI Systems. He is happy to answer any technical questions you may have. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest Post by Sasha Butkovich of Ecommerce Outtakes
There are plenty of potential errors to be made in ecommerce navigation, and you’ve probably seen them all at one point or another in your own online shopping experiences. But what are the biggest “Don’ts” when it comes to navigation? Here, we’re taking a look at the top 3 mistakes we commonly come across in ecommerce sites. Avoiding these errors is a key step toward creating a great experience for online shoppers.
1. Confusing or insufficient filters and refinements
Some shoppers come to a site knowing exactly what they want, while others come to browse. Every ecommerce site should be able to cater to both shopping styles. One huge factor that can really help (or hurt) in this area is the filtering or refinement options. Making sure there are enough clear and relevant options to help customer narrow down their results is key! Unfortunately, this is a feature that’s very common for ecommerce sites to get wrong.
Take a look at this example from Capezio, a well-known brand in dance shoes and apparel. Throughout the pages of this ecommerce store, there’s a huge lack of filters. For instance, here’s the ballet shoes page. The seasoned dancer will likely come to this page knowing what they need, but for a new dance mom or dancer, this would be a frustrating experience. There aren’t any filtering or sorting menus anywhere! You can’t filter out child or adult, men’s or women’s, size, or even price. Also, many of these shoes are available in several colors, but you can’t tell from this page. Having those filters and refinements would definitely help in an instance when a parent might need to find black ballet shoes for their child’s recital, for example. Without filtering options, shoppers may become overwhelmed and leave the site.
2. Non-intuitive design
It goes without saying that nobody wants a boring website, and that ecommerce sites should be unique expressions of the brand. That’s definitely a good thing, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of complicating the navigation. Site design should be intuitive for the shopper. It should be easy, almost instinctive, for them to figure out how to get around and find what they’re looking for. Many sites adhere to a basic format (category tabs along the top, filters and refinements on the left, etc.) which has become habitual for online shoppers. This doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the formula, but bear in mind the impact it can have on the user experience!
Here’s the website for a German shoe company called Trippen. Right from the home page, it’s hard to see where you’re supposed to go. In fact, if I hadn’t already known that this was an ecommerce site, I might not have even figured out that I can purchase things here. I happened to hover my mouse over the little “Welcome!” link in the upper right corner, and then I could see the menu of shopping options. It’s not a great idea to keep your store hidden if you want people to buy things! Make it easy and intuitive.
3. Inaccurate search function
Browsing is one thing, but a helpful site search is just as, if not more, important. When shoppers come to your ecommerce site with a product in mind, the search should help them get to it as quickly as possible. Using Rich Auto Complete within the search function is a great feature. By offering up suggestions for keywords and products, a search like this can definitely increase the speed and accuracy of the search process. Some ecommerce sites however are still not there yet, and it’s a shame.
Take for example clothing retailer Forever 21. Although the search function on this site does suggest keywords as you type, the results aren’t very clear. Here, I searched for “red jeans,” and the first 10 results that appeared weren’t even red. Many of them might have a red color option on the product page, but it might be confusing for a shopper not to see the image of the item in the color they’re searching for. It takes more time to click through each product to find out if they come in red, and some people may not want to invest that time. Even providing swatches of the other available colors on this results page would be a step in the right direction. If the search function provided more accurate results, Forever 21 might generate more sales.
These three errors are some of the most common mistakes in ecommerce, but you can avoid them. Keep filters and refinement options relevant, feature a design that’s intuitive and simple, and make the search function as accurate as possible. If you have that, your ecommerce site is well on its way to great, user-friendly navigation.
Sasha Butkovich is a contributor to the Ecommerce Outtakes blog, which aims to improve usability and the ecommerce experience one blog post at a time. To read ecommerce tips and news, and to submit your own site for a free review, visit EcommerceOuttakes.com.