Just this past weekend, eight of our SLI family of us (plus friends & family) ran, climbed, jumped and crawled our way through the grueling 6K Gladiator Rock ‘N Run Challenge. Team members from our sales, customer success and marketing departments came out in force to rock the 17-obstacle course in the hills above San Jose.
Looking back on the challenging uphill trail, crawls through rocky mud pits and a horrible, horrible rope climb (in my humble opinion), it’s clear to me that we are lucky to have a great company culture that takes work as seriously as we play. When the going got tough, we urged each other on, helped pull each other up and rooted each other on when pushed to the limit – which isn’t far off from how we work at SLI.
We consider our business as the leading provider of SaaS site search to be a team effort, where all members share in the challenges and successes of our work, and ultimately provide the very best products and service. Our tight team dynamic is one of the reasons SLI is known for its excellent products and customer service, and hopefully from these pictures, you’ll see that we’ll go the extra mile to make sure our customers are happy.
Does SLI sound fun to you? If you’re interested in joining the SLI Team, check out these openings here.
Guest blog post by Sasha Butkovich from Ecommerce Outtakes
eCommerce is going mobile in a big way, and many studies show the trend in mobile shopping just keeps rising. In the past two years alone, the percentage of eCommerce sales on mobile devices rose from 2% to 8% in the U.S., according to research from comScore, Forrester and eMarketer (check out this infographic for more cool stats on this).
Many retailers are getting on the m-commerce bandwagon, and those who haven’t already are working on their mobile strategy. It’s so important to have that mobile site optimized for when shoppers arrive, ready to purchase! However, this isn’t always easy. As an eCommerce retailer, there are some big considerations to take into account before taking the mobile plunge. What follows are five common mistakes to avoid with your own mobile site.
Mistake #1: Not recognizing your users
When designing your mobile strategy, functionality is only half the battle. Sure, you want a site that works well and renders properly on a smartphone or a tablet. But the more important considerations include knowing who your customers are and how they’re going to be using this site. Determine the main profiles of your mobile customers – what they’re shopping for, where they’re accessing the mobile site from, which devices they’re using, and what they want from the site. Once you have an idea of this, you can design the best mobile eCommerce experience for your users that caters to their specific needs.
Mistake #2: Having the same design for smartphones & tablets
Whether a brand chooses to go with responsive design or a native app, one thing is very important to remember: smartphones and tablets are not the same. Using a smartphone to shop is different from using a tablet to shop, and as a retailer, you should tailor those experiences accordingly. Tablets offer the potential for more rich media experiences, so you can have a little more fun with the bells and whistles. Adding video to your tablet site is a great start, because tablets are perfect for viewing videos, and tablet users are more likely to watch them. Smartphones, on the other hand, are being used by shoppers on the go. This shopping experience should be simple and direct.
Mistake #3: Overcomplicating the shopping experience
Any eCommerce site should be simple to navigate and use, but this becomes even more important to the mobile shopping experience. The layout should be simple, the buttons should be large and fields should be easy to type into. Don’t clutter the pages with too many links or categories, like this example from the ASOS mobile shop. When people are shopping from a mobile device, they’re generally out and about, and don’t have time to waste sifting through the features of an overly complicated website. And make sure that checkout process is quick and easy, too. Don’t lose the shopper at the very last step in the process!
Mistake #4: Neglecting security
It might seem obvious, but security is hugely important in mobile eCommerce. I recently began the checkout process on a mobile site, only to realize the https in the url was broken. See the screen shot below for what happened in this example from the Sears site. When that little lock icon is broken, I’m definitely not entering any credit card information! I’m one customer this particular site lost. Don’t lose the sale because of a lack of security on your site. For a mobile shopper on the go, it’s pretty frustrating to have to abandon your cart because it’s not secure.
Mistake #5: Forgetting about the marketing emails
Hey, remember all those marketing emails you send out to get those customers to your eCommerce site? You’ll want to make sure those are optimized for mobile, too. If people can’t read your emails on their phones or tablets, they definitely won’t be visiting your site from their phones or tablets either. Don’t miss all those opportunities to generate traffic and conversions. And of course, direct them to the mobile site itself, not just the desktop version!
Know your users, know their devices, and keep things simple and secure. These are the keys to starting your mobile strategy on the right foot. Once you’ve got these things down, you’ll be on your way to success in the growing world of mobile commerce!
Tags: Al Gore, Envelopes.com, IRCE, Jam Paper, ReNew Life, Samuels Jewelers, Steiner Tractor, Vermont Teddy Bear
We may be halfway through the last day of the exhibit hall at the World’s Largest eCommerce Event, but there’s a lot yet to see and learn today for those at IRCE 2013, the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. Here are some of the highlights so far, and a couple opportunities still coming up today.
Al Gore Keynote: Focus on Mobile and Go Global
In his keynote address, Vice President Al Gore showed excitement about the growth of eCommerce. He noted that retail comprises 7% of the U.S. GDP, and presented other facts suggesting that he understands the potential boom in growth of online retail – especially in the mobile area, as there are already 1.5 billion smartphone users in the world.
He also focused on the need to think globally, saying “Your customers are global, your competitors are global. The Internet connects billions of people and smart devices… If you keep on your toes and innovate properly, the opportunities are boundless.”
Success Stories from eTailers
While the show is filled with vendors that promise to optimize one area or another of your online business, one of my favorite parts of conferences like IRCE is hearing from the online retailers themselves.
I have had the opportunity to listen in on success stories from seven different eTailers presenting at the SLI Theater in booth #501. JAM Paper, Samuels Jewelers, PartySuppliesDelivered and Envelopes.com have already presented on how they’ve increased their conversions with better search results and site navigation. One of these businesses, Samuels Jewelers, said in a press release today that by using advanced site search features, they were able to realize three times higher conversion rates and double the per-visit value for search users on their site.
Still on the Schedule Today
The following success story presentations are happening at the SLI Theater, booth #501, today:
1 p.m. ReNew Life
2 p.m. Steiner Tractor
3:30 p.m. Vermont Teddy Bear
If you can’t make it to the above live presentations, take a look at some of the following case studies for ideas on how to improve your online business.
- Snow+Rock Case Study – 11% higher conversion rates, 8% higher revenue per visit
- Lovehoney Case Study – 16% higher average revenue per visit, 15% higher conversions
- Stanfords Case Study – Drive 58% of site revenue, Convert 3.5X more than non-searchers
- Appliances Online Case Study – 30% revenue increase attributed to site search
- American Bridal Case Study – Revenue from searches increased 300% (from 3% to 9%)
Tags: A/B Testing, auto complete, banners, IRCE, Jam Paper, merchandising, site search
This is third in a series of success stories on eCommerce sites that are growing their business with advanced site search. Also in this series, read about Party Supplies Delivered and Vermont Teddy Bear, and see live presentations of these stories at the SLI Theater at IRCE June 3-6.
Jam Paper & Envelope, a top source for paper crafts, creative giftwrap and all other things paper-related, has been featured in Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living and Country Living Magazine, among others. With its flagship New York City store, a successful online retail operation, and two other store locations, the paper company has been able to succeed both in the brick-and-mortar and eCommerce worlds.
JamPaper.com offers more than a million variations of specialty envelopes, paper, cardstock, gift cards and other paper goods, with 70% of its sales going to businesses that place large orders for marketing promotions, weddings or other events. The business started two generations ago and has remained in the family, with grandson Andrew Jacobs leading the effort to create the eCommerce site. Jam Paper first went online in 2004 and the site traffic is growing steadily.
“Our initial site search was rudimentary,” Jacobs said. “But since we’ve started online we’ve been constantly working on improving.”
One of the challenges for JamPaper.com was to help their users find the exact product they wanted among the enormous number of items and pages. Envelopes, for example, are one of their most common searches, but envelopes can come in 50 colors and 50 sizes – with many small variations for each. Since they improved their site search and navigation, Jam Paper has made the following improvements so users can more easily find and purchase the exact product(s) they want:
- Made site search results more relevant and incorporated sales data into search results tuning so the most popular items come up higher in results.
- Added synonym suggestions to improve the results on search terms that previously turned up with poor results.
- Incorporated Rich Auto Complete to auto-populate suggestions based on popular search terms and take users directly to the product page.
- Analyzed and restructured data internally to improve search results.
- Added merchandising banners to search results pages.
- Used A/B testing to identify additional improvements that will increase conversions.
By analyzing their search data on an ongoing basis, Jam Paper continuously improves their online user experience. The impact on online sales is “crawling upwards and keeps getting better,” Jacobs said.
At IRCE in Chicago June 4 and 5, Andrew Jacobs will be at the SLI Theater to share the tips and tricks he’s learned for improving Jam Paper’s eCommerce site search, navigation and SEO. Stop by Booth #501 to meet him or to get a free site critique from the SLI Systems team.
Tags: eCommerce, IRCE, Made in the USA, online retail, PajamaGram, SEO, site navigation, site search, Vermont Teddy Bear
This is second 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 3-6.
Ever heard of a Bear-Gram®? How about a Pajama-Gram®? The same company that sends both types of cuddly gifts to more than 150,000 customers each year is Vermont Teddy Bear. As an 11-time Platinum Honoree in BizRate.com’s Circle of Excellence awards, Vermont Teddy Bear is among the world’s best online stores in Ease of Ordering, On-Time Delivery, Product Selection, Customer Support, Repurchase Intent and Overall Satisfaction, according to millions of BizRate customers.
Since 1981, Vermont Teddy Bear has offered high-quality, U.S.-made bears in the style of the original Teddy Roosevelt Bear from 1902. The bears can be personalized and are delivered overnight in a special box complete with air hole, game and candy treat (in case the bear gets bored or hungry on the way to its new owner, says the company).
As the word about Vermont Teddy Bear’s BearGrams first spread through radio ads in the ‘80s, the company expanded to include PajamaGram, which delivers gifts of cozy, quality pajamas, as well as CalyxFlowers, which delivers bouquets and other floral gifts from growers around the world. The sister companies have operated successful online retail operations for well over a decade.
Partnering to Increase Online Sales
Vermont Teddy Bear has its own team of eCommerce experts who work with partners to optimize their online reach. Since early 2008, Vermont Teddy Bear has used SLI Systems to improve the brand’s site search, navigation, mobile commerce and search engine rankings. At PajamaGram.com, SLI Learning Search ensures that the most popular products – as well as those the company specifically wants to promote, like their family set pajamas – are those first displayed in relevant search results. SLI Learning Navigation pages also make it easy for visitors to shop for pajama gifts by size. The result? More families and gift-givers finding matching pajama sets in the right size.
Vermont Teddy Bear’s Director of eCommerce Operations, Victor Castro, will showcase the business’ online successes at the SLI Theater, booth #501, during the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago June 3-6, 2013. See our full lineup of scheduled feature presentations, or just stop by at 3:30 on June 5 or 6 to see Victor. Wearing your pajamas is optional!
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!