It’s big news that the U.S. leapfrogged to the number one spot in the A.T. Kearney 2015 Global E-commerce Index this week. But don’t miss the fact that the Americas as a whole took seven of the top 30 spots with Mexico making the list for the first time.
The Global E-commerce Index ranks the top 30 countries for market opportunity in online retail. Rankings are based on nine variables including macroeconomic factors, consumer adoption of technology and shopping behavior.
According to the A.T. Kearney report, global online sales from mobile and desktop will reach $995 billion this year and $1.1 trillion next year. That’s good news for all retailers in the e-commerce space. But some significant opportunities are being uncovered in the Americas.
Making the list from the Americas:
An improved economy and continued growth helped the U.S. go from third to first and trump China as the global e-commerce leader. E-commerce sales worldwide rose to $840 billion in 2014 with the U.S. accounting for more than a fourth of that number at $238 billion.
Mexico, which has never been ranked before, debuted at spot 17 on the Global E-commerce Index. The A.T. Kearney report credits a young and connected population for Mexico’s much-higher-than-average 32% year-over-year growth in online sales. Mexico’s total online sales hit $6.6 billion in 2014. And the news continues to get better with similar growth expected over the next five years.
Even though Brazil slipped to 21st place on the index, the country grew about 18% year-over-year and e-commerce sales were a strong $13 billion in 2014. “Online retailers still find Brazil to be a growing e-commerce market that is impossible to ignore,” the A.T. Kearney report states.
The Nielson Global Survey of E-commerce, released in August 2014, also put a spotlight on Latin America, noting that the emerging region has the highest online browsing rates.
“Latin Americans are enthusiastic online shoppers, but the online retail infrastructure has not yet caught up with offering conversion opportunities,” said John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives for Nielson.
Latin American shoppers are most often browsing online for electronic equipment, mobile phones, clothes, cars and motorcycles, and tour and hotel reservations, according the Nielson report. The highest buying category in Latin America is airline tickets and reservations, which historically is a starting point as consumers gain confidence in the online shopping experience.
Worldwide, e-commerce grew more than 20 percent in 2014, according to the A.T. Kearney report. But online sales overall remain less than 10 percent of total retail sales—so no matter what corner of the globe you’re in, your e-commerce market has room to grow.
Our inaugural SLI Connect AU is a wrap! I would like to thank all of our engaging speakers and thoughtful attendees for making our first SLI Connect in Australia a great success. Speakers included SLI customers Bras N Things and Appliances Online along with industry leaders from Testivate, ChannelAdvisor, SKUVantage, Harris Farm and ShopBot. We brought together Australia’s leading online retailers to discuss and learn about the top e-commerce challenges and opportunities for the coming year, and we came away with some powerful insights.
The Aussie E-Commerce Boom
According to SLI Connect speaker Mark Gray, managing director at ChannelAdvisor, the Australian e-commerce market is growing at a breakneck rate. Mark said: “Australians spent $16.4 billon on online retail in 2014! This level is equivalent to 6.8% of spending at traditional brick and mortar retailers” (source: NAB Feb, 2015).
Moreover, Testivate Founder and Principal Analyst Steven Noble, who also presented his findings at SLI Connect, reported that Australian retailers are adopting global e-commerce best practices and meeting U.S. and EU competition head on.
Aussie Retailers’ Biggest Worry
Even with business booming, we learned via an SLI survey at the show that half of these leading Australian retail brands worried about losing business to international competitors in the past year. SLI Systems Regional VP Mark Brixton said: “The results show local retailers are concerned by the increased willingness of Australian shoppers to interact with international retailers.”
In response to this pressure, the vast majority of Aussie retailers have taken action to ensure they remain relevant in a increasingly competitive market by implementing advanced e-commerce solutions, including sophisticated site search (80%) and mobile and tablet optimization (67%).
SLI customer and presenter Duncan Brett, general manager of e-commerce at Bras N Things, shared how learning-based site search, navigation and recommendations solutions from SLI are helping Bras N Things tailor product searches for customers and increase sales from top search terms over time.
The Omnichannel Future
Similar to our experience at SLI Connect UK, retailers discussed moving toward omnichannel retailing as fast as possible. Neil Thomas, general manager at ShopBot, wisely suggested in his presentation that “it is time to think about dropping the ‘e’ from ‘e-commerce platform’ and calling it what it is really becoming – a commerce platform.”
Duncan of Bras N Things further emphasized that the brick and mortar store and e-commerce store should be “a joint force and not another source of competition.”
As the buying journey becomes more complex, so too does the competition. It’s inspiring to see so many retailers in Australia and across the globe using learning site search as a competitive advantage to drive conversion rates and sales worldwide.
The next SLI Connect event is planned for September 17, 2015 in New York City! Save the date and stay tuned – registration will open soon.
Now that more than half of all time spent shopping online is done via mobile devices, mobile commerce is growing three times faster than overall e-commerce. In its “Spotlight on Modern Retail 2015,” NRF found that during the first three quarters of 2014, retailers reported their mobile sales grew a whopping 87 percent!
To meet these quickly changing usage patterns, Google is again adapting its algorithms to help users discover more mobile-friendly content. On April 21, Google will expand its mobile-friendliness ranking signal to make it even easier for users to find ‘mobile-friendly’ websites in search results.
According to Google, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” And if anyone wants to test mobile web pages, Google provides a handy tool: The Mobile Friendly Test.
Mobile-Optimized Site Search Boosts SEO
Heavily contributing to the ‘mobile-friendly’ signal will be whether or not visitors, after landing on a mobile page, can complete the tasks they wanted to accomplish by solely using the mobile site.
For instance, when visitors using tablets search for new running shoes on Sports Authority, the company’s mobile-friendly site helps them easily find and buy the shoes they want, which in turn will help Sports Authority fare better in Google rankings after the April 21 algorithm change.
Mobile site search is a vital part of delivering a satisfying shopping experience to mobile users as it helps visitors quickly and easily engage with the site. Given mobile’s space and speed challenges, the search box is the best gateway to finding products and content on mobile sites. That in turn has a big impact on engagement metrics such as conversion rate, bounce rate, average time on site, average pages requested per session and more, which has a direct domain-wide impact on its ‘mobile-friendly’ signal and mobile search ranking.
For a complete guide to providing mobile shoppers with a great user experience, download the new white paper Site Search and the Mobile User Experience.
Mobile 101 – New Webinar!
Join us on Tuesday, March 24 at 10:00 a.m. PDT for a new SLI Webinar, Mobile 101 – Best Practices, to learn more about how to convert mobile shoppers with an engaging mobile user experience (and in turn, boost your mobile search ranking!). Registration is open until 8 a.m. PDT on March 24, plus an on-demand version of the webinar will be available soon.
Tags: Jigsaw, Learning Recommendations, omnichannel, Personalization, SLI Connect, SLI Mobile, Space48, Warehouse
SLI Connect is sparking exciting e-commerce discussions on both sides of the globe this month.
Earlier in March, we had our most successful SLI Connect UK yet. With an unprecedented 200 attendees from 150+ leading retailers such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Tesco, Jigsaw London, Warehouse, Chemist Direct and Paul Smith, we could not have asked for a better or more expert turnout. I want to thank all who attended and presented for your invaluable participation at the show.
At the end of the month, we will hold our next SLI Connect in Australia – SLI Connect AU.
Through discussions with customers and colleagues at SLI Connect UK, it was clear that the future of e-commerce is flush with opportunity. We’ve all heard the buzzword ‘omnichannel,’ but the reality comes down to this: true ‘omnichannel’ means the channel becomes totally invisible to the customer. To make the omnichannel experience seamless and successful, the retailer must subtly meet shoppers at all points in their user journeys in a personalized manner. Here are two real-world examples I was fortunate to learn about at SLI Connect.
Fashion Retailers Move Toward Omnichannel
Top clothing retailer Jigsaw is positively moving toward omnichannel retailing. Jigsaw’s Head of E-commerce Kate Holt presented at SLI Connect, where she revealed that Jigsaw was experiencing a massive rise in smartphone traffic. She informed us that 55% of traffic and 44% of sales came from mobile devices! Jigsaw uses SLI Mobile to ensure its mobile shoppers are quickly finding the items they want to buy. Kate reported that the results to date have been staggering, with revenue up 47% and conversion rate up 30%.
Leading clothing retailer Warehouse is also working toward omnichannel retailing by executing a robust personalization strategy, according to SLI Connect presenter and Warehouse Digital Trading Manager Liam Price. Through Warehouse’s popular blog ‘Tales of the City’; various payment, delivery and returns options; product recommendations (via SLI Learning Recommendations); and advanced site search (via SLI Learning Search), the retailer’s e-commerce site is experiencing a 7% increase in visitors and 3.4% increase in conversions.
In fact, a test run by Warehouse found that when SLI Learning Recommendations were removed from the product page, total revenue fell by 2%!
Multichannel, Omnichannel – It’s Just Retail!
E-commerce industry analyst Linda Bustos says it best, “Whether you refer to it as multichannel or omnichannel, the ways in which your consumers are researching, purchasing, and interacting have evolved, effectively backing most brands into a largely-reactive corner…organizations must realign with experience-driven systems to build relationships with, and sell to, the modern consumer.”
The two savvy retailers mentioned above are personalizing the e-commerce experience, making the ‘channel’ virtually unseen, to meet the needs of their modern shoppers and drive e-commerce sales. SLI Connect attendee Jon Woodall from Space48 summed it up nicely: “Forget omnichannel, it’s retail!”
SLI Connect Australia – Less than Two Weeks Away!
There’s still time to register for SLI Connect Australia, which is coming to Sydney on 31 March 2015 at the Quay West. More retailers and e-commerce professionals will gather there to discuss and explore the future of e-commerce, with speakers from ChannelAdvisor, Shopbot, Bras N Things, Appliances Online and more. We hope you can be part of this powerful event!
Tags: online retail, payment options, site features
50+ years ago, futurists predicted that advances in technology would provide a life of ease. Instead, we use today’s technology to do more, faster – even with shopping. As an increasing number of online shoppers want to find, buy and get on with life as quickly as possible, here are five must-have features for e-commerce sites that want to meet the needs of these “speed shoppers.”
1. Learning-based Site Search
Speed shoppers are likely to go straight to the search box and expect relevant results within the first few items displayed. To deliver such on-target results, a site search provider needs to offer technology that learns from multiple aspects of user activity and continually re-ranks items that are most relevant. The smarter the technology, the better the accuracy and speed for shoppers.
2. Autocomplete with Graphics
A critical feature for speed in site search is the ability to auto-populate product results and images from the first letter a searcher types, as offered by SLI Rich Auto CompleteTM. If I want to quickly find polo shirts and I start typing “polo,” I appreciate a retailer who shows me “polo” shirts after just typing “po.”
In this example, the retailer also uses SLI Learning SearchTM technology, which intelligently infers that by typing “po” I was most likely looking for a polo shirt and not a “pocket tee” or “popover hoodie.” Smart – and fast.
3. Social Content and Reviews Integrated Into Search
Keep in mind that not all speed shoppers know exactly what they want when they search. A last-minute gift-buyer, for instance, may search for “makeup set” at e.l.f. cosmetics, but before clicking “buy” the giver wants to make sure it’s a quality product. Since e.l.f. incorporates a special “As Seen In” feature into its search, the gift shopper can see that this item has been featured in magazines like O and Woman’s Day. And if that doesn’t instill enough confidence to click “buy,” the shopper can see that it’s a 4-star product with more than 61 reviews. This quick-reference information, placed on the product page, can make a speed shopper giddy about the efficiency of it all.
4. Easy Payment Options
Online shoppers are quickly getting fed up with multiple-step checkouts that require them to provide personal and financial information. As more consumers experience the convenience of PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet or similar payment options, paying with credit cards could soon become a relic. Be sure you offer the payment experience your customers prefer, or they’ll find other sites that do.
5. Optimized Mobile Experience
Speed and ease are especially critical for mobile shoppers. The smaller the screen size, the smaller the amount of patience a customer has before giving up. As John Tomich stated in a recent article for Multichannel Merchant, “A successful mobile interaction with your customer is one in which everything is obvious, easy and fast.” He cites that shoppers overwhelmingly prefer social logins for ease of use. Express checkout and easy payment options are as critical here as with any shopping site. Other critical features are those that will improve findability, like learning-based search and navigation.
The investment in meeting the needs of speed shoppers will undoubtedly pay off. Speed shoppers are usually searchers, which are 2-3x more likely to convert than non-searchers. And when you meet speed shoppers’ needs for efficiency, they’ll quickly become some of your most loyal repeat customers.
There’s no question. Site search isn’t sexy, but it doesn’t have to be, because the revenue it drives speaks for itself. Internet Retailer Senior Editor Thad Reuter said it best in his February article, Reading Shoppers’ Minds:
“Site search receives little in the way of celebrity-level attention in e-commerce… But with retailers typically reporting two or three times the amount of conversions for site search users, the stakes are obvious: Better site search can translate into more profits.” Period.
However, one question still remains: Which site search approach best connects shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy, making shopping easier and retailers more profitable? Do online shoppers use natural language search, which interprets subjective terms to serve up search results? Or do the most relevant search results come from learning site search, which “learns” what specific search terms resonate most with consumers and – with SLI Learning SearchTM technology – reranks the order of search results based on the latest activity of users?
In e-commerce, there is some uncertainty around the demand for natural language search. North Face e-commerce manager, Charles Caison, told Internet Retailer, “At North Face, for instance, most shoppers search using terms that describe the product, not ambiguous phrases that require natural language processing to decode. It may be that we have been trained by Internet search engines for keyword searches rather than natural language searches.”
A new SLI study also supports Caison’s insight. To demonstrate site search user behavior today, SLI evaluated natural language terms, focusing on subjective search terms including “cheap,” “nice” and “cute” for a Fortune 100 retailer. As you can see in the chart below, out of 67,000 searches, the word “quality” was only used 3 times while “cheap” and “nice” had similar results. The findings reveal that subjective search terms are not yet commonly used among online shoppers.
|Total searches performed||~67k|
|Searches containing “cheap”||11|
|Searches containing “quality” (high-quality)||3|
|Searches containing “nice”||0|
|Searches containing “cute”||42|
Lakeshore Learning, an IR Top 500 company, also finds less use of natural language search from its shoppers. Lakeshore Vice President of E-commerce Sam Sarullo told Internet Retailer, “an analysis of the retailer’s top 1,000 searches revealed that consumers use an average of 1.8 words to search – a signal that consumers remain wedded to keyword search, and that natural language-type searches may not yet be intuitive. That said, I see return customers who are more familiar with our products using these natural language or long-tail searches.”
The beauty of Learning SearchTM is that if it detects shoppers’ use of longer search terms, it will “learn” and tweak its results to reflect that behavior. Learning Search continuously analyzes the terms and phrases that prove most popular and lead conversions.
Perhaps the best argument for the value of Learning Search is to let e-commerce companies’ results speak for themselves. Here are some of the results leading retailers have experienced using Learning Search:
- Lakeshore Learning, an education supplies manufacturer: 30% increase in online sales
- Boden, a British clothing retailer: 1.8x higher conversion rate using search
- e.l.f. Cosmetics, an international cosmetics brand: 21% higher per-visit value using search
- Marine Depot, world’s #1 supplier of aquarium supplies: 11% increase in revenue
- SurfStitch, Australia’s #1 surf retailer: 30% improvement in page position for organic search
Some say “sex sells,” but in e-commerce, Learning Search sells more.
Besides the obvious first-place choices of diamonds and roses, see which gem stones, flowers, food gifts and types of jewelry online shoppers have searched for most prior to Valentine’s Day 2015. Design by Rosann Yip, Sr. Designer, SLI Systems
Does your retail operation manage both online and brick and mortar shopping experiences? If so, you understand the importance of showing shoppers a wide variety of products online, while also giving them the option to find their desired product locally where they can see it, try it in person and perhaps pick it up the same day.
A popular way to provide these options to shoppers is to use geospatial information to localize the online shopping experience. By allowing geospatial queries, retailers can offer location-based searching and navigation so that shoppers can:
Filter and Order Search Results by Distance
Retailers can allow customers to see the availability of products within a geographic range, narrowing results by the distance they’re willing to travel for the item. Additionally, retailers can order results by distance so that products located closer to the specified area are listed first in search results.
Shop by Store Location
This feature lets customers view results for products that are available at a particular store location. This can come in handy if customers are more interested in seeing products at the location closest to them. Some retailers carry different inventory in various stores or have a wider inventory online. Allowing shoppers to search by store location provides a specific, localized and convenient online shopping experience.
Andersen Windows, the largest manufacturer of windows and doors in the U.S., uses a store locator map on their site to show the closest stores where their products are sold.
Show Search Results in Map View
The easiest way to convey information about location is through a map. Showing shoppers where product inventory is located and giving them the ability to see more or less based on geographic perimeters provides a richer and very intuitive search experience.
Show Available Inventory on Product Detail Pages
When shoppers view a product detail page, retailers can provide additional information about the closest local stores where the inventory is located. This is especially helpful for shoppers who want to examine the item in person before a purchase or for those that need it quickly. It can also be helpful for products that are difficult to ship due to size or weight.
Giving shoppers a localized shopping experience streamlines their ability to find and buy products in a way that is most convenient for their needs. It’s an easy way to add tremendous value to shoppers by showing information that is directly relevant to them – it also improves the chance for a sale.
SLI supports geospatial queries in the ways listed above to help retailers create a stronger omnichannel connection between their physical and online stores.
With Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, many are asking which team is most popular. The Seahawks and Patriots are not only competing for the championship, but also for most die-hard fans. Do Seahawks fans really put Patriots fans to shame? Did ‘DeflateGate’ have any impact on fan loyalties? SLI Systems was eager to set the record straight and find out “Where The Fans Are” with a state-by-state look at Patriots’ and Seahawks’ popularity.
To determine the states’ loyalties, SLI studied more than 300,000 Super Bowl product-related searches taking place between January 1 and January 25, 2015 across 32 U.S. sporting goods and apparel retailers. While many devoted fans might be tempted to root against teams that take them out of championship, SLI uncovered that fans actually remain loyal to their region’s respective Conference (with a few exceptions). SLI’s “Where the Fans Are” map shows where all 50 states’ loyalties lie.
Not surprising, Seahawks-branded products were most sought by fans in northwestern states; and, with the exception of Alabama, Iowa and Wisconsin, fans in states on the eastern half of the U.S. favored Patriots-branded products.
What was noteworthy was that fans in Wisconsin (home of the Green Bay Packers, which lost to the Seahawks in the NFC championship) searched more for Seahawks than Patriots items. And, fans in Indiana (home of the Colts, which lost to the Patriots in the AFC championship) most sought Patriots items. Online shopping behavior shows that AFC/NFC Conference loyalty is stronger than getting revenge on past losses – and in turn, fans across the country searched for merchandise for the teams and players they know best. It seems that for Super Bowl XLIX, team loyalty takes a backseat to simple team familiarity.
For an interesting comparison, take a look at the map and infographic from last year’s SLI Super Bowl E-commerce Study. When the Seahawks faced off against Denver in 2014, Wisconsin also stood out among other midwest states in their online shopping preference for Seahawks gear. And most New England fans that are searching for Patriots items this year were searching for Seahawks items last year.
Whichever team you’re rooting for, I hope you enjoy the Big Game!
At the beginning of each year, many people ask me what trends to expect in e-commerce technology for the year ahead. For 2015, I see vast opportunities for increased personalization in the online shopping experience.
Most retailers do a poor job of personalization because they don’t know enough information about their customers, or because the information they have is poor quality. Their knowledge is limited to what they can gather through the interactions customers have with them, which are inevitably a small part of shoppers’ total retail experiences – plus they often lack context.
An example of failed personalization is when I recently logged on to Amazon and saw an array of suggested romance novels – not because I’ve read or purchased them, but because my wife did so using my account. Although Amazon has information about a lot of purchases made on my account, they don’t know who those purchases are for. Other retailers know even less about me than Amazon does and are likely to make even worse recommendations.
As an industry, I think we can do a lot better with personalization.
Customers Expect a Personalized Experience
Shoppers enjoy having a seamless shopping experience. For example, in our core competency areas of search, navigation and recommendations, if these work well then they’re almost invisible to shoppers – shoppers just know that they’re getting what they want quickly and with minimal effort. There is an opportunity to use personal information to improve this experience further. Most online shoppers are willing to have a site gather and store personal information about them if they know that it will benefit them in the future. For instance:
- In a study by ClickFox, more than 80 percent of respondents said they expected retailers to know their purchase history and past consumer experiences
- In a survey by Accenture, 73 percent of consumers said they prefer doing business with retailers who use personal information to make their shopping experience more relevant
While consumers expect and prefer the personalized shopping experience, they also want the ability to control how their personal information is used. Trust is also a critical factor, and retailers can best earn customers’ trust by consistently providing secure and positive shopping experiences.
Personalization is a Priority for SLI Systems
At SLI Systems, advances in personalization are among our high priorities for the coming year. In supporting more than 1.5 billion search queries last month, we have a wealth of insight into search and conversion patterns for shoppers around the globe. When we combine that knowledge with our team’s decades of expertise in site search and navigation, there’s a lot we can do to continue improving the ways we help shoppers quickly and easily find what they want to buy.
We also have customized solutions for customers that want to auto-filter based on gender or other previously-gathered customer information. For example, when you navigate on BodenUSA.com to the women’s section of the site – then perform a search for “shoes” – the SLI engine remembers you’re looking at women’s products and keeps you in that section for your subsequent searches, unless you specify otherwise.
There’s a lot more we can and will do with personalization. I look forward to unveiling future products and features that bring personalized shopping to an entirely new level.
To hear more on this subject, I invite you to listen to the on-demand version of our latest webinar, “The Shopping Experience of the Future.” On the webinar, I am joined by Lakeshore Learning VP of E-commerce Sam Sarullo and SLI Systems CMO Tim Callan to discuss personalization and other trends for 2015.