Imagine yourself walking through the mall. You want that red shirt that you’ve seen your favorite singer wear on the latest episode of TMZ. You’ve got money in your pocket. You arrive at your destination. There are two stores that sell the very same shirt: Store X and Store Y. Let’s walk through the shopping experience at both.
Store X has an attractive presentation and merchandising. The store is full of employees, each devoted to their section; they are folding clothes and spraying perfume to ensure a solid guest experience. You realize that this is a pretty big store. You don’t see red shirts, but you’ve seen an advertisement showing that they carry the particular one you want. You walk through the store, passing employee after employee and asking each one where to find red shirts. None of them have an idea. They do, however, show you a completely different item and ask if you want to buy it. They are obviously not helping your shopping experience. In fact, they are hurting it. After turning down assorted belts, shoes and dresses, you casually stroll right out the exit and directly into Store Y.
You get to the entryway of Store Y, which also has an attractive presentation and merchandising. Store Y has a dedicated employee to greet you, and she asks: “Can I help you find something?” You answer: “I’m looking for the red shirt I saw Justin Bieber sporting on the red carpet.” She acknowledges your request and immediately points to a corner of the store dedicated to this red shirt – along with similar shirts. You have been in this store for all of 30 seconds at this point and you already have the shirt in hand, headed to the register – the red shirt is yours.
The experience at Store X describes the concept of having a sub-par site-search experience. All too often, I visit a website and type in the search box “red shirt,” only to find “black dresses,” “leather boots” or even worse, “no results.” This is a slap in the face to your customer. Your customer is on your site to buy. They have specifically asked for a “red shirt” and you are doing everything in your power not to help them, ensuring a negative shopping experience and a visit to the competitor’s website. You have not converted a customer plus you have ensured they don’t come back.
Shop Y, on the other hand, has a search bar that works. I visit the website, I type in the search bar “red shirt” and voila, I have the red shirt in my shopping cart. You have made that conversion and you have gained and retained that customer. This is a success – a success due to effective site search.
If you’re not thinking about site search, you absolutely should be. And if you already have site search, kudos to you – but if it’s not contributing to at least a third of your revenue, you should probably reevaluate your options. Simply having a search box is only half of the solution. Having one that works is completing the puzzle.
Max Bunag is an Enterprise Market Development Representative for SLI Systems (who may or may not be searching online for the red shirt Justin Bieber wears). For more eCommerce insight, contact him at email@example.com.
Imagine getting your online storefront ready for holiday shoppers during the lucrative Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping days and beyond, only to have the entire eCommerce experience shut down due to traffic surges or server problems. The last thing you want your eager buyers to encounter is an error message or a painfully slow shopping experience.
For popular components of your website, like search and navigation, choosing properly hosted solutions can help you avoid failure exactly at the time when you need the highest performance and availability. With eCommerce experts predicting that online spending will increase about 15% in November and December – a total of $61.8 billion – you want to ensure your site is performing at its best during this time.
SaaS based solutions offer far better redundancy than many eCommerce businesses can build in-house. An infrastructure that hosts client sites on multiple servers in multiple data centers, in geographically separated locations, means the site will remain operational even if there is a problem. It’s the smart way to handle spikes in traffic or unexpected outages that could disappoint customers and cause a significant loss of revenue.
The type of highly redundant system described above can help meet many challenges – everything from a hurricane knocking servers offline to unprecedented crowds of shoppers overwhelming your website on Cyber Monday.
At SLI, we use multiple servers in each of our eight data centers in locations around the world to host our client sites, and we make sure to only use a fraction of the capacity of these servers at any given time. In this way, if a disruption occurs, our customers are assured of uptime. If you have questions about bringing greater redundancy to your eCommerce site, ask us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The results from our annual eCommerce survey are in. Unfortunately, what our latest survey revealed is that a majority of marketers are not taking advantage of the extra “punch” that site search can give their marketing programs. This represents a huge missed opportunity for eCommerce brands to improve ROI of their marketing campaigns and increase sales.
According to our recent survey of 160 global eCommerce professionals, the majority (57%) indicated that they don’t tap into the wealth of customer information in their site search systems. The reason? Half (50%) said it was because of limited resources. Others (30%) simply don’t know how to use site search data effectively. And 10% said their existing site search solution doesn’t allow for integration with marketing programs.
While I don’t doubt that some site search solutions have limited capabilities in this area, my guess is that most people aren’t using site search to its full advantage because they simply don’t know how, or they think it’s more effort than it really is.
Savvy eCommerce marketers use site search data to deliver more customized offers in their email marketing campaigns. Jelly Belly increased their email open rate by 85%. PartySuppliesDelivered uses site search data to guide its Google AdWords campaigns. Motorcycle Superstore and others use SLI to create special site search and natural search landing pages that generate higher click-throughs and conversions, and even fuel their advertising initiatives.
Looking to 2014, survey respondents clearly identified site search, SEO and eCommerce platform as the top three priorities for the coming year. Mobile initiatives and customer-focused analytics ranked next in priority.
It’s great to see that site search remains a top area of focus in the coming year for retail brands, as it has in years past. Of course this is not surprising to me, as I’ve seen how even small improvements with site search can directly improve a business’ usability and profitability, making it one of the most valuable parts of any eCommerce website. My hope is that with this continued focus on search, marketers will take a closer look at the ways in which their site search activity and reports can improve the effectiveness and increase ROI of their marketing efforts.
With the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to “think outside the search box” and use your site search to drive greater brand visibility and loyalty. If you need help putting some of these ideas into action, ask us how SLI can work with you to get them implemented quickly.
This new infographic highlights some of the results from the SLI Systems Global eCommerce Site Search Survey. Click here to download a full report of survey findings.
With the holiday shopping season upon us, eTailers everywhere are spending time to make sure site visitors have the best experience possible when browsing their sites. Positive shopping experiences result in more conversions, higher AOV (average order values) and return customers. With much of the focus still placed on desktop sites, many online retailers are missing the opportunity to concentrate on tablet and mobile optimized web sites – especially when more than 55% of all U.S. consumers have a smartphone and at least 35% own a tablet, according to Pew Research. As shopping on these devices increases in popularity, eTailers should consider investing more time and effort to improve their site usability, search and navigation to accommodate this shift.
Sales are Soaring
According to eMarketer, retail sales are expected to increase 68 percent from 2013 – 2017, with mobile commerce sales increasing a whopping 125 percent. Combine both smartphone and tablet, and mCommerce sales are expected to rise 38 percent next year. Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that mobile and tablet sites should be regularly looked at and updated along with the desktop version of your site.
Spontaneity leads to more than 80 percent of mobile purchases, and according to Brad Frost, mobile users will do anything and everything desktop users will do, considering ease of use and convenience. More than a quarter of all mobile users will abandon a transaction if a site is not optimized for mobile, with users believing that mobile transactions should be easier than online or in store transactions. Frost also reports that time spent on a mobile device is expected to overtake time spent on desktop this year, and Internet Retailer agrees that mobile devices now surpass desktops in eCommerce.
Tablets are Making Their Presence Known
Here’s some more interesting data from a recent study by Adobe: tablet users are three times more likely to make a purchase over mobile phone users. They also spend 50 percent more than PC/MAC users, which makes this group worth targeting. Initially, smartphones had the lead over tablets in eCommerce sales, but tablets are estimated to account for more sales this year and will continue to rise at a rapid rate.
Make it Easy for your Customers
Mobile sites should be optimized in a way that puts what the user is looking for right in their hands as quickly and painlessly as possible. Mobile site design should not be too busy or crowded; the layout should be simple and products should be merchandised in a way so that they are quick and easy to find. Similarly, checkout should be secure and require minimal effort as users do not want to spend time filling out information on such small screens. Overall, mobile should cater to your target audience. For examples and best practices, see our previous blog post on giving your mobile shoppers what they want.
Tablet approach should be different than mobile. Tablet users are known to spend more time on sites interacting and engaging with content and media. In addition to design and layout changes, online retailers should consider including product videos and any other features that users can interact with, as studies show that tablet users will spend more time playing with these features before making a purchase.
eTailers have just a small window of opportunity to compel the user to make a purchase. Because of this, site search becomes even more important. Your site search bar should always be prominently displayed (no matter which interface the user is viewing your site from) and should contain an auto-complete feature for faster searching.
Once your site is all set up, consider letting your users do the merchandising for you with SLI’s patented advanced search technology, Learning Search for Mobile. Learning Search watches your website’s user behavior, and automatically re-ranks your products based on user click-through rates. The faster a user can find what they are looking for, the more likely they’ll be checking out with gifts for loved ones this holiday season.
Jeff Holt is a Customer Success Manager for SLI Systems. For further product insight contact him at email@example.com.
What do you get when you combine dark sunglasses, a fake moustache, and a bald cap wig? The principal ingredients for what is sure to be one of the most addictive costumes this season: Walter White from A&E’s hit show “Breaking Bad.”
Come Halloween night, you’ll be sure to see an eclectic mix of DIY and store-bought costumes of the main character. How do I know this? Because “Walter White” is one of the top search phrases for costume supplier Party Supplies Delivered!
With only a couple of days left until the scariest holiday of the year, Party Supplies Delivered gave us a sneak peek at some of its most popular costume searches this season.
And while top keyword searches are a fun way to predict what costumes you’ll see at some Halloween parties this year, for merchandisers, top keyword phrases, such as “sailor hat,” “pirate,” and “Alice in Wonderland,” are crucial to maximizing their merchandising, promotions and SEO efforts.
Use On-Site Search Data to Improve Click-Through Rates
Ian MacDonald, VP of eCommerce and Marketing for Party Supplies Delivered, explained why his site’s top keyword searches provide valuable data for merchandising.
“With SLI’s Learning Search and Navigation, items that are moved to the front of results or are top performers generally have a strong click through rate,” MacDonald said. “If the items are performing well on our website, we want to drive more customers who are looking for that merchandise to our site. So we make sure that top searches on our site have a strong presence in our Google Ads.”
The search for ghastly Halloween costumes starts a couple of months before visiting haunted houses, going to parties and trick or treating. MacDonald notes that keeping an eye on top searched keywords during those early search stages is a great way to keep up with Halloween demand trends. This allows companies like Party Supplies Delivered to tailor their site search and navigation appropriately.
Poor Performing Search Terms Are Also Useful
While tracking top search terms is paramount for eTailers in creating their merchandising strategy, poor-performing search keywords can also illuminate ways to improve. Party Supplies Delivered has kept an eye on search terms that don’t deliver relevant results.
“We often find the need to add new synonyms, and we occasionally reorder search results by promoting, demoting, or suppressing certain products,” said MacDonald. This allows them to always offer the most relevant product results to customer search queries.
As detailed in this case study, Party Supplies Delivered put its search function and site navigation into the full-service care of SLI Systems in 2011. As their customers began to find more relevant search results, the bounce rate dropped 40 percent, page views increased by 132 percent and conversions went up by 203 percent. Features like focused category pages, Rich Auto Complete and user-generated SEO are among the changes that are delivering remarkable results.
“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 MacDonald.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or a rogue high school chemistry teacher, for that matter – to figure out that using an effective search solution and search data will help tremendously in your merchandising efforts. Don’t wait until darkness falls and the midnight hour of Halloween strikes before using these tips to improve your search merchandising!
Sasha Butkovich is Senior Writer for Ecommerce Outtakes and a guest blogger for SLI’s Site Search Today.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ll say the obvious: mobile eCommerce is growing like crazy. Mobile and tablet sales continue to increase as a proportion of total online sales, surpassing desktop according to reports. But retailers looking to get in on the mobile action shouldn’t dive in blindly. As I mentioned in my last post on this blog, there are plenty of mistakes to avoid in a mobile strategy. Now, it’s time to take a look at the flip side of the coin and focus on the “dos” instead of the “don’ts.” Here are examples of three mobile sites that offer a great user experience. What do these retailers all have in common? They know their audience. Take a look.
As the reigning king of eCommerce sites, it should come as no surprise that Amazon has their mobile act together. Of course, Amazon also knows their customers want access to their account wherever they go. Once a shopper is logged in to their Amazon account, the mobile site becomes more personalized, much like the desktop site. Customers will see product recommendations on the homepage that are based on their purchase and browsing histories. On top of that, users can manage their entire account, including wish lists, payment options, and more. All the perks of the desktop site, all the convenience of mobile, none of the mess. It’s a beautiful thing.
If users arrive on the homepage without logging in, they’ll see some of the popular Amazon products featured, like Amazon MP3 and the Kindle line. For a site that sells pretty much everything, it’s important to put that brand recognition front and center. Notice also that the homepage doesn’t waste precious space on a small mobile screen with the lesser-shopped departments. It only features the most popular categories to start people off with what they’re more likely to want.
Folica: Emphasis on Offers & Ratings
There’s something sleek about the Folica mobile site. The homepage doesn’t bother to feature any particular products, but instead places the focus on the special offers. It’s nice for users to see the promotions up front so they know they will be getting a good deal from this retailer. Mobile users are on the go, and won’t want to waste their time on a site that won’t offer them a good value, so this is a great way to make a happy customer.
Below the special offers banner, shoppers will find many specific categories to help them choose the avenue that will help them get to the items they want. One especially cool category is Top 10. Opening this tab, users will see a whole list of Top 10 categories, like Top 10 Hair Dryers, Top 10 Shampoos, and Top 10 Gifts. This is such a nice way to shop, because it combines product type with highest customer ratings in one simple list. Putting such a high emphasis on customer reviews shows how much this retailer values the shopper. This is especially nice for mobile shoppers because it eliminates the lower-rated items, helping the user get to the good stuff quickly.
Gap.com: Customer Service & Geolocation
Gap is an example of a retailer with both a strong eCommerce presence and strong brick-and-mortar sales. This retailer understands how to connect the two in their mobile site to provide the best experience for their customers. People shopping on their phone might be looking to make that purchase in a store, so the Find In Store option on this site is a perfect addition. Right from a product page, users can select their size and color, then click the Find In Store button. The site uses geo-location to show the closest stores, and displays the availability of the item in each location.
Putting customer service at the forefront is an awesome strategy, too. Free Shipping and Free Returns offers are displayed right on the homepage. When clicked on, the details are shown in a lightbox, eliminating the need for the user to navigate away from this page. Another great element is the easy access to the company’s other brands, as many of Gap’s customers also shop at Banana Republic and Old Navy. On this mobile site, it’s all easily connected by a simple drop-down menu at the top of the homepage.
At the end of the day, offering a great mobile experience is all about considering a site’s specific audience. Knowing who is using the mobile site and what they’re using it for will go a long way to inform the design and navigation. Offering customers any personalization, reviews, special offers, and geo-location they’re looking for will keep them returning to the site for future purchases!
If site search is one of your upcoming high priority projects, then you know that 43% of visitors on a website conduct a search (Marketing Sherpa). If search is not one of your projects, then you should know that you are missing out on that percentage of your visitors who are three times more likely to convert than those who browse by navigation, rather than search.
Here are the top three things we hear from prospects on why search is not something they are currently optimizing:
“Search is not our main concern; we want to grow our brick-and-mortar presence”
That’s great! But as a consumer, how will I know your brick-and-mortar store will carry what I want, if I can’t first search for it online? As shoppers become more informed and more tech-savvy, the search for the perfect dress to wear for that first date usually starts on a laptop or tablet. But there is another reason why site search is important, even if the eCommerce model is not your primary business concern: mobile search. More than 70% of U.S. consumers use their smartphones to make shopping decisions, so it’s important for your shoppers to know whether your brick-and-mortar store carries the nude heels you saw online.
“Only a small percentage of our visitors search”
But how much do they account for your revenue? That’s the first question to ask. The next has to do with how much your visitors actually trust your search, and how willing they are to go through the obstacle course of navigation. Does your search for men’s pants give you women’s dresses? Does the search for a red top actually pull the right color image for your visual shoppers? With an optimized and relevant search experience you are pushing the visitor to the path of purchase, even if they are not ready to buy at the time of search. (Read more in the report: “If you Build it Correctly, They Will Buy,” MCM July 2013).
And my favorite:
“We are busy with other initiatives”
Which begs the question, how much revenue are you losing because of a poor search experience? If you’re trying to keep up with an eCommerce model by trying to balance your marketing initiatives, website redesigns, re-platforming, merchandising, and ultimately having that customer purchase, you’ll want to start with something you can improve right away and that has a great ROI. A SaaS model for site search not only allows you to improve your site search and capitalize on that higher converting market, but also gives you the space to focus on your other projects and keep up with the market’s best practices.
And if you still have some doubts as to whether site search is worth bumping up in priority among your other initiatives, here’s one last point: think about the 73% of your customers who will abandon a site because a poor search experience.
Now, show me that red dress!
Boden is a customer of SLI Systems. Learn how they improved conversions by 177% and increased order values by 215% in their case study.
Laura Santamaria is a Market Development Representative for SLI Systems. For further product insight contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As consumers, it seems the more technology-savvy we become, the more impatient we also become. Once we catch a glimpse of what it’s like to have an amazing customer experience, we expect other sites to rapidly adopt the latest technology and best practices to meet the latest standard of excellence.
This is certainly the case in eCommerce. When searching for a particular product, I expect to see highly relevant results the first time I type in a search phrase. Whether I’m using my smartphone, tablet or laptop, if I ask for “women’s wool blazer,” then that’s exactly what I want to see – nothing more or less – especially if I’m on my iPhone and don’t have enough screen space to browse 50 items. I find that if a retailer gives me irrelevant results, I’ll just move on to another site that I’ve had a good experience with in the past.
I’m not alone in my impatience, said Harris Interactive in a 2013 study, which found that 30 percent of mobile shoppers who hit a snag will abandon their online cart and never return to that site again. (See Mobile Shoppers Rarely Give Second Chances). An SLI Survey showed that 73% of customers will leave a site in less than two minutes if they can’t find what they’re looking for. Personally, I think two minutes is generous – I can tell you I won’t give a site that long if I only have five minutes between appointments to get something ordered!
Boden understands the importance of relevance in delivering a great customer experience. In my search for women’s wool blazer, they showed me the three wool blazers they have, and nothing else. Since their site is optimized for mobile use, I could easily view the images and product details on my iPhone and gather just enough information to quickly browse the items and make a decision. This is the kind of experience that will keep me coming back to shop on their site. And it’s probably why Boden has seen a 177% increase in average conversions since implementing advanced site search solutions.
Another site search feature that streamlines the user experience is Rich Auto Complete. I love sites where I can start typing the first few letters of a word and within seconds see the name, image and short description of the exact product I’m looking for. NaturalWellbeing.com uses this feature, and it makes it so easy to shop. Wanting to try melatonin for sleep, I start typing in mela- and before I finish the word or click the search button, I’m shown the two melatonin products they offer along with the price. They both look good, so I click one and it takes me straight to checkout – I’m done and on to other things.
Usability experts such a Jakob Nielsen confirm that such impatience is common. “Today’s consumers aren’t satisfied with sites that simply make it possible to shop; the experience must also be pleasant,” he said. In his eCommerce Usability study, Nielsen found that users’ first in-site query is successful only 64% of the time. And if users don’t find what they are looking for on your site, they’ll often assume you don’t have the product and will leave, rather than changing their search query. Yep, I’ve done that.
To achieve the kind of relevancy that keeps impatient shoppers like me on your site, you should learn which products are most clicked on for each search term and all its variations, and then rearrange each associated results page accordingly. Doing this manually would be beyond tedious, so it’s important to use a site search engine that automatically learns and ranks the most relevant products in search results.
Search that Learns and Improves
Such a capability goes beyond the default search that comes with your platform. But SLI’s Learning Search is effective because it determines relevancy based on site search activity – then continues to learn and improve based on which products are most clicked on after a particular search query. This ensures that the best results are always shown first.
It’s important to remember that today’s tech-savvy eCommerce customers are also sophisticated searchers. We know the type of search experience we can get from a good search engine, and we’ll expect that experience on your eCommerce site as well. By ensuring the highest relevance, you’ll meet or even exceed our expectations for an easy shopping experience.
There are several ways you can start improving your site search relevance today. Download SLI’s Big Book of Site Search Tips to read dozens of best practices. Or sign up for a free site critique to receive personalized recommendations on how to improve your site search relevancy. You can also request a demo to learn how SLI Systems can help you turn more site visitors into buyers. Whichever you choose, you’ll find that improving your customer experience with your site search will inevitably improve your conversions and profitability as well.
Want your voice to be heard? It’s survey time again, when SLI Systems asks our network of online retailers and other eCommerce experts to weigh in on their current experiences with site search and their plans for the coming year. The annual eCommerce survey provides the industry with benchmarks on how businesses are attracting customers to their site, improving usability and increasing conversions.
If you haven’t yet completed the survey, please take 5 minutes to do so now at now at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8QL7DJB. Every participant will receive a full report of the results. Plus, we’ll enter your name in a drawing to receive one of nine prizes: eight Apple gift cards and one Grand Prize of a new Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet.
Last year, our 2013 eCommerce Survey of more than 450 eCommerce professional revealed that more than 40 percent of online merchants were making improvements to their SEO and merchandising in order to drive additional holiday shopping traffic. When asked about plans for 2013, retailers around the world identified international expansion as a major priority. Other top priorities were improving conversions (63%) and attracting more customers (61%).
For the 2014 eCommerce Survey now underway, questions are designed for learning how online retailers are using site search to improve the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. We also ask about holiday plans and the year ahead. The results should be interesting – watch for them in early November.
This survey will be live only through next Tuesday, October 1, so please don’t hesitate. Please be sure to include your contact information at the end of the questionnaire for entry into the drawing. We’ll announce prize winners in October.
Thank you for your thoughtful insights, which always make our survey results valuable.