Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

A Beary Good Success Story: Vermont Teddy Bear

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

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’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, 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!

Reason to Party: 203% More Conversions

Monday, May 20th, 2013

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. is one among dozens of online party supply stores. With more than 4,000 products and the backing of parent company Mattress USA, 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!

SLI at the Search Marketing Expo!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

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.

motorcycle superstore - MBOS1

motorcycle superstore - MBOS

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

Customer Profile: Steve Elkins from WEBS

Monday, February 25th, 2013

While we love talking with our clients about site search and navigation, it’s also a nice break to see our clients in action. Last week, I caught up with Steve Elkins, Co-Owner with his wife Kathy, of WEBS, one of the largest independent retailers of yarn in the country.

photo 5

Elkins was attending Stitches West 2013, one of the largest yarn and crochet shows that features classes and sessions as well as a market for knitting and crochet enthusiasts to buy skeins of yarn in thousands of colors, weights and varieties.

WEBS is a family-owned business that Elkins’ mother started in their basement in 1974. Since then, it has grown to be the largest brick and mortar yarn retailer in the United States. When Elkins took over the business in 2002, he began working to improve the web business. In 2007, WEBS brought on SLI Systems to manage the search for their eCommerce site,

For knitters that live in the Northeast, making pilgrimages to their 16,000 square foot store in Northampton, MA is not uncommon. “Some people will go two, maybe three hours out of their way to visit the store,” said Elkins, who said the store has been likened as a Mecca for knitters.

photo 3

But for customers throughout the country who don’t have access to such a wide variety of products, they can access the huge inventory and wide selection that WEBS offers through They have a separate, larger warehouse to handle all shipping for the eCommerce business.

Elkins estimated that WEBS stocks roughly 400,000 units of yarn at any given time. With huge varieties, weights and colors to stock and sell, sorting through those products can be confusing for customers. SLI’s search and refinements have figured strongly in helping customers search a product or material, such as angora, and then refine the large selection down by brand, fiber, weight or price range.

“We tend to carry products you won’t find in the larger chain stores,” he said, such as hand-dyed yarns, a larger selection of wool yarns, discontinued and close out items and their own line of products.

photo 7

They’re continuing to develop their online business, starting with redesigning their site with responsive web design, to ensure that the site works well across a variety of mobile devices. He said they are also looking at smaller tweaks to improve the overall usability and site features.

Additionally, Elkins added, SLI’s reports help him stay up-to-date such as trending keywords to indicate popular products and other important analytics. SLI’s customer service team keeps him informed about new features that he can implement to continually improve the online shopping experience. As a longtime customer, he said the personalized service SLI has given through the years and the effectiveness of the search has made the choice easy.

“We have stayed with SLI for so long because it works,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”



Improved Usability & Merchandising Are Keys to Growing Mobile Commerce

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
It’s no surprise that the mobile commerce market is growing incredibly fast – and this year experts predict a lot more mobile purchases during the holiday season than we saw last year. According to studies by Forrester Research, mobile retail and travel spending will double in 2012 over 2011 — and they project the market size to quadruple by 2017, with retail being the fastest growing mobile segment. This research and the expectations for a big increase in mobile shopping activity validate the need for retailers to develop user-friendly mobile commerce sites.

With that in mind, we announced today several new enhancements to our SLI Mobile site search solution, including: mobile Auto Complete, QR code integration, mobile banners, analytics tracking and multivariate testing (see our press release for more details).The new features and capabilities are designed to give online retailers better merchandising and customization options while improving customer engagement and the overall mobile search experience. 

Many of these new features have been developed to accommodate the needs of our growing mobile customer base, which recognizes the need for good usability on the mobile platform, as well as the ability to merchandise, test, and track performance of various design elements. Many of our existing clients are turning to us for their mobile site search implementations, including Dooney & Bourke, 24-Hour Fitness, Cache, and U.S. Toy/Constructive Playthings, among many more – and they’re seeing strong results in terms of how people interact with their mobile site and how that translates to more purchases.

This week, we’re showing off these new features and talking about best practices for mobile search at Mobile Commerce Forum in San Diego. If you’re interested in going mobile or need guidance on how to take your mobile site to the next level, stop by and visit us in booth #305, and get a first-hand view of our solution and its benefits. If you’re not in San Diego, feel free to drop a comment here.

Making Connections at IRCE 2012

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Next week’s IRCE 2012 is one of the biggest events in online retailing. As we talked about in our recent newsletter, this year’s event promises to be the biggest ever.

The theme this year is “Connecting with the 21st Century Customer”, and we took this message to heart by including a theater-style area in our booth, where a bunch of our clients will be sharing their experiences with SLI Systems, and how site search allows them to connect with their consumers. These retailers are benefiting from the latest advances in site search and including non-product content on their eCommerce sites, such as videos, blogs posts, tweets and Facebook ‘likes’ in search results. Most are also delivering a complete experience for their consumers not only on traditional websites, but on mobile devices and tablets as well. The presentations will take place throughout 3-days and will include:

• Ian MacDonald – US Mattress/ Crate

• Ben Quigley – Healthy Directions

• Laura Santos –

• Chris Reighley – totes-ISOTONER

• Richard Sexton – Carolina Rustica

• Franck Ardourel – 24-Hour Fitness

• Don Carnes – Revival Animal Health

• Joshua Wood – Ozbo

• John Santora (SLI CSM) – on behalf of Abe’s of Maine

• Jeff Hefland –

Along with our clients, Shaun Ryan our CEO and recognized search expert, will be connecting with retailers by sharing site search best practices for driving visitors to the search box, and getting more people to convert and increase their average order value. Come listen to Shaun on June 6, at 1:30pm in the E-Commerce Technology Theater, located in the Exhibit Hall of the McCormick Place.

Some interesting workshops and discussions are also planned. I recommend catching as many as you can from the following:

Technology Workshop – Tuesday, June 5

  • 8:30-8:45am – Bernadine Wu of our partner FitForCommerce will open the workshop with a discussion of what all e-retailers need to know about tomorrow’s technology
  • 1:15-2:15pm – Ben Quigley, Vice President, Internet Channels of SLI customer Healthy Directions will participate in a panel on “Product + Content + Asset Management: Tools that improve efficiency and the bottom line”

Wednesday, June 6

  • 11:15-11:45am (Retail Chains Track) – Forrester Research analyst Brian Walker will lead a discussion on “Leveraging a commerce platform in the era of the anywhere, anytime, any device consumer”
  • 2:30-3:15pm (Advanced E-Marketing Track) – SLI customer Ashley Harmeling, Director of Marketing, Rue LaLa will lead a talk on “How mobile maximizes marketing”
  • 1:30-2:30pm (E-Commerce Tech Theater) — SLI CEO Shaun Ryan will discuss using site search, navigation and merchandising to create a better user experience and increase revenue

Thursday, June 7

  • 1:45-2:30pm (Social Commerce Track) – “Making your product reviews do more” will be given by Nadim Hossain, Vice President, Marketing, PowerReviews
  • 3:45-4:15pm (Design & Merchandising Track) – “Refining site search to meet your company’s needs” will be presented by Chris Reighley, Director of E-commerce for SLI customer totes-ISOTONER

If you’re planning on attending IRCE next week, don’t be a stranger, please drop buy our booth. We at #501.


Snow+Rock Sheds Light on E-commerce Site Search

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Dave Kohn of Snow + Rock, the #1 ski clothing and equipment retailer in the UK is discussing his company’s experiences with site search, and the ways it’s helped improve the customer experience on the Snow + Rock site, during the site search workshop at Internet Retailing in Birmingham, UK.

eCommerce consultant Steve Groenier will also be presenting at this workshop, on how to converge social media and site search on the mobile platform, and our own Chris Edge, customer success manager in the UK, will be discussing how and why to conduct A/B testing in order to get more purchases and less site abandonment from search results pages. This workshop will be held at 1:30pm GMT tomorrow, 3/21, Workshop Room B.

While you’re there, be sure to stop by our stand (#C11) and see a live demo of our learning-based site search and navigation solutions, and talk with our team of experts about how full-service site search, navigation, and merchandising can help your business.

Dave Kohn will also be offering a webinar on best practices in site search next month, so stay tuned for more details and a registration link.


Differences between B2B and B2C e-commerce

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

It has been a couple of weeks since I returned from the Internet Retailer Web Design show in Orlando. It’s a nice show – it’s a lot smaller than the main IRCE show in June – with only one stream – so it’s easy to see all the great presentations without missing any. I love the opportunity to educate myself on what’s happening in the industry and to spend time talking to the people that are making ecommerce happen.

Chatting to Doug Cadmus from GMCR at IRWD 2012

Chatting to Doug Cadmus from GMCR at IRWD 2012. Photo by @tim_ash

One thing I noticed at this show is that there seemed to be a lot of businesses attending that sell to businesses rather than consumers. One of the keynotes was from Paul Miller, VP of E-Commerce at Grainger who provide products to facilities. It’s a serious business: $6B of revenue, $2B of that on line. Many of the other attendees were also B2B companies. One of them that I was chatting to said that the presentation he had just seen that was talking about selling underwear wasn’t that relevant to his business. That got me thinking about the difference between B2B and B2C ecommerce.

Different prices for different customers
One thing we’ve seen with our B2B customers is they will often have different prices for different customers based on their login. Larger customers often negotiate lower prices based on buying commitments for example. When this happens the online retailer needs to work out what price they should show, if any, to people that aren’t logged in. We are exposed to this, because we need to make sure that if we’re showing prices in the search and navigation that they match those that are shown on the rest of the site – so this involves a more complex integration.

Different purchasing process
The purchasing process on a B2C site is comparatively straightforward: the consumer puts in their credit card and other details and the sale is complete. On a B2B site the purchasing process may be more complex – the person who decides what they want may be different from the person who makes the purchase – there may be a procurement department that actually does the buying. The payment may be done through an account which is invoiced to the customer at a later date, particularly for large purchases. Paul described that Grainger customers have an account manager who approves the purchase orders when they come through. They have developed an iPhone app so the account managers can approve these easily when they’re away from their desk.

Lower traffic and larger AOV
B2B customers often make relatively large orders – so a B2B site that value of sales as a B2C site may have much less traffic. The lower traffic can mean it’s more difficult for multivariate tests to reach statistically significant decisions.

These are just a few differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce that I’ve come up with. What others are you aware of?

Sunshine, Great Content, and New iPads Forecast for eTail West

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Next week’s eTail West will be a great event on many fronts. Aside from the warm weather and sunny skies in Palm Springs, there are a lot of interesting discussions on topics that are timely and relevant to e-commerce brands. AND, if you stop by SLI’s booth (#9), you’ll have a chance to win a new iPad.

Steve Groenier, our resident guest blogger and former VP of marketing for, will be giving two talks on the first day, Monday, 2/27 – at 12:15 he’s participating in a panel on “10 Ways To Increase Customer Engagement In Today’s Digital World;” and at 2:25 he’ll present on “The New Content Kings: How Retailers Are Using Content To Create Loyal Lifetime Customers.” Additionally, our customer, Michael Burgess, EVP of’s consumer division, is taking part in an Executive C-level Panel at 9:25 a.m. on Tues., 2/28 on “Maximizing Your Resources And Gaining Revenues In Today’s Retail Environment.” Another customer, Jason Miller, CTO of Motorcycle Superstore, is also participating in an Executive C-level Panel at 9:15 on Thurs., 3/1 – the topic is “A 360-Degree Comprehensive Plan To Increase Sales From Your Mobile Strategy.”

If you’re heading to Southern California next week to attend eTail West, be sure to stop by our booth – #9 – to say hi and see a demo of our learning-based search and navigation solutions. And don’t forget to enter our iPad drawing!

This Week it’s all About Usability at IRWD

Monday, February 13th, 2012

This week is the week of usability at the annual IRWD conference in Orlando, FL, and  we’ll be there carousing with other vendors. In addition to all the fun we’ll be having at our booth (see us in booth #300), our CEO, Shaun Ryan, is giving a talk alongside our customer U.S. Toy, about how to over-come multi-brand usability challenges through cross-linking of results in site search. The presentation, taking place at 4:00 p.m. EST on Tues., 2/14, highlights U.S. Toy’s success in this area (the company has a B2B site called Constructive Playthings and a B2C site called U.S. Toy). Shaun and Seth Freiden, U.S. Toy CEO, will demonstrate how the toy retailer captured more sales and improved the user-experience by showcasing products on sister sites in each site’s search results.

Be sure to stop by our booth at the show to see our learning-based search and navigation solutions in action, and learn first-hand how seriously we take the “full-service” aspect of our business. And while you’re there, you may just win a brand new iPad.

Hope to see you there!