Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Internet Retailer Conference 2011

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

I have just returned  from the Internet Retailer Conference in San Diego. This is the biggest show that we attend and the one where we have the largest presence. Because the show is fairly close to our office we had a lot of people there – I counted 22. It was fantastic fun seeing current and future customers, and partners and learning about some of the new stuff.
IRCE 2011 Booth 1_s

For me this is the third show that I’ve been to in the last 4 weeks, The other two were Ecommerce Expo in Manchester and Online Retailer Road show in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia. A gruelling travel schedule but apart from seeing very little of my family for the last four weeks it has been very rewarding. One overriding theme that I have been getting from the customers I met during my travels is that they are very happy with the service they get from us. I heard from several that we are one of the best vendors that they deal with. It was great to hear this because we put a lot of effort into making our customer service the best it can be and it’s nice to see the evidence that this is working.

With over 500 vendors, multiple streams and workshops I feel like I missed out on a lot of good information at the show. However there were plenty of interesting bits and pieces I did pick up. Here are some of them…

A novel approach to getting answers

George Eberstadt, the founder and president of TurnTo Networks showed me their question and answer service for retailers. The novel thing they do is when someone asks a question about a product an email is sent to people who recently bought the product. They get a great response from this which means people get good answers to their questions in a timely manner. He had some good stats about the uplift they saw for their customers. I can see why this works. I would be likely to answer a question about a product I had just bought in this situation. Sending the question to people who have just bought the product is a great idea. Like most great ideas, it seems pretty obvious once you hear it. but I hadn’t heard it before.

Having the same URL for mobile and the web

Igor Faletski, the founder and CEO of Mobify was telling me about their approach to producing mobile websites. Like others they translate existing pages into mobile optimized pages. Unlike others they use client side JavaScript to do this which means the URL is the same whether you’re on a mobile page or the normal page. This means people aren’t sharing mobile URLs and has a number of other advantages. I thought it was an interesting approach.

Paying people to like you

While I was sitting on the floor eating lunch I was chatting to a couple of reps from a San Diego company whose name I forget (sorry). The interesting thing they told me they are doing for their customers is offering people a discount on some purchases if they “like” the product. I thought this was interesting from a couple of perspectives. The discount may help close the sale in the first place and secondly, by sharing it on facebook they are telling their friends about it. I expect the retailers will be able to maximize the benefit by paying to promote likes on facebook. But what this will force them to do is to try and quantify the value of a like. Something else I hadn’t seen before.

2B searches/quarter on eBay

Chris Payne, VP and Head of eBay North America talked about their strategy to provide infrastructure to retailers of all size, the standard eBay for Mom and Pop retailers, and their new acquisitions Magento and GSI for  medium and large retailers. He shared that in the last quarter there were over 2 billion searches on eBay. That got me thinking – how many searches did we serve across our customers in the last quarter. One of my team looked it up – just over 700 million. We’re working to catch up with them.


Finally Kiva had a great display showing their robots at work. Who doesn’t like robots?

Join us Next Week at Retail World in Sydney

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Next week we’ll be exhibiting at the annual Retail World conference in Sydney, taking place June 27-29. If you’re attending the event, be sure to see us at stand #51, where we’ll be demonstrating our recently announced Conversion Optimizer A/B testing tool for site search, as well as the power our Learning Search site search, navigation and merchandising solutions deliver to online retailers. You can also enter our draw to win an iPad 2.

Be sure to also pick up your conference passport, which allows you to get stamps from participating exhibitors (like us) and be entered to win prizes once your passport is complete. And on June 29 we’ll be exhibiting in the eRetailing and Multi-Channel Retail Day in stand #2 – so you can also catch us there.

We hope to see you there!

Going to IRCE? SLI’s Booth is the Place to Be!

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Like most of you, we’ve been gearing up for IRCE for months. Well, it’s almost here, and it’s sure to be a great event. We love the opportunity to see familiar faces and meet new people as well – and offer a first-hand view of our Learning Search solutions in action. If you’re attending, please be sure to drop by our booth #405 where you’ll see a demo of our full-service site search, navigation and merchandising product offerings, as well as a new tool we’re unveiling next week (more to come on that soon).

We’re also giving away 3 iPads over the course of the event, so you can enter to be one of the lucky winners. And, as IRCE’s tote bag sponsor, you’ll find inside your bag a special key which opens our treasure chest of prizes – located at our booth – giving you another opportunity to score something nice for yourself.

Have safe travels to sunny San Diego, and we hope to see you next week!