Archive for the ‘eCommerce’ Category

Say It with Video – 1 Billion Are Watching (and Buying)

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

With 1 billion people using YouTube today, video is the most powerful means of spreading information to the world’s 7 billion people. And since more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube, that’s almost one hour for every person on this planet!

As a content marketer in the e-commerce space, I’m especially interested in watching the speed of adoption of video in online retail. Product videos offer details that static images can’t, like how someone might hold or wear the product. According to an Animoto study and infographic, 73% of U.S. adults are more likely to purchase a product after watching an online video that explains it.

A Proven Way to Differentiate

BRStv 15Dec14Many sites use video as a way to set themselves apart from big-name brands. Bulk Reef Supply has created more than 300 videos for its saltwater aquarium and reefing products, even branding its video channel as “BRS TV” to make it more visible on YouTube. This is a smart way to increase product discovery, establish expertise and provide affirmation to buyers that they are choosing the right product. Simply by providing the information consumers need to make the right purchase, Bulk Reef Supply differentiates itself from potentially less knowledgeable competitors.

Northwest River Supply is another business that succeeds by providing expert advice that’s typically not found on many sport supply sites. Search for “kayak” and you’ll see a menu of more than 200 videos about kayaking. You can refine the search by whitewater, tour/rec and other types of rafting sports to find how-to videos that meet your particular interest.

As mentioned in Shaun Ryan’s recent blog, “shopping haul” videos are another type of video format that retailers can leverage in 2015. As the popularity of these videos increases, so does the opportunity.

Worth 1.8 Million Words?

I’ve often found truth in the maxim: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So naturally, I’ve wondered how many words a video might be worth. I recently found that Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research actually made an attempt at calculating the comparative worth – he estimated that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Well, the writer in me thinks that’s too high. But whether or not his assessment is true, it’s evident that video is an incredibly effective way to influence consumers who want bite-sized bits of information and entertainment that will fit into their busy lives.

E-commerce Search Queries Hit New High Thanksgiving Weekend

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

As 2014 holiday shopping statistics roll in, SLI Systems found some interesting trends among search query data for the 800+ e-commerce sites it serves. In addition to seeing a record-breaking Cyber Monday, we identified the weekend’s peak U.S. shopping times, discovered that 40% of weekend shopping was done from mobile devices, saw huge international growth in Black Friday shopping, and hit a new milestone with the number of search queries SLI served.

PeakHolidayShopping_2014Late-Night Shoppers Prevail

Overall, it’s clear that holiday e-commerce shopping is up significantly from last year – The Custora E-Commerce Pulse reported an increase of 15.4% in e-commerce revenue for the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) over the same weekend in 2013. As mentioned in an SLI press release issued today, 10 p.m. EST on Cyber Monday was the peak hour for online shopping in the U.S. Thanksgiving Day shopping also peaked at 10 p.m. EST.

Mobile Monday?

SLI research also found that 37% of Cyber Monday shopping in the U.S. was conducted on mobile devices – this is up from the 29% reported by Marketing Land in 2013. As the percentage of mobile shopping continues to rise – and the term “cyber” becomes more dated (“Cyber Monday” was first coined by Shop.org in 2005 to describe the online shopping peak on the Monday after Black Friday) – this $2 billion shopping day may be on its way toward the new name of “Mobile Monday.”

Black Friday Now a Global Event

While the chart above looks at peak U.S. shopping times, our data surprisingly showed a significant amount of Black Friday traffic coming from Brazil and the UK. Even though these countries don’t celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans enjoy on the fourth Thursday and Friday of November, retailers have launched Black Friday campaigns in Brazil and the UK to capitalize on the U.S. shopping trend. Amazon was the first to offer Black Friday discounts in the UK in 2000, and clearly, the trend has skyrocketed.

Record Queries Served by SLI

Due to the international growth of Black Friday shopping and online shopping in general, SLI also hit a new record of serving more than 100 million site-search queries in a single day. There are many ways we prepare for supporting our clients’ peak shopping days – from the highly redundant and scalable cloud architecture we offer year-round to the additional site optimizations our engineers conduct well in advance of expected peaks. We’re pleased to be able to support the increased search traffic on any of our clients’ sites, no matter what day of the year.

Checklist for a Holiday-Ready E-commerce Site

Monday, November 17th, 2014

shopping cart mouseWith the holidays upon us, e-commerce retailers are fine-tuning their sites in preparation for Black Friday. Here’s a quick checklist to help make your 2014 Holiday Season brighter by gauging your site’s readiness. I’ve included several tips and tools for testing that have worked well for me in the past.

1. Is your site up to speed?

With 47% of users expecting a web page to load in less than two seconds, speed is crucial. Slower sites increase bounce rates and decrease conversions. Walmart found that for every one second page speed was improved, conversion rates increased up to 2%. Think about what that means to your bottom line. Holiday shoppers aren’t willing to wait for your site to load.

This brings up an interesting point when we talk about page load speeds. To your users, the page is complete when it appears visually ready and they can interact with it. A great way to measure this is www.webpagetest.org, which lets you compare your site against your competitors. This will help identify scripts and elements you can load later in the page cycle to improve performance.

We can’t really talk about speed and the holidays without talking about stress testing your site for the surge in traffic that peak season will bring. You want to make sure your web infrastructure and content delivery network are properly configured so you don’t experience any downtime. Properly load testing a site requires coordination with your CDN and IT teams to ensure you don’t unintentionally DDOS your own site.

2. Do you have a consistent user experience across channels and devices?

Tablet and mobile traffic has now eclipsed desktop traffic, according to Branding Brand’s Mobile Commerce Index for 2014. Today’s users often interact with multiple device types before they convert. The majority of emails – 65% – are opened on a smartphone or tablet. According to Limelight Networks, Inc., 80% of customers abandon a mobile site if they have a bad user experience.

Users expect a seamless experience between different devices. If you don’t optimize these first-touch customer experiences, you risk losing buyers. There are many different ways to address this issue, from responsive design to dedicated mobile sites, each with its own challenges. For instance, responsive design requires careful coding and CDN configuration to minimize download time while dedicated mobile sites need special attention paid to redirecting links based on device.

It’s all about reducing friction for the user as they travel down the conversion funnel. For mobile users, don’t use incompatible desktop features like hover and make sure email links are optimized for smaller screens. On the other side, make sure links shared via mobile open properly for desktop users.

Here are a few more things that work well no matter the device format: Limit the amount of form fields on checkout, put the search bar in an obvious place near the top of the page and use predictive analysis to help auto complete search queries.

3. Do you have the right merchandising and product mix?

Knowing the right products to offer and displaying these products first on your category pages increases conversions. For customers using SLI Learning Navigation, all category pages are automatically merchandised based on user behavior, such as clicks, conversions, sales and margin, to ensure that you display the most relevant products first.

Wondering what promotions or product mixes your competitors had last year for Black Friday? Try the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

4. Are you using gift finders?

At this time of year, you will have shoppers who aren’t your regular customers coming to your site to buy a gift. A parametric search lets you provide a guided shopping experience and walk the user down a path. A user might say she is shopping for a man, wants to spend $100 and wants the gift to be in sporting goods. This quickly gets the customer to relevant products. This type of search works well anywhere a guided experience is useful, such as a trip finder where filtering by region and price make it easier to see a large range of products.

5. Do you provide recommendations?

Customers appreciate a personalized experience while shopping. Being able to offer them other contextually relevant products enhances the customer experience and increases both conversion and cart size. When shoppers interact with the related products displayed on SLI Dynamic Product Banners, retailers are seeing a 10-20% increase in conversion rates.

As the customer moves through the site you can make more fine-grained recommendations. On the homepage, new customers might see “top sellers.” As they go deeper into a site, based on behavior, you can show recommendations like “customers who viewed this item also viewed” or “frequently bought together.” At the cart, you can suggest accessories related to the items they are buying, and at order confirmation, you have the opportunity to upsell again.

The most personalized recommendation you can offer is “recently viewed,” which performs really well. In this case, customers have shown an explicit interest in a product. If you make it easy to quickly jump back to that product – even if they come back to the site after a few minutes or a few days – it increases conversions dramatically.

My advice on recommendations is to test all the variances you can on the page to see which one preforms best. I would even test the call to action verbiage around the recommendation because context is very important to recommendations. Customers will value the recommendations more if they understand the logic of why you are showing the items.

To learn more about preparing for the holiday season, see a video of a webinar I recently presented on this subject.

May your season be bright, and your site bring in much revenue!

How Might Retailers Leverage Shopping Haul Videos?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

There is a largely untapped resource that most retailers aren’t leveraging to the fullest. I’m talking about shopping haul videos, also called unpacking videos. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this weird phenomenon, let me give you a brief description.

2014-holiday-shopper-research-shopping-never-sleeps_articles_02Shopping haul videos are made by people that have been shopping – either at a store, or online – and when they have the goods at home they turn on the camera and record themselves opening up all their goodies. It sounds quirky, right? However, these videos get an amazing number of views and they continue to grow.

Now the nice thing about these videos from a retailer’s point of view is that they are video reviews that feature their products and their stores. They are taken at the time when the shopper is most positive about their purchases, in the afterglow of the buying, before they’ve had an opportunity to be disappointed by them. They are authentic – typically done in their home. So these are authentic, positive video reviews of retailer’s products. Dang!

So how could retailers use shopping haul videos? I think it would be great if they could make the videos viewable on the product pages that are featured in the video. Retailers know the value of videos for improving engagement, yet videos are fairly expensive to produce. With the shopping haul trend, there are millions of videos that have already been produced that retailers can use.

So how do retailers find these videos? A simple search of “[Retailer name] haul” will give you a good start. Then you need someone to watch the video and work out which products are featured. The video can then be embedded in the product page. You could do this now for a few products, test it and see if it helps.

I came up with this idea a few years ago when I first heard about shopping haul videos at the online retailer show in Australia and then heard how popular they were. I had proposed creating a tool to make it easy for retailers (or anyone) to tag these videos and to embed them into product pages. It’s not unlike the recommendations we imbed in product pages now: some supplementary content that helps improve conversions. It could also feature in the search and nav in the same way that we index retailer’s videos as part of our Learning Search offering now.

However my idea has never made it to the top of our priority queue (we have a lot of cool stuff we’re working on). What do you think of it? Have you considered doing something like this? How many shopping haul videos are there for your store?

 

Top Costumes for Halloween 2014: Spine-Chilling or Just Chilly?

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

When you open up your front door for trick-or-treaters this Halloween, you are more likely to be visited by Queen Elsa, and other ‘Frozen’ characters like Princess Ana and the lovable Olaf, than bloodcurdling zombies. This prediction is based on a large sampling of e-commerce searches over the past two months.

costumes chart 2014‘Frozen’ is the most sought-after costume theme this season, with the category receiving nearly 1.2 million consumer searches, or 122% more search activity than costumes related to the second most popular film this year, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). The gap is even greater between the icy theme and other popular movie characters including those from Book of Life, Batman, Despicable Me (minions) and Maleficent.

As noted in a recent Forbes article, SLI Systems tracked more than 80 million searches across 17 websites selling Halloween costumes between September 1st and October 26th of this year. Of the top 15 most-searched costumes for 2014, seven are film-related:

  1. Frozen – 1,192,000 (includes searches for Elsa, Olaf & other characters)
  2. Zombie – 863,000
  3. Ninja – 863,000
  4. Pirate – 796,000
  5. Clown – 659,000
  6. Witch – 588,000
  7. Vampire – 565,000
  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 536,000
  9. Book of Life – 308,000 (includes searches for “day of the dead”)
  10. Flapper – 277,000
  11. Batman – 251,000
  12. Despicable Me – 233,000 (78% of related searches were for minion characters)
  13. Maleficent – 227,000
  14. Monster High – 206,000
  15. Star Wars – 148,000

 

So, what’s the hottest Halloween costume this year? The forecast calls for a “cool” cast of characters.

E-Commerce Sales Growing, but We Can Do Better Than 9%

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Each year, online sales take a bigger slice of the ‘total retail sales’ pie. This year, analyst firm Forrester expects e-commerce sales in the United States to reach $294 billion, a small 9% slice of all sales in the country. That means that 91% of retail sales still occur in brick-and-mortar stores. The question is: can e-commerce do better? Can e-commerce grab a larger slice of that pie by making simple changes? A recent large-scale study on e-commerce search by the Baymard Institute says YES.

“When e-commerce search works, it’s fast, convenient and efficient. It’s no wonder that so many users prefer searching over clicking categories. Unfortunately, our recent study finds that search often doesn’t work very well,” said Christian Holst, Baymard Institute co-founder.

The Baymard Institute found:

  • 16% of e-commerce sites do not support searching by product name or model number
  • 18% of sites provide no useful results if the product name was off by a single character
  • 70% require users to search by the exact jargon for the product type that the site uses, failing to return relevant products for “blow dryer” if “hair dryer” is typed
  • Searches with symbols and abbreviations are not supported by 60% of e-commerce sites
  • Only 40% of sites have faceted search, despite it being essential to e-commerce search because it is the foundation of contextual filters

Consistent with Baymard Institute findings, our own SLI study conducted last year found that 57% of e-commerce brands were not using their site search data to enhance marketing campaigns. Only 25% of retailers integrated site search data into email marketing campaigns to better customize offers; 27% created SEO landing pages populated with site search results and custom banners; and only 13% took advantage of site search to power mobile search.

It’s also interesting to note that amid generally weak Q2 earnings, the retail giants that announced spikes in e-commerce sales ranked as having excellent site search in Baymard’s search study:

  • #2 Wal-Mart global e-commerce grew 24%, heavily contributing to a $3.2 billion increase
  • #4 Wayfair, multinational e-retailer, reported a 50% YOY increase to total $574 million
  • #5 Sears, multinational department store chain, reported strongest sales came from e-commerce
  • #11 Staples, the world’s largest office-supply chain, grew its web sales 8%
  • #13 The Home Depot, the largest home improvement retailer in the U.S., increased its online sales 38% to $1 billion

The take-away? The e-commerce industry can do better than 9%. As more e-commerce sites optimize site search, online shopping experiences will improve and e-commerce will gain a greater share of the $1.7 trillion retail pie.

To see how small changes in your site can significantly impact revenue, schedule a demo with an SLI Systems sales director.

Make Back to School Shopping a Breeze – Even with 60,000 Products

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

This is first in a series of guest blogs where online retailers offer insight into their e-commerce success.

pencilsAt Chalkfly, providing everything our customers need while making it easy for them to find those products is a fine line we walk. As an office and school supply e-commerce retailer, we sell nearly 60,000 products that range from kitchen goods to office chairs to scratch and sniff stickers (which are still as awesome as they were when you were in third grade).

Given our broad selection of products and the looming presence of some pretty hefty competitors, we knew that great site search would provide us with a critical edge. After implementing SLI Systems, conversion rates increased 30% and average order value increased by 33% for customers who searched our site.

For other retailers looking to simplify the search process for customers – during back to school season and beyond – I’d like to share a few things we’ve learned.

Shorten the Search

Since our robust site inventory is organized into dozens of categories, the parents, teachers and students shopping with us can end up in many corners of our site. To streamline our customer experience, we’ve used historical data and worked with local Parent Teacher Organizations to learn which supplies are most important for which grades. Using this information, we created curated categories and Back to School Kits, organized by grade, that provide refined options for shoppers. These curated kits not only make shopping easier, they also increase our average order value by marketing other, in-demand back to school products to users.

Sweeten the Results

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.37.54 AMWe’ve paired many of our search results, especially within back to school categories, with custom search banners that drive customers to some of our best-selling products. These banners make shopping simpler for customers by placing some of our most popular products right at their fingertips. The SLI functionality that allows us to easily create these banners is a major plus for us because it simplifies search for customers and allows us to put selected products front and center.

When searching for “pencils” customers are presented with an attractive banner that brings them right to one of our best-selling products.

Search is a Gold Mine

At Chalkfly, we use SLI and Google Analytics to monitor the search terms our customers use. This data is chocked full of actionable insight for any e-commerce store. You should always test the top search terms on your site and ask: “Are these the best, most relevant results?” If not, tune those results to increase conversion rates. We analyze the top 50 terms on a weekly basis, and SLI’s reports help us answer several questions:

  • What are the popular seasonal products? (e.g. an uptick in searches for “supplies kit” means its time to feature our back to school kits throughout the site)
  • What are our highest converting search terms?
  • Are customers searching for information that can be answered through our blog? (e.g. queries that start with, “how to…”)

As your customers buy the supplies to start the new school year out right, optimize your search and curated products to ensure they continue shopping in their pj’s instead of “searching” through the aisles at a store.

Lissa Cupp is the CMO of Chalkfly, a Detroit-based e-commerce company that sells offices and school supplies and gives 5% of every purchase to a teacher of your choice. Read today’s press release about Chalkfly here.

From Blog to Buy: Content That Converts

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

It’s no secret here at SLI that we are arming online retailers with the e-commerce tools they need in the battle against Amazon – and creative content is proving to be a valuable weapon of choice. Many savvy e-commerce retailers use content (videos, blogs, social posts, etc.) to draw shoppers and turn browsers into buyers.

Target is a great example. Target’s e-commerce site now allows shoppers to buy items directly from its blog, A Bullseye View. All a shopper has to do is click a red box (“shop this look”) that hovers over the image of the desired product. Instantly, a box pops up with the item ready to be added to the consumer’s shopping cart.

TargetTarget’s new catchphrase? “Buy the products you want from the content you love.”

Creative content is driving sales in a way that it never has before. Converting shoppers into buyers directly on a compelling blog post is what all retailers strive for with their content. While a blog is a pretty traditional form of content, here are two great examples of SLI customers using non-traditional forms of content to ease the shoppers’ path-to-purchase:

1. King Arthur Flour Shares Recipes

Retailer of specialty flours and baking tools King Arthur Flour combines aspects of its community and knowledge base into its site, providing a wealth of searchable recipes, videos and blogs from expert bakers. Visitors can find enticing recipes with high ratings, see that they have been Pinned to Pinterest 1,000+ times, or read reviews from other users who have made those dishes themselves. Since customers can click a link in the recipe to buy ingredients they need from King Arthur Flour, it’s a seamless path-to-purchase for those eager to try the recipe.

Since working with SLI Systems to integrate this recipe content into its e-commerce search (versus its previous use of Endeca), King Arthur Flour has seen its conversion rate jump from 3.7% to nearly 6%.

If you’re an online retailer that sells any kind of food or kitchen product, you’ll want to offer recipes to showcase your expertise and the value of your products. When you create links from your recipes to the products or ingredients needed to complete the recipes, you’ll see the increase in sales.

FTD Infographic2. FTD Gets Graphic

Online flower delivery retailer FTD uses infographics to drive visitors to its site and help generate sales. When the brand created an infographic using interesting stats about Mother’s Day, it was a nice visual article showing that 76% of moms polled would choose flowers as their gift. It was a popular infographic to share on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as millions of sons and daughters considered what to give their moms for Mother’s Day. The infographic not only provided the insight and incentive for buying flowers for mom, but it also linked straight to the FTD site, offering easy access to purchase that Mother’s Day bouquet.

Infographics combine visual appeal with condensed information, making them perfect for grabbing people’s attention and giving them content quickly. They are also nice for the skimmers out there – those of us who are short on time or attention span. Finally, infographics are easy to share. Whether on social media or blogs, infographics are just the kind of content thought leaders love to re-post.

To learn more about how e-commerce sites can increase conversions by creating remarkable content, watch a recorded webinar on this subject or download our free e-book, Use Creative Content to Turn Online Shoppers into Buyers.

At eTail East, Plan for a Profitable Holiday and Beyond

Monday, August 11th, 2014

As eTail East begins today in Philadelphia, we want to point out some of the highlights we’re looking forward to at this year’s show.

Monday Roundtable:
Use Creative
and Social Content to Convince Shoppers to Buy
Moderator: Jason Miller, Product Evangelist, SLI Systems
Grand Ballroom C, D – Table 6
August 11, 10:05-11:05 AND 3:10-4:10

At this eTail East Roundtable, SLI Product Evangelist Jason Miller will share examples of leading retailers that increase site conversions by using rich content like videos, blogs, social posts and how-to articles – all integrated into their site search and navigation. He’ll discuss why compelling content helps entice and convince shoppers to convert. Learn and discuss best practices that leading retailers use to create a site experience that turns shoppers into buyers. If you can’t make this session, listen to our on-demand webinar, “Use Creative Content to Turn Shoppers into Buyers.”

Vault 11_27_08Monday Dinner with SLI Systems:
Del Frisco’s Steakhouse, private Vault Room
August 11, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
For retailers only, by invitation
RVSPs accepted until 2 p.m. EST today

To kick off the first night of eTail East in style, SLI Systems is hosting an unforgettable dining experience at Del Frisco’s Steakhouse. We’ll have the privilege of dining in the private Vault Room of Del Frisco’s, located inside what once was the First Philadelphia Bank. If you are a retailer and have not yet reserved a place at the table, you may RSVP here until 2 p.m. EST today.

Wednesday Main Session:
Easy Upgrades to Optimize Holiday Profits
Presenters: Victor Castro, Director of E-commerce, Zachys Wine & Liquor and Tim Callan, CMO, SLI Systems
Grand Ballroom E, F
August 13, 12:50 p.m.

With no time to spare before the 2013 holiday shopping rush, Zachys Wine & Liquor’s Director of E-commerce Victor Castro implemented e-commerce acceleration solutions to the Zachys site and saw an incredible 130% increase in site revenue by the end of the season. In this main-stage presentation, hear from Victor about the solutions he used and how you can optimize your own e-commerce site before Holiday 2014.

Enjoy eTail East!

Appliances Online and SurfStitch Win Online Retail Industry Awards

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
urfStitch SLI's Learning Search

SurfStitch Showcases SLI Learning Search

Aussie retailers Appliances Online and SurfStitch have been picked as equal winners for ‘Best Pureplay Online Retailer’ at the Online Retail Industry Awards (ORIA).

The annual awards, which recognize the pinnacle of excellence in digital retailing, handed out the top accolade to the joint winners. Both online retailers use SLI Systems’ Learning Search solution that ‘learns’ from past site search activity. It does this by tracking visitors’ search behavior, and then uses that data to deliver the most relevant results. The technology also brings clients’ non-product information (such as user ratings, reviews, social content, blogs and videos) into search to deliver an impressive user experience that compels shoppers to buy.

“It’s a great achievement to win the top award at the ORIAs,” said CEO John Winning for Appliances Online. Since implementing SLI Learning Search, Appliances Online noticed that people who use site search spend twice as much time on site as visitors who don’t use site search. The appliances retailer also witnessed a 20% increase in site revenue.

As well as using SLI Learning Search, SurfStitch also uses SLI Site Champion, which builds upon SLI Learning Search technology to deliver high-quality organic search traffic to sites. It learns from site visitors and dynamically creates SEO-optimized landing pages that are indexed by Google and other Internet search engines, extending the site’s SEO footprint and making more content findable.

Since  inception in 2008, SurfStitch has recognized that investing in its e-commerce platform, customer service and engagement is key to offering customers an optimal online shopping experience.  Learning Search and Site Champion have eliminated dead-ends for SurfStitch’s customers, as site visitors no longer find themselves lost or stuck looking at products they don’t want. In addition to experiencing a 90% reduction on ‘no results’ pages, average sales are up 15% for SurfStitch and site visitors spend 25% more time browsing. Appliance Online has seen a 20% increase in revenue.

“SLI is committed to offering the world’s leading e-commerce acceleration solutions such as Learning Search and Site Champion. I congratulate our customers Appliances Online and SurfStitch on their achievement in winning this award,” said Shaun Ryan, CEO, SLI Systems. “We are excited to see these two important customers increase customer conversions through the use of our solutions, and to have them recognized for their successes.”