Archive for the ‘Site Search’ Category

Site Search Isn’t Sexy, It Scores Sales

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

images - sexy searchThere’s no question. Site search isn’t sexy, but it doesn’t have to be, because the revenue it drives speaks for itself. Internet Retailer Senior Editor Thad Reuter said it best in his February article, Reading Shoppers’ Minds:

“Site search receives little in the way of celebrity-level attention in e-commerce… But with retailers typically reporting two or three times the amount of conversions for site search users, the stakes are obvious: Better site search can translate into more profits.” Period.

However, one question still remains: Which site search approach best connects shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy, making shopping easier and retailers more profitable? Do online shoppers use natural language search, which interprets subjective terms to serve up search results? Or do the most relevant search results come from learning site search, which “learns” what specific search terms resonate most with consumers and – with SLI Learning SearchTM technology – reranks the order of search results based on the latest activity of users?

In e-commerce, there is some uncertainty around the demand for natural language search. North Face e-commerce manager, Charles Caison, told Internet Retailer, “At North Face, for instance, most shoppers search using terms that describe the product, not ambiguous phrases that require natural language processing to decode. It may be that we have been trained by Internet search engines for keyword searches rather than natural language searches.”

A new SLI study also supports Caison’s insight. To demonstrate site search user behavior today, SLI evaluated natural language terms, focusing on subjective search terms including “cheap,” “nice” and “cute” for a Fortune 100 retailer. As you can see in the chart below, out of 67,000 searches, the word “quality” was only used 3 times while “cheap” and “nice” had similar results. The findings reveal that subjective search terms are not yet commonly used among online shoppers.

Total searches performed ~67k
Searches containing “cheap” 11
Searches containing “quality” (high-quality) 3
Searches containing “nice” 0
Searches containing “cute” 42

 

Lakeshore Learning, an IR Top 500 company, also finds less use of natural language search from its shoppers. Lakeshore Vice President of E-commerce Sam Sarullo told Internet Retailer, “an analysis of the retailer’s top 1,000 searches revealed that consumers use an average of 1.8 words to search – a signal that consumers remain wedded to keyword search, and that natural language-type searches may not yet be intuitive. That said, I see return customers who are more familiar with our products using these natural language or long-tail searches.”

The beauty of Learning SearchTM is that if it detects shoppers’ use of longer search terms, it will “learn” and tweak its results to reflect that behavior. Learning Search continuously analyzes the terms and phrases that prove most popular and lead conversions.

Perhaps the best argument for the value of Learning Search is to let e-commerce companies’ results speak for themselves. Here are some of the results leading retailers have experienced using Learning Search:

  • Lakeshore Learning, an education supplies manufacturer: 30% increase in online sales
  • Boden, a British clothing retailer: 1.8x higher conversion rate using search
  • e.l.f. Cosmetics, an international cosmetics brand: 21% higher per-visit value using search
  • Marine Depot, world’s #1 supplier of aquarium supplies: 11% increase in revenue
  • SurfStitch, Australia’s #1 surf retailer: 30% improvement in page position for organic search

Some say “sex sells,” but in e-commerce, Learning Search sells more.

Infographic: Top E-commerce Searches for Valentine’s Day 2015

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

valentines_infographic_2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides the obvious first-place choices of diamonds and roses, see which gem stones, flowers, food gifts and types of jewelry online shoppers have searched for most prior to Valentine’s Day 2015. Design by Rosann Yip, Sr. Designer, SLI Systems

 

Amplify Omnichannel Marketing with Geospatial Search Results

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Does your retail operation manage both online and brick and mortar shopping experiences? If so, you understand the importance of showing shoppers a wide variety of products online, while also giving them the option to find their desired product locally where they can see it, try it in person and perhaps pick it up the same day.

A popular way to provide these options to shoppers is to use geospatial information to localize the online shopping experience. By allowing geospatial queries, retailers can offer location-based searching and navigation so that shoppers can:

Filter and Order Search Results by Distance

Retailers can allow customers to see the availability of products within a geographic range, narrowing results by the distance they’re willing to travel for the item. Additionally, retailers can order results by distance so that products located closer to the specified area are listed first in search results.

Shop by Store Location

AndersenThis feature lets customers view results for products that are available at a particular store location. This can come in handy if customers are more interested in seeing products at the location closest to them. Some retailers carry different inventory in various stores or have a wider inventory online. Allowing shoppers to search by store location provides a specific, localized and convenient online shopping experience.

Andersen Windows, the largest manufacturer of windows and doors in the U.S., uses a store locator map on their site to show the closest stores where their products are sold.

Show Search Results in Map View

The easiest way to convey information about location is through a map. Showing shoppers where product inventory is located and giving them the ability to see more or less based on geographic perimeters provides a richer and very intuitive search experience.

Show Available Inventory on Product Detail Pages

When shoppers view a product detail page, retailers can provide additional information about the closest local stores where the inventory is located. This is especially helpful for shoppers who want to examine the item in person before a purchase or for those that need it quickly. It can also be helpful for products that are difficult to ship due to size or weight.

Giving shoppers a localized shopping experience streamlines their ability to find and buy products in a way that is most convenient for their needs. It’s an easy way to add tremendous value to shoppers by showing information that is directly relevant to them – it also improves the chance for a sale.

SLI supports geospatial queries in the ways listed above to help retailers create a stronger omnichannel connection between their physical and online stores.

Second Annual Super Bowl E-commerce Study Uncovers Fan Loyalty for 2015

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

superbowl 2015With Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, many are asking which team is most popular. The Seahawks and Patriots are not only competing for the championship, but also for most die-hard fans. Do Seahawks fans really put Patriots fans to shame? Did ‘DeflateGate’ have any impact on fan loyalties? SLI Systems was eager to set the record straight and find out “Where The Fans Are” with a state-by-state look at Patriots’ and Seahawks’ popularity.

To determine the states’ loyalties, SLI studied more than 300,000 Super Bowl product-related searches taking place between January 1 and January 25, 2015 across 32 U.S. sporting goods and apparel retailers. While many devoted fans might be tempted to root against teams that take them out of championship, SLI uncovered that fans actually remain loyal to their region’s respective Conference (with a few exceptions). SLI’s “Where the Fans Are” map shows where all 50 states’ loyalties lie.

Not surprising, Seahawks-branded products were most sought by fans in northwestern states; and, with the exception of Alabama, Iowa and Wisconsin, fans in states on the eastern half of the U.S. favored Patriots-branded products.

What was noteworthy was that fans in Wisconsin (home of the Green Bay Packers, which lost to the Seahawks in the NFC championship) searched more for Seahawks than Patriots items. And, fans in Indiana (home of the Colts, which lost to the Patriots in the AFC championship) most sought Patriots items. Online shopping behavior shows that AFC/NFC Conference loyalty is stronger than getting revenge on past losses – and in turn, fans across the country searched for merchandise for the teams and players they know best. It seems that for Super Bowl XLIX, team loyalty takes a backseat to simple team familiarity.

For an interesting comparison, take a look at the map and infographic from last year’s SLI Super Bowl E-commerce Study. When the Seahawks faced off against Denver in 2014, Wisconsin also stood out among other midwest states in their online shopping preference for Seahawks gear. And most New England fans that are searching for Patriots items this year were searching for Seahawks items last year.

Whichever team you’re rooting for, I hope you enjoy the Big Game!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Take E-commerce Personally

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Thumb up 2015At the beginning of each year, many people ask me what trends to expect in e-commerce technology for the year ahead. For 2015, I see vast opportunities for increased personalization in the online shopping experience.

Most retailers do a poor job of personalization because they don’t know enough information about their customers, or because the information they have is poor quality. Their knowledge is limited to what they can gather through the interactions customers have with them, which are inevitably a small part of shoppers’ total retail experiences – plus they often lack context.

An example of failed personalization is when I recently logged on to Amazon and saw an array of suggested romance novels – not because I’ve read or purchased them, but because my wife did so using my account. Although Amazon has information about a lot of purchases made on my account, they don’t know who those purchases are for. Other retailers know even less about me than Amazon does and are likely to make even worse recommendations.

As an industry, I think we can do a lot better with personalization.

Customers Expect a Personalized Experience

Shoppers enjoy having a seamless shopping experience. For example, in our core competency areas of search, navigation and recommendations, if these work well then they’re almost invisible to shoppers – shoppers just know that they’re getting what they want quickly and with minimal effort. There is an opportunity to use personal information to improve this experience further. Most online shoppers are willing to have a site gather and store personal information about them if they know that it will benefit them in the future. For instance:

  • In a study by ClickFox, more than 80 percent of respondents said they expected retailers to know their purchase history and past consumer experiences
  • In a survey by Accenture, 73 percent of consumers said they prefer doing business with retailers who use personal information to make their shopping experience more relevant

While consumers expect and prefer the personalized shopping experience, they also want the ability to control how their personal information is used. Trust is also a critical factor, and retailers can best earn customers’ trust by consistently providing secure and positive shopping experiences.

Personalization is a Priority for SLI Systems

At SLI Systems, advances in personalization are among our high priorities for the coming year. In supporting more than 1.5 billion search queries last month, we have a wealth of insight into search and conversion patterns for shoppers around the globe. When we combine that knowledge with our team’s decades of expertise in site search and navigation, there’s a lot we can do to continue improving the ways we help shoppers quickly and easily find what they want to buy.

Personalization takes many forms and SLI already offers several ways of personalizing the shopping experience. We show recent searches and recently viewed products, which are simple but very effective. We also offer the ability to use cookies that identify brand preferences during browsing in order to offer more personalized product suggestions.

We also have customized solutions for customers that want to auto-filter based on gender or other previously-gathered customer information. For example, when you navigate on BodenUSA.com to the women’s section of the site – then perform a search for “shoes” – the SLI engine remembers you’re looking at women’s products and keeps you in that section for your subsequent searches, unless you specify otherwise.

There’s a lot more we can and will do with personalization. I look forward to unveiling future products and features that bring personalized shopping to an entirely new level.

To hear more on this subject, I invite you to listen to the on-demand version of our latest webinar, “The Shopping Experience of the Future.” On the webinar, I am joined by Lakeshore Learning VP of E-commerce Sam Sarullo and SLI Systems CMO Tim Callan to discuss personalization and other trends for 2015. 

Time to Rethink Holiday Promotions Timing

Monday, January 12th, 2015

When it comes to holiday shopping, peak shopping days and times are experiencing a dramatic shift that could impact the timing of critical promotions. Consumers are shopping on days that were previously considered taboo for this type of activity, such as Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It’s time for retailers to take note to ensure they don’t miss big opportunities to reach their buyers when they are actually shopping.

boxing day image 1

In Australia, it is well known that Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is the peak shopping day of the year. Yet, according to a new SLI study, many consumers are starting their shopping on Christmas Day. SLI researched e-commerce site activity across 100 Australian retailer sites, analyzing 20 million queries over the month of December. Online shopping activity peaked at 8:00 p.m. AEDT on Christmas Day and 10:00 a.m. on Boxing Day. While Boxing Day exhibited 49.6 percent more activity than Christmas Day, the spike in shopping activity on Christmas night is certainly a new trend worth exploring.

In the U.S., similar shifts in shopping behavior occurred. Most notable was a spike in shopping activity at 10:00 p.m. EST Thanksgiving Day, the night before the renowned Black Friday. There was also a spike in shopping activity on November 30, the night before the busiest U.S. online shopping day, Cyber Monday. To gather these results, SLI studied e-commerce site activity across 500 retailer websites in the U.S. (100 were Internet Retailer Top 1,000 retailers), analyzing 45 million queries during Thanksgiving week.

image peak US shopping hours 2

Consumers (increasingly online night owls) are beating retailers to the punch on unexpected days and times. By timing key promotions accordingly, savvy online retailers can take advantage of these new opportunities and have a jump on their competition in 2015.

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.

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.