Archive for the ‘Site Search’ Category

When #LoveWins, Smart Merchandisers Win

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

FTD roseThe U.S. Supreme Court opened a new opportunity for merchandising on Friday, June 26. Whether or not you agree with the 5-4 decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, it’s undeniable that it’s a prime marketing opportunity for retailers. Earlier this week, Multichannel Merchant published more than 20 examples of “How E-commerce Responded to the Marriage Equality Decision.”

For e-commerce businesses wanting to capitalize on the surge of online shoppers looking for items related to gay pride and same-sex weddings, below are my recommendations:

  1. Watch and respond to top search terms: Pay attention to changes in shopper behavior over standard baseline behaviors prior to the Supreme Court ruling.  In particular, look at search keywords for new or increasingly popular terms.  For example, a jeweler may see a sudden spike in a phrase like “men’s engagement ring.”  Because the search box is the one place on your site where shoppers can articulate their shopping missions without being channeled by your site navigation, search terms are strong early indicators of changes in shopper intent.

 

  1. Consider which products are a fit. The types of products you offer will vary based on your industry segment.  The above example cites a change in jewelry preferences, but a florist may see an increase in desire for rainbow floral arrangements or a party supply retailer might sell more rainbow-colored decorations. You may decide that none of your products logically tie in to this current event, in which case you’ll want to wait until you have related products or skip this merchandising opportunity entirely. Shoppers are less likely to respond to a promotion that seems forced.

 

  1. Look at top search terms with poor click-through rates. Search terms with low click-through rates can identify recent demand that your site and inventory are not meeting.  Sometimes you can solve these shortcomings simply by adding synonyms to your database. Other times you can address them with special promotions or merchandising information.  In the long term, these terms may reveal new areas for inventory expansion.

 

  1. Create just-in-time merchandising campaigns. Create campaigns for products expected to be popular among supporters of gay marriage.  Use custom banners and landing pages or even tune search results and recommendations to more ably direct shoppers to the products they are likely to want in this area.  For example, a retailer may create a custom landing page around a phrase like “Pride party” with a themed banner and curated product results.

 

  1. Remember SEO/SEM. Keep your SEO/SEM team apprised of top trending terms to ensure your keyword strategy is up to date.

 

Among the SLI Systems customer base, we have noticed the word rainbow coming up as a term with poor results so far this week.  We advise appropriate retailers to examine the word rainbow specifically to see if it is a trending term that deserves one of the responses detailed above.

Current events, as well as holidays, seasons and trends, are great positioning points for retailers. If you keep an eye on what your shoppers are already searching for online, you’ll find an endless number of ways to merchandise your products.

For more merchandising strategies to drive your online revenue, download our white paper “Use Site Search Data to Improve Merchandising.” Also, take a look at this video to see what you can do with our latest merchandising solution, SLI Landing Page Creator.

 

How Online Bathing Suit Shopping Could Save Summer

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Summer is officially here. But before your shoppers can splash in the pool or lounge on the beach, there is one necessary item of attire that must be purchased – a bathing suit.

Is there anything quite like bathing suit shopping? Or should I say, is there anything quite like purchasing undergarments to wear in public in front of friends, their husbands and their children?

Traditionally, beachgoers could look forward to the following shopping experience:

1. Drive to the store.
2. Locate the ever-disorganized bathing suit selection.
3. Find a print and pattern that isn’t revolting.
4. Rifle through racks for the correct size.
5. Head to the fluorescent-lit dressing room walled with multiple, full-length mirrors.
6. Try it on. Hate it and deeply regret not sticking to those lose-weight-get-in-shape New Year’s resolutions.
7. Exhaust all options at that store.
8. Repeat the entire process, losing hours (and a good portion of self-esteem) in the black hole of bathing suit shopping.

Could someone please bring me a mai tai? I’m having anxiety just thinking about this.

Luckily, we live in the era of online shopping. Smart and thoughtful online retailers have the opportunity to transform the bathing suit buying experience into something that feels like a vacation. Here’s how:

1. Showcase your summer selections with editorial-style landing pages. You can create an entire poolside look – hat, sunglasses, bag, skirt, sandals and bathing suit – and drive potential shoppers directly to the tailored landing page by using dedicated URLs in email campaigns, social media posts or pay-per-click advertising.

2. Guide visitors to the perfect suit with a product finder that feels like a personal shopper. By asking a series of questions, you can lead shoppers to a great selection based on budget, style and even body type. For instance, one shopper might want a bikini under $80 to show off her athletic frame while another might want a one piece that will make her look 10 pounds slimmer regardless of the cost. Either way, your shoppers will appreciate your expert guidance.

Screenshot 2015-06-22 09.11.31

3. One swimsuit definitely does not fit all. Make sizing simple and boost buying confidence by including measurement guidelines. Taking Shape does this right with an easy-to-understand sizing chart on its website tsplus14.com.au.

4. At a minimum, visitors should be able to search by style, color and size. But make sure they can also easily see what’s in stock along with ratings and reviews. No point in falling in love with a suit that’s not available in your size, and a rave review (“I look so good in this thing it’s all I wear!”) can help seal the deal.Screenshot 2015-06-22 09.29.16

5. Save the day with in-store pick up. As an online retailer with brick-and-mortar locations, giving shoppers the ability to shop online and find the item at the nearest location is a serious convenience, especially for those who may have delayed shopping until the day before the big swim party.

Let your shoppers save the mai tais for the beach by giving them a bathing suit buying experience that’s truly relaxing!

After Mobilegeddon, Focus on Site Search for Mobile-Friendliness

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Mobile commerce is exploding! The majority of traffic to e-commerce stores is coming from mobile devices (Shopify 2014) and mobile commerce is growing three times faster than overall e-commerce. In its “Spotlight on Modern Retail 2015,” NRF found that during the first three quarters of 2014, retailers reported their mobile sales grew a whopping 87 percent!

Well aware of the growing mobile masses, on April 21st Google expanded its mobile-friendliness ranking signal to reward mobile-friendly sites with higher search rankings and demote those that fail its test. (a.k.a. “mobilegeddon,”). While the full results are still to be seen, action by many online retailers is still needed. To guide developers, the search giant also provided them with the top things to know when building a site for mobile devices. Here’s how e-commerce site search fits in and can help contribute to your mobile success.

outline-steps#1: Make It Easy

Google’s #1 recommendation for building a mobile-friendly site is: Make It Easy For Customers. Heavily contributing to the ‘mobile-friendly’ signal is whether or not visitors, after landing on a mobile page, can easily complete the tasks they want to accomplish by solely using the mobile site. For instance, when visitors using smartphones search for new running shoes on Sports Authority, the company’s mobile-friendly site helps them easily find and buy the shoes they want, which in turn will now help Sports Authority fare better in Google smartphone rankings.

Mobile-optimized site search helps retailers connect shoppers with the products they’re seeking, making it easy for mobile visitors to find, research and/or complete a purchase (their main objective). Given mobile’s space and speed challenges, the search box is the best gateway to finding products and content on mobile sites. That in turn has a big impact on engagement metrics such as conversion rates, bounce rates, average time on site, average pages requested per session and more, which affects its ‘mobile-friendly’ signal and mobile search ranking.

Helping site visitors easily complete their objectives now has a direct impact on mobile search rankings, making good site search more important than ever before.

#2: Measure Effectiveness

Google’s second recommendation for building a mobile-friendly site is: Measure The Effectiveness Of Your Site. Optimized site search is a vital part of delivering a satisfying shopping experience to mobile users as it helps visitors quickly and easily engage with the site – often increasing conversion rates and average order values, and lowering bounce rates. Leading e-commerce companies, including international cosmetics brand e.l.f. Cosmetics and specialty retailer WebUndies.com, have experienced impressive measured results with mobile-optimized site search.

Lesley Klein, director of e-commerce at e.l.f. Cosmetics, reported: “Conversion for mobile visitors using site search is four times the rate vs. mobile users who don’t use search. With 30% of our online traffic coming from mobile devices, we’re providing a seamless shopping experience no matter how or where people come to e.l.f.”

Terri Hunsinger, co-owner at WebUndies.com, found: “Mobile site search has been very effective in bringing 2,500 products to the forefront for customers who are trying to search on small devices where it can be difficult to see our broad product selection. People are spending more time and more money and are more engaged because of the accurate search results they are seeing.”

As with sites like e.l.f. and WebUndies.com, optimized mobile sites make it easy for customers to shop. Whether Mobilegeddon ends up significantly impacting SEO or not, your optimized mobile search will strongly contribute to better online shopping experiences and conversions.

 

SLI Receives Magento Partner Award and Other 2015 Accolades

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

SLI Receives Magento’s Highest Partner Honor

Last week at Magento Imagine, SLI received the “2015 Magento Technology Partner Spirit of Excellence Award for North America.” The annual award recognizes partners who have delivered exemplary service to Magento clients. Evaluations are made across a number of critical elements such as commitment to quality deployments, merchant satisfaction, growth, penetration in emerging markets, innovation and strategic planning.

Magento is the provider of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce platform. We are thrilled to partner with them in providing SLI Learning Search Connect™ as an easily downloadable Magento extension.

Magento Spirit of ExcellenceRetail Innovator 2015

Also in 2015, SLI has received other distinctions stemming from the company’s dedication to achieving high ROI for its customers and its commitment to exemplary service for its partners. This follows a record year of awards for SLI, which received a total of 10 awards in 2014 for technology, customer-use scenarios, and customer support. We are proud to acknowledge these accolades for 2015 (and it’s only April!).

SLI Customer Wine Enthusiast Receives Retail TouchPoints 2015 Retail Innovator Award

Wine Enthusiast’s CMO Glenn Edelman was named a winner of Retail TouchPoints 2015 Retail Innovator Award. Wine Enthusiast uses SLI Dynamic Product Banners™, which automatically displays banners with items related to a visitor’s original web search on product pages. Edelman will be recognized at the Retail Innovation Conference, June 16-17 in New York City.

“With SLI Dynamic Product Banners, visitors are more prone to stay and buy from our site rather than clicking back to Google where they could end up on a competitor’s site,” said Edelman. “In fact, when visitors interact with the banners, we see a 48% increase in revenue-per-click and a 14% increase in conversion rates. The banners also have a real impact on lowering bounce rate from the site’s landing pages.”

Read more about their success in our Wine Enthusiast case study.

SLI Customer Lakeshore Learning Recognized by eTail West for Search Excellence’

Lakeshore Learning, supplier of school supplies for preschools and elementary classrooms, was named a 2015 finalist in eTail West’s Best-in-Class Awards for ‘Search’ innovation and excellence. By implementing a rich set of features and refinements by SLI, Lakeshore Learning has been able to improve its site’s customer experience and offer personalized products relevant to shoppers.

As discussed in our Lakeshore Learning case study, the company used SLI Learning Search™ and SLI Site Champion™ to make even more of its content easy to find.

“Multi-faceted search allows customers to quickly narrow down hundreds of products and still maintain a clean and robust search experience,” said Sam Sarullo, VP of E-commerce at Lakeshore Learning. “Personalizing the site to draw people into areas most helpful for them has been a big improvement. Since implementing Learning Search™ we have seen double-digit online revenue growth, while average order values went up 30 percent and conversion rates rose nearly 19 percent.”

Site Champion™ dynamically creates SEO landing pages based on actual user searches that are indexed by Google and other Internet search engines. Lakeshore Learning has seen a return of $127 for every $1 spent on SLI Site Champion.

To learn more about how SLI provides award-winning results for customers like Harry & David and Sports Authority, check out more of our case studies and video testimonials.

Top 30 E-commerce Countries Include 7 in Americas

Friday, April 10th, 2015

It’s big news that the U.S. leapfrogged to the number one spot in the A.T. Kearney 2015 Global E-commerce Index this week. But don’t miss the fact that the Americas as a whole took seven of the top 30 spots with Mexico making the list for the first time.

The Global E-commerce Index ranks the top 30 countries for market opportunity in online retail. Rankings are based on nine variables including macroeconomic factors, consumer adoption of technology and shopping behavior.

According to the A.T. Kearney report, global online sales from mobile and desktop will reach $995 billion this year and $1.1 trillion next year. That’s good news for all retailers in the e-commerce space. But some significant opportunities are being uncovered in the Americas.

Making the list from the Americas:

Country Ranking
United States 1
Canada 11
Mexico 17
Chile 19
Brazil 21
Venezuela 24
Argentina 29

 

An improved economy and continued growth helped the U.S. go from third to first and trump China as the global e-commerce leader. E-commerce sales worldwide rose to $840 billion in 2014 with the U.S. accounting for more than a fourth of that number at $238 billion.

Mexico, which has never been ranked before, debuted at spot 17 on the Global E-commerce Index. The A.T. Kearney report credits a young and connected population for Mexico’s much-higher-than-average 32% year-over-year growth in online sales. Mexico’s total online sales hit $6.6 billion in 2014. And the news continues to get better with similar growth expected over the next five years.

Even though Brazil slipped to 21st place on the index, the country grew about 18% year-over-year and e-commerce sales were a strong $13 billion in 2014. “Online retailers still find Brazil to be a growing e-commerce market that is impossible to ignore,” the A.T. Kearney report states.

The Nielson Global Survey of E-commerce, released in August 2014, also put a spotlight on Latin America, noting that the emerging region has the highest online browsing rates.

“Latin Americans are enthusiastic online shoppers, but the online retail infrastructure has not yet caught up with offering conversion opportunities,” said John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives for Nielson.

Latin American shoppers are most often browsing online for electronic equipment, mobile phones, clothes, cars and motorcycles, and tour and hotel reservations, according the Nielson report. The highest buying category in Latin America is airline tickets and reservations, which historically is a starting point as consumers gain confidence in the online shopping experience.

Worldwide, e-commerce grew more than 20 percent in 2014, according to the A.T. Kearney report. But online sales overall remain less than 10 percent of total retail sales—so no matter what corner of the globe you’re in, your e-commerce market has room to grow.

At Inaugural SLI Connect AU, Retailers Discover How to Stay Competitive

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

SLI Connect AU photoOur inaugural SLI Connect AU is a wrap! I would like to thank all of our engaging speakers and thoughtful attendees for making our first SLI Connect in Australia a great success. Speakers included SLI customers Bras N Things and Appliances Online along with industry leaders from Testivate, ChannelAdvisor, SKUVantage, Harris Farm and ShopBot. We brought together Australia’s leading online retailers to discuss and learn about the top e-commerce challenges and opportunities for the coming year, and we came away with some powerful insights.

The Aussie E-Commerce Boom

According to SLI Connect speaker Mark Gray, managing director at ChannelAdvisor, the Australian e-commerce market is growing at a breakneck rate. Mark said: “Australians spent $16.4 billon on online retail in 2014! This level is equivalent to 6.8% of spending at traditional brick and mortar retailers” (source: NAB Feb, 2015).

Moreover, Testivate Founder and Principal Analyst Steven Noble, who also presented his findings at SLI Connect, reported that Australian retailers are adopting global e-commerce best practices and meeting U.S. and EU competition head on.

Aussie Retailers’ Biggest Worry

Even with business booming, we learned via an SLI survey at the show that half of these leading Australian retail brands worried about losing business to international competitors in the past year. SLI Systems Regional VP Mark Brixton said: “The results show local retailers are concerned by the increased willingness of Australian shoppers to interact with international retailers.”

In response to this pressure, the vast majority of Aussie retailers have taken action to ensure they remain relevant in a increasingly competitive market by implementing advanced e-commerce solutions, including sophisticated site search (80%) and mobile and tablet optimization (67%).

SLI customer and presenter Duncan Brett, general manager of e-commerce at Bras N Things, shared how learning-based site search, navigation and recommendations solutions from SLI are helping Bras N Things tailor product searches for customers and increase sales from top search terms over time.

The Omnichannel Future

Similar to our experience at SLI Connect UK, retailers discussed moving toward omnichannel retailing as fast as possible. Neil Thomas, general manager at ShopBot, wisely suggested in his presentation that “it is time to think about dropping the ‘e’ from ‘e-commerce platform’ and calling it what it is really becoming – a commerce platform.”

Duncan of Bras N Things further emphasized that the brick and mortar store and e-commerce store should be “a joint force and not another source of competition.”

As the buying journey becomes more complex, so too does the competition. It’s inspiring to see so many retailers in Australia and across the globe using learning site search as a competitive advantage to drive conversion rates and sales worldwide.

The next SLI Connect event is planned for September 24, 2015 in New York City! Save the date and stay tuned – registration will open soon.

For SEO, Check Off Mobile-Optimized Site Search (By Apr 21!)

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Now that more than half of all time spent shopping online is done via mobile devices, mobile commerce is growing three times faster than overall e-commerce. In its “Spotlight on Modern Retail 2015,” NRF found that during the first three quarters of 2014, retailers reported their mobile sales grew a whopping 87 percent!

To meet these quickly changing usage patterns, Google is again adapting its algorithms to help users discover more mobile-friendly content. On April 21, Google will expand its mobile-friendliness ranking signal to make it even easier for users to find ‘mobile-friendly’ websites in search results.

outline-stepsAccording to Google, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” And if anyone wants to test mobile web pages, Google provides a handy tool: The Mobile Friendly Test.

Mobile-Optimized Site Search Boosts SEO

Heavily contributing to the ‘mobile-friendly’ signal will be whether or not visitors, after landing on a mobile page, can complete the tasks they wanted to accomplish by solely using the mobile site.

For instance, when visitors using tablets search for new running shoes on Sports Authority, the company’s mobile-friendly site helps them easily find and buy the shoes they want, which in turn will help Sports Authority fare better in Google rankings after the April 21 algorithm change.

Mobile site search is a vital part of delivering a satisfying shopping experience to mobile users as it helps visitors quickly and easily engage with the site. Given mobile’s space and speed challenges, the search box is the best gateway to finding products and content on mobile sites. That in turn has a big impact on engagement metrics such as conversion rate, bounce rate, average time on site, average pages requested per session and more, which has a direct domain-wide impact on its ‘mobile-friendly’ signal and mobile search ranking.

For a complete guide to providing mobile shoppers with a great user experience, download the new white paper Site Search and the Mobile User Experience.

Mobile 101 – New Webinar!

Join us on Tuesday, March 24 at 10:00 a.m. PDT for a new SLI Webinar, Mobile 101 – Best Practices, to learn more about how to convert mobile shoppers with an engaging mobile user experience (and in turn, boost your mobile search ranking!). Registration is open until 8 a.m. PDT on March 24, plus an on-demand version of the webinar will be available soon.

At SLI Connect, Retailers Imagine an Omnichannel Future

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

SLI Connect is sparking exciting e-commerce discussions on both sides of the globe this month.

shaun SLI connectEarlier in March, we had our most successful SLI Connect UK yet. With an unprecedented 200 attendees from 150+ leading retailers such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Tesco, Jigsaw London, Warehouse, Chemist Direct and Paul Smith, we could not have asked for a better or more expert turnout. I want to thank all who attended and presented for your invaluable participation at the show.

At the end of the month, we will hold our next SLI Connect in Australia – SLI Connect AU.

Through discussions with customers and colleagues at SLI Connect UK, it was clear that the future of e-commerce is flush with opportunity. We’ve all heard the buzzword ‘omnichannel,’ but the reality comes down to this: true ‘omnichannel’ means the channel becomes totally invisible to the customer. To make the omnichannel experience seamless and successful, the retailer must subtly meet shoppers at all points in their user journeys in a personalized manner. Here are two real-world examples I was fortunate to learn about at SLI Connect.

Fashion Retailers Move Toward Omnichannel

Top clothing retailer Jigsaw is positively moving toward omnichannel retailing. Jigsaw’s Head of E-commerce Kate Holt presented at SLI Connect, where she revealed that Jigsaw was experiencing a massive rise in smartphone traffic. She informed us that 55% of traffic and 44% of sales came from mobile devices! Jigsaw uses SLI Mobile to ensure its mobile shoppers are quickly finding the items they want to buy. Kate reported that the results to date have been staggering, with revenue up 47% and conversion rate up 30%.

Leading clothing retailer Warehouse is also working toward omnichannel retailing by executing a robust personalization strategy, according to SLI Connect presenter and Warehouse Digital Trading Manager Liam Price. Through Warehouse’s popular blog ‘Tales of the City’; various payment, delivery and returns options; product recommendations (via SLI Learning Recommendations); and advanced site search (via SLI Learning Search), the retailer’s e-commerce site is experiencing a 7% increase in visitors and 3.4% increase in conversions.

In fact, a test run by Warehouse found that when SLI Learning Recommendations were removed from the product page, total revenue fell by 2%!

Multichannel, Omnichannel – It’s Just Retail!

E-commerce industry analyst Linda Bustos says it best, “Whether you refer to it as multichannel or omnichannel, the ways in which your consumers are researching, purchasing, and interacting have evolved, effectively backing most brands into a largely-reactive corner…organizations must realign with experience-driven systems to build relationships with, and sell to, the modern consumer.”

The two savvy retailers mentioned above are personalizing the e-commerce experience, making the ‘channel’ virtually unseen, to meet the needs of their modern shoppers and drive e-commerce sales. SLI Connect attendee Jon Woodall from Space48 summed it up nicely: “Forget omnichannel, it’s retail!”

SLI Connect Australia – Less than Two Weeks Away!

There’s still time to register for SLI Connect Australia, which is coming to Sydney on 31 March 2015 at the Quay West. More retailers and e-commerce professionals will gather there to discuss and explore the future of e-commerce, with speakers from ChannelAdvisor, Shopbot, Bras N Things, Appliances Online and more. We hope you can be part of this powerful event!

Five Site Features that “Speed Shoppers” Love

Monday, March 9th, 2015

50+ years ago, futurists predicted that advances in technology would provide a life of ease. Instead, we use today’s technology to do more, faster – even with shopping. As an increasing number of online shoppers want to find, buy and get on with life as quickly as possible, here are five must-have features for e-commerce sites that want to meet the needs of these “speed shoppers.”

1. Learning-based Site Search

Speed shoppers are likely to go straight to the search box and expect relevant results within the first few items displayed. To deliver such on-target results, a site search provider needs to offer technology that learns from multiple aspects of user activity and continually re-ranks items that are most relevant. The smarter the technology, the better the accuracy and speed for shoppers.

2. Autocomplete with Graphics

aero finalA critical feature for speed in site search is the ability to auto-populate product results and images from the first letter a searcher types, as offered by SLI Rich Auto CompleteTM. If I want to quickly find polo shirts and I start typing “polo,” I appreciate a retailer who shows me “polo” shirts after just typing “po.”

In this example, the retailer also uses SLI Learning SearchTM technology, which intelligently infers that by typing “po” I was most likely looking for a polo shirt and not a “pocket tee” or “popover hoodie.” Smart – and fast.

3. Social Content and Reviews Integrated Into Search

Keep in mind that not all speed shoppers know exactly what they want when they search. A last-minute gift-buyer, for instance, may search for “makeup set” at e.l.f. cosmetics, but before clicking “buy” the giver wants to make sure it’s a quality product. Since e.l.f. incorporates a special “As Seen In” feature into its search, the gift shopper can see that this item has been featured in magazines like O and Woman’s Day. And if that doesn’t instill enough confidence to click “buy,” the shopper can see that it’s a 4-star product with more than 61 reviews. This quick-reference information, placed on the product page, can make a speed shopper giddy about the efficiency of it all.

4. Easy Payment Options

Online shoppers are quickly getting fed up with multiple-step checkouts that require them to provide personal and financial information. As more consumers experience the convenience of PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet or similar payment options, paying with credit cards could soon become a relic. Be sure you offer the payment experience your customers prefer, or they’ll find other sites that do.

5. Optimized Mobile Experience

Speed and ease are especially critical for mobile shoppers. The smaller the screen size, the smaller the amount of patience a customer has before giving up. As John Tomich stated in a recent article for Multichannel Merchant, “A successful mobile interaction with your customer is one in which everything is obvious, easy and fast.” He cites that shoppers overwhelmingly prefer social logins for ease of use. Express checkout and easy payment options are as critical here as with any shopping site. Other critical features are those that will improve findability, like learning-based search and navigation.

The investment in meeting the needs of speed shoppers will undoubtedly pay off. Speed shoppers are usually searchers, which are 2-3x more likely to convert than non-searchers. And when you meet speed shoppers’ needs for efficiency, they’ll quickly become some of your most loyal repeat customers.

Site Search Isn’t Sexy, It Scores Sales

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

There’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.