Archive for the ‘Site Search’ Category

Amazon & You: How to Win

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Last week SLI Systems sponsored the Internet Retailer webinar Amazon & You: Top New Competitive Strategies for 2016. eShopportunity founder Fahim Naim and Medelita CMO Dan Stephchew took a look at what is emerging as the best ways for online retailers to compete with Amazon.

The webinar was jam-packed with examples from the recent 2015 holiday shopping season (including how to gracefully opt out of Black Friday without killing your sales).

While Amazon is undeniably a Goliath, you can beat the e-commerce giant by turning its weaknesses into your strengths. Here are a few key takeaways:

Help shoppers find what they are looking for. Amazon isn’t the easiest place to shop. It can feel like you are wandering through a huge warehouse without a soul in sight to help you. You have little choice but to base your purchasing decisions on price and reviews.

Fahim advises, “Do a better job of helping customers engage and find relative products.”

An effective way of providing a more satisfying shopping experience is by delivering relevant site search results. Engage customers further by offering a product or gift finder, which suggests a collection of products based on a series of questions. This level of personalization is impossible to deliver via the Amazon interface and it allows you to build brand loyalty.

Treat shoppers differently. Amazon is one-size-fits-all. There is no room to massage your message for different audiences. As a result, you miss the opportunity to create tailored offers for different shoppers, like first-time buyers and loyal customers. You can outshine Amazon in this area by leveraging your email marketing with content and offers designed to reach specific shoppers.

Own long-tail search terms. It’s OK if Amazon wins broad keyword searches. Shoppers who find your site via long-tail search terms are more likely to find exactly what it is they want to buy. You can build landing pages specific to these keywords. (To learn more about this, check out the webinar Advanced Data Mining.)

For more competitive strategies, watch the Internet Retailer webinar. To see how SLI Systems can help you implement these strategies, join us for our next live demo on March 8.

EASY – A Deciding Factor for E-commerce Technology

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Easy to use technology for E-commerceEasy is a critical feature for today’s technology solutions – easy-to-implement, easy-to-use, easy-to-measure and easy-to-update. Of course solutions need to be effective and results are the number one point of comparison. But if you’re in the position of choosing technology and you’ve narrowed your options to those with proven results, you’re likely to choose the one that will make it easier for you or your team to achieve the results you want.

After all, there’s only so much you alone can do – you need technology that expands your abilities, rather than giving you one more thing that requires your expertise.

This is how Michael Schuler of the Minneapolis-based Schuler Shoes felt about the company’s website. A year ago, he was the only one who could customize merchandising banners and SEO since it required going into the code to make modifications. He knew this process wasn’t sustainable as the business expanded its product catalog. He needed a merchandising solution that was straightforward enough for anyone on his team to use – he needed it to be easy for his employees to edit promotions and optimize SEO.

Michael Schuler also needed a site search and navigation solution that would provide a consistent product-finding experience for shoppers. He wanted to make it easy for shoppers to find and buy what they were looking for.

At the same time, Schuler was moving the business to a new e-commerce platform and he needed a hosted site search and navigation provider that would easily integrate with the latest version of Magento.

Of course Schuler wanted the solution to work well – choosing a vendor with a solid history, reliable infrastructure and clear, proven results was a given. But easy was a key theme in his search for the right vendor. In the end, he chose SLI Systems as the best fit to achieve his goals. As stated in a case study on Schuler Shoes:

“We chose SLI because it fits well with Magento and offers the features we needed. SLI Learning Search Connect easily plugged into our Magento platform, quickly improving the shopping experience and simplifying merchandising and promotions,” said Schuler.

In fact, yesterday SLI Systems announced it’s the first and only Magento Gold Partner to offer a site search extension for Magento 2.0. Our commitment to “easy” meant that we wanted to have our plugin for Magento 2.0 ready as soon as our customers needed it.

Schuler also achieved his goals of making it easier for his team to manage merchandising and SEO, along with making it easier for shoppers to find the products they wanted.

“With SLI site search, navigation and refinements, we have seen 20% fewer bounces and a 7.5% increase in the time visitors spend on the site, indicating the solutions are helping customers in the ‘pre-shop’ phase before they buy from us in-store or online,” Schuler said.

If you’re in the position of choosing a new technology vendor, look for easy – easy-to-implement, easy-to-use, easy-to-measure and easy-to-update. Add easy-to-show results to this list (as we’ve done with our latest SLI Dashboard), and you’ll be set. Michael Schuler found a solution that was all this, plus provided better results than his previous solution. For him, it was an easy choice.

Dressbarn Wins Award for Customer Engagement Success Using SLI

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

rtp cust engageThis year, industry-leading retail magazine Retail TouchPoints recognized 18 innovative retailers with a 2015 Customer Engagement Award. According to Retail TouchPoints, each winner has gone the extra mile to delight, surprise and satisfy shoppers. SLI is honored to be recognized with Dressbarn, the Silver Winner in the E-Commerce Innovation category.

“Customer engagement has become a key focus for retailers striving for success in today’s omnichannel world,” said Retail TouchPoints Editor-in-Chief Debbie Hauss. “The award winners are ahead of the curve and are achieving business success in this increasingly competitive marketplace.”

Among the winners this year, Dressbarn joins retail giants AT&T, Barneys New York, Kate Spade, Kohl’s, Payless ShoeSource and Pep Boys.

Dressbarn Uses SLI Learning Search to Create Great Omnichannel Customer Experiences

A major priority for Dressbarn is to always provide a great customer experience, regardless of the channel. One way the retailer continues its mission is to use SLI Learning Search® (and search data) to offer its customers a unified, seamless experience, making it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for across all channels.


Dressbarn pays close attention to online trends, monitoring site search activity and on-page analytics, to optimize landing pages, PPC ads, email campaigns, site search and more. For instance, this past summer, Dressbarn saw a spike in search volume and conversion on the keyword Camryn dress. Dressbarn used its top-performing keywords report to identify the Camryn dress as a product to feature across channels to take advantage of its recent popularity.

Dressbarn quickly created a landing page using SLI Landing Page Creator™ just for the Camryn dress and then promoted it via the home page, email campaign and PPC ads. With search data in hand, Dressbarn also was able to fine-tune the page’s meta tags for better SEO. Conversion rates and sales soon skyrocketed.


Dressbarn also provides its customers with a mobile-friendly experience. To adapt to the physical limitations of the mobile user experience, the retailer implemented SLI Mobile’s prominent search bar (vs. tiny magnifying glass) and easy-to-select refinements on search and navigation pages (e.g. color, size), speeding the shoppers’ path to purchase. The retailer also resizes all images into thumbnails, increasing the page load speed and customer engagement.

On its mobile site, Dressbarn has seen noteworthy results engaging customers and increasing conversion with SLI Rich Auto Complete™. Rich Auto Complete™ delivers a search experience with fast, visual and dynamic results. Shoppers are able to type less and buy more. With Rich Auto Complete, the time it took a shopper to find a product and complete a purchase decreased significantly, and mobile site search usage increased by 25 percent.


At Dressbarn brick-and-mortar stores, the retailer offers associates and shoppers an endless inventory of products and information via iPads on display. If a product isn’t on the rack at the time, customers are able to use site search to look up the product, review the product description and get a clear idea of how it would look. This was a unique opportunity to use Dressbarn’s digital properties to make its stores more effective and its customers more informed and engaged.

For Dressbarn, it’s not all about making the sale right at that instant, but about building a seamless and delightful omnichannel experience that creates loyal customers who love Dressbarn and want to have a life-long relationship with the retailer.

Congratulations again to Dressbarn for a well-deserved win.

To learn more about Dressbarn’s winning merchandising strategies, view recent SLI webinar with Dressbarn E-Commerce Marketing Manager Sri PV: Merchandising Matters.

Are Gender Filters Necessary to Search for Toys?

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

genter based search filtersIt was an interesting move when Toys R Us removed the gender filters from its UK website. There has been pressure for toy retailers to do this to stop reinforcing gender stereotypes and Toys R Us obviously decided that this is best for their company. It’s interesting because it is potentially damaging the user experience, making it harder for customers to find the toy that they want.

In my opinion this won’t be the case. I really don’t think that people need a gender facet when searching for toys. The blogger that wrote this article agrees: “My Son Likes Barbie. That Doesn’t Make Him a Girl.” On the other hand, I suspect it will have little impact on changing the behavior of toy buyers.

In fact, this change may actually improve the user experience. It really has nothing to do with gender-based stereotypes but instead with user design. If the gender filter is indeed not necessary for finding the toys you want, then removing it will simplify the search and navigation pages, meaning the user can spend slightly more of their cognitive load on making a purchased decision, rather than on assessing which, if any of the filters they should select.

Assuming Toys R Us has personalized recommendations, it will be interesting to see if the machine learning algorithms behind these will reinforce the gender stereotypes. I suspect, to the disappointment of the pressure groups and Toys R Us, this will be the case.

Black Friday’s 2015 E-commerce Shift

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

As the biggest shopping week of the holiday season draws to an end, the numbers are in. Exceeding analyst forecasts across the board, e-commerce sales soared, increasing 15%-16% due to sharp spikes on both Black Friday – traditionally a brick-and-mortar event – and Cyber Monday. In fact, Cyber Monday 2015 set a record as the biggest online sales day EVER, bringing in $3.07 billion!

Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping Peaks 2015Curious to see how search query volume stacked up this year, SLI analyzed more than 340 million queries across 500+ North American online stores. We are thankful to report that people were still mostly focused on family and food this Thanksgiving, as this Turkey Day (and the following Saturday) brought in the least amount of online activity during the 2015 Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday holiday timeframe. Family time FTW!

Of course all bets are off once folks wake up on Black Friday. Aligned with the day’s online sales surge, SLI data showed that Black Friday is spilling into the e-commerce world in a big way! While Cyber Monday still experienced the most online activity – nearly double that of Thanksgiving – SLI found Cyber Monday only brought in 11% more activity than new online heavy-hitter Black Friday.

According to the NRF, nearly 102 million people say they shopped in stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, BUT more than 103 million say they shopped online during this two-day stretch. Internet Retailer reported that “e-commerce accounted for $822 million spent in the first 11 hours of Black Friday, and discounts were mounting as online retailers jockeyed for position.” Ultimately, shoppers spent a whopping $2.72 billion online during Black Friday (14% more than in 2014).

In addition, much like our 2014 holiday study, night owls are consistently e-retailers’ most active shoppers. The peak online shopping hour was Cyber Monday at 10:00 p.m. EST. On Thanksgiving Day, the peak shopping hour was also 10:00 p.m. EST. Year-over-year, the exception has been Black Friday with a peak shopping hour of 12:00 Noon EST.

For e-commerce retailers, being ready for these shifting trends in peak days and hours is crucial to ensure they can reach their buyers and avoid site stress. This year Neiman Marcus, Target, and PayPal suffered extended outages that negatively impacted both sales and customer loyalty. Based on this year’s performance, we expect Black Friday to be neck-and-neck with Cyber Monday in 2016. Make sure your site is ready for this surge, and don’t forget to time-critical promotions for all those late-night shoppers out there.

For a 30-minute course on how better site search can keep your shoppers happy (and spending) through the rest of the holiday season and beyond, see our latest video presentation, Best Practices for E-commerce Site Search.

A Surge in Query Volume is Coming

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

black-friday-rushThis morning (when I was supposed to be sleeping, but wasn’t because of jet lag), Flipboard popped up an article about Google’s scale that mentioned Google serves 1.2 trillion searches per year. That’s a lot! In the last year, SLI served over 15 billion searches across our more than 1,000 customer sites, which is about an 80th of what Google reportedly served. Given these numbers, I’m sure that across the web the number of searches within websites is higher than the number of searches on Google, Bing and the other web search engines.

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, SLI expects to serve more searches in the next seven days than any other week of the year. Thanksgiving is very much an American holiday, but the retail events surrounding it have become an international phenomenon. Retailers around the world take advantage of the opportunity to boost their holiday programs. Last year we saw large query volumes from our Brazilian retailer customers. UK retailers are jumping on the trend with £1.9 billion forecast to be sold in Black Friday sales.

The SLI team has been working to ensure we have plenty of capacity to meet the peak query volumes across the more than 1,000 sites that we power. In measuring search activity during Thanksgiving weekend last year, we found the highest day during this surge in shopping resulted in about 2.7x the normal number of queries. But the real peak is when the sales first open, the emails are sent and people rush to get the best deals. During a recent pre-Black Friday sale we saw the per-minute query volumes hit 200x their normal level.

Especially at this time of year, it’s vital that retailers’ infrastructure is ready to handle these peaks. SLI customers can rest assured: we are ready and waiting.

How Catalogs Can Succeed in an Omnichannel World

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

SLI Systems BlogRight after Halloween, the catalogs started arriving as usual for the time of year – Frontgate, Lego, Learning Express, Uncommon Goods, Crate & Barrel, Tinyprints and many, many more.

Each holiday shopping season, I find myself initially surprised at why retailers continue to send catalogs when more people are buying online instead. But then, as my kids start to flip through the catalogs to build their wish lists and I find myself earmarking pages over breakfast, I see why catalogs still work: Even though fewer people today will pick up the phone to make a catalog order, these colorful, glossy merchandising tools catch our attention in our homes, when we’re not intentionally thinking about shopping, and they drive us to the online or retail stores where we’ll make a purchase.

In this multi-channel (and increasingly omnichannel) world, there’s no reason for retailers to give up one form of merchandising that works, even if the actual purchase point for the customer changes. There are, however, many reasons to make sure that your different merchandising channels are working well together.

Here are a few tips for making sure that your catalogs are effective in driving shoppers toward a final purchase:

Know what actions you’re driving customers toward. Is your catalog a purchasing vehicle, an advertisement or both? Do you want people to have the option to place a phone order? If so, then the usual catalog best practices apply (a customer code on the back, a toll-free number on each page, clear color choices, item numbers, etc.). Or are you simply using your catalog to drive people to your online or brick-and-mortar store?

Each year I see more “catalogs” that promote products without providing a way to actually shop from the catalog. Learning Express doesn’t list item numbers or a toll-free number because they don’t offer shopping by phone; their catalog is simply a driver to their stores and web site.

Think about what will make shoppers buy from you versus a competitor. Special offers and promotions can make a big difference in whether your catalog encourages shoppers to go to your site or to a competitor’s site to complete a purchase, especially for products that are available through multiple vendors.

I have three learning-toy catalogs in a pile by my computer, each from a different retailer and each containing products that are available in at least one of the other catalogs. When I go to make my online purchases, I’m going to buy from the store that has advertised an offer I can’t refuse. If the offer is not compelling enough, I’ll just skip all three stores that sent me catalogs and buy the item from my favorite local-based online toy retailer.

Make sure shoppers can quickly find catalog items on your site. Once your catalog has done its job of making a shopper want an item that they carry, you’d better make sure that shopper can easily find the item in your online store. Don’t overlook the importance of having top-quality site search: if you don’t show the most relevant items first, whether the customer searches by item number, item name or a descriptive name, you’re not going to make the sale. Features like Rich Auto Complete™, faceted refinements and smart mobile navigation are now expected.

Remember that shoppers often go to their computers or tablets to finalize a purchase because of the speed and convenience of buying the item online rather than making a phone call. Other shoppers will use your catalog or web site to browse before walking into a store to try something on. But all shoppers need to easily find the products they’re looking for on their computers, phones and tablets. If you don’t make your products easy for them to find anytime and anywhere, then you’re not going to succeed in an omnichannel world.

Top Costumes for Halloween 2015: Ready to Feel The Force?

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Don’t be surprised if you have Princess Leia, Darth Vader or Yoda knocking at your door this Saturday, looking for treats. Star Wars mania is in full swing and is dominating the 2015 Halloween costume craze, as Hollywood blockbusters are again leading the costume trend this year.

SLI Systems Halloween DataData from SLI Systems found Star Wars is an unmatched force with nearly 37% greater interest than Minions – the next closest film. In fact, this Halloween season, consumers conducted twice as many costume searches for Star Wars characters than Frozen characters, which were the most-searched costumes in 2014. Anticipation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is clearly attracting new generations, adding to decades of loyal fan numbers.

The top 5 most-searched movie-themed costumes of 2015 were:

  1. Star Wars (combines searches for Leia, Darth Vader and other characters)
  2. Minions (includes searches for Despicable Me)
  3. Frozen (includes searches for Elsa, Olaf and other characters)
  4. Marvel Universe (includes Hulk, Thor, Ironman, Spiderman and other characters)
  5. Maleficent


As noted in a recent Multichannel Merchant article, SLI studied site search activity across e-commerce costume retailer websites based in the U.S., Canada and Australia, analysing a total of more than 10 million consumer searches taking place between Sept 1 and Oct 20, 2015.

The SLI data team compared the most popular site search terms across costume retailer websites using our Learning Search® service and found interest in current events as well. For instance, searches for ‘Trump’ increased significantly, with 33x more searches than the same timeframe in 2014. The data also revealed, the search term “Trump” was 38% more popular than “Ironman”!

Here are some of the additional findings from SLI’s 2015 Halloween Costume Site Search study:

  • The top three most popular non-movie searches in order were: witch, pirate and zombie
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-related searches remain popular but missed the Top Five movie-themed list, coming in 6thplace
  • Supergirl (and Superwoman) was 3.5x more popular than Trump and nearly 5x more popular than Ironman, the least popular Marvel super hero this season
  • Spiderman was the most popular Marvel super hero
  • Maleficent saw 3x the searches compared with (Princess) Leia

So if you haven’t already bought your Halloween costume for Saturday, there is still time. You can either buck the trend or join the legion of fans who will pay homage to the Star Wars franchise.

May the force be with you!

The Next Innovation in E-commerce: Enhanced Rich Auto Complete

Monday, October 5th, 2015

racThe world of e-commerce is constantly evolving. When site search was first introduced, the functionality was clumsy at best and completely frustrating at worst. Shoppers typed their entire search query before seeing if the site had what they were looking for. This involved a lot of guesswork and often led to no results or irrelevant results – even when the site had the product shoppers wanted.

In 2008, SLI Systems launched Auto Complete. As soon as users started typing their search query, a search box dropdown instantly displayed search suggestions. In 2011, we were the first site search provider to add images and product suggestions to this experience, which gave birth to SLI Rich Auto CompleteTM and allowed shoppers to find relevant products faster. Each improvement to our Auto Complete experience has increased conversions and customer engagement.

The E-commerce Evolution Continues

Today, we are excited to announce industry-leading enhancements to Rich Auto CompleteTM. Our new Rich Auto Complete experience has been designed from the ground up to speed the path to purchase and engage shoppers on any size device.

After considering a number of usability factors, best practices and client requests, we redesigned the entire experience to increase e-commerce sales, enhance product discovery and reduce the risk of returning “no results.”

RAC Blog ShotGreat for Shoppers

Our latest version of Rich Auto Complete provides better guidance to shoppers as soon as they engage with the search box. We added the ability to show search suggestions based on category, brand or department, which lets shoppers jump to the right section of results. For example, a search for jeans at a large department store might show options for jeans in Women, jeans in Men and jeans in Kids.

Our new dynamic content feature allows users to preview products of interest right within the Auto Complete box. We do this by updating products displayed when users hover over search suggestions, which gives them more choices and increases engagement.

In addition, the new Rich Auto Complete helps you capture more sales from your small-screen shoppers. We’ve created dedicated mobile and tablet designs that automatically display options correctly regardless of device size and orientation. As a result, shoppers can type less and buy more.

mobile_racPowerful for Retailers

Rich Auto Complete uses patented SLI Learning Search® technology to continuously re-rank product suggestions based on user activity. This allows you to showcase the most relevant products to your shoppers, and you can tune the results to control the order in which products appear.

SLI Systems has always customized the look and feel of our solutions to match your e-commerce site. Our new Rich Auto Complete now includes a variety of design options so that you can choose an experience that fits your brand and delights your shoppers.

Our SaaS platform allows your site to evolve alongside our e-commerce solutions. Existing Rich Auto Complete customers will enjoy these new features at no additional cost. New customers can look forward to combining the power of Learning Search® with industry-leading Rich Auto Complete to create a premium search experience

Learn more about accelerating your e-commerce by reading our Rich Auto Complete product brief.

For a Successful B2B Site, Take Advice from B2C

Monday, August 31st, 2015


The business-to-business industry is rarely considered glamorous. But don’t let its reputation fool you. Think of the almost-invisible wallflower who shows up to prom transformed and looking like a knockout. That’s B2B, and based on the numbers, it should stand for Big and Beautiful.

With more B2B buyers expecting to find what they need online, a growing number of B2B companies are embracing e-commerce. According to a survey by TradeGecko Pte. Ltd., 41% of wholesalers said e-commerce would be their top sales channel in 2015, up from 31% in 2014. In addition, 24% said they will sell online for the first time in 2015 (TradeGecko).

B2B Shoppers Have Higher Expectations

Shoppers have come to expect a customer-centric online experience, and B2B sites would be wise to step up their game. The addition of Amazon Business to the e-commerce scene only increases the pressure to act more like B2C. Why should shopping for work be any less efficient (and fun) than shopping for yourself? B2B buyers want a seamless online experience – even though the B2B path to purchase is usually more cumbersome.

The B2B buying process often requires in-depth research, approval from multiple stakeholders and possibly price negotiation. This combination of complexity and great expectations means your site has more chances to hit (or miss) the mark.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

Showcase Your Expertise

Nothing against your sales team, but your corporate web site is the first choice among executives for learning about business products and services, according to the 2015

Sullivan survey “Executive Buying Behavior.” Make sure potential buyers can easily find the information they desire, whether it’s demo videos, case studies, consumer guides or blogs. A superior site search experience will deliver product results and non-product content, so your visitors find everything they are looking for and more.

Go Anywhere, Be Everywhere

Work-life balance often means blurring the lines between both – and getting tasks done when you can. Research is no longer constrained to the dual-screen desktop at the office. Your customers might be traveling for business or couch surfing from the comfort of their home. Either way, go with them via their smartphone or tablet. As a bonus, the more mobile friendly you are, the higher you will rank in Google’s search page results.

Be Supportive

Set a gold standard for customer service. While today’s B2B shoppers want to independently scope out what you’ve got, they also want to know you’re there when they need you. Make it easy to place orders, track orders, make payments, get answers to frequently asked questions, find technical documentation and talk to a real person.

For more tips on creating an exceptional online shopping experience that will win loyal customers, take a look at this B2B Industry Brief from SLI Systems.