As an eCommerce professional, you’ve likely been preparing for the holiday shopping season for months – deciding which products to feature, planning orders and organizing marketing campaigns. Retailers predict an 11-20% rise in holiday spending for 2013, with eCommerce and mobile driving much of the growth (Retail TouchPoints, Aug. 12). While the opportunity is great, so is the challenge of making your products stand out. Here are some thoughts on how you can use search merchandising tactics to ensure your holiday campaigns are effective.

Get Insight from your Site Search Data

The first step in successful search merchandising is to look at your site search data for real-time insight into users’ behavior. Review the queries that shoppers type into your search box, along with your site analytics. Which searches are most popular? Do shoppers want a product you don’t have? Are they seeing “no results pages” because they search using different language than you use on your site? Do they move from your results pages to a purchase, or do they jump away from your site without buying?

If you gather such insights from your search data now, you’ll have time to make improvements well before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you don’t already have an advanced site search provider, engaging in such services now can give you the extra set of hands and tools you’ll need to be agile in response to holiday trends.

Use the Right Tools at the Right Time

The second step of a successful search merchandising plan is to know which tools can make the most impact, and how to use them. A couple of my favorite tools for holiday merchandising are landing pages and gift finders.

  • Landing Pages for Holiday Products: In most cases a relevant search results page is the best page to show your visitors when they type in a search term. However in some cases you want to have more control over their experience and a specialized landing page may be the right tool. For seasonal specials, simply create a web page with your top holiday merchandise and set the page to load when visitors type certain words like Holiday, Christmas or Hanukkah into the search box. Assign a dedicated URL to your holiday landing page, and then use it in holiday email campaigns and advertising. Not only does this promote your holiday specials, but it gives you a trackable link in your Google Analytics so you can gauge the success of the campaign.
  • Gift Finders: Gift Finders are another way to generate more sales revenue around the holidays. Set up refinements that allow someone to define a set of criteria for a gift – e.g. price, occasion, recipient type and gift type – then see a list of the products that match those criteria. Promote your gift finder on your home page or by using a landing page with a PPC link for email and ad campaigns. When done correctly, it can be a useful tool that increases users’ likelihood of buying from your site. Read more about gift finders in this blog from SLI Systems Co-Founder Geoff Brash.

Branding banners, ribbon overlays and integration of social media are other merchandising tools that can improve the odds of holiday shopper conversion. These and a dozen other tools are covered in the new white paper “Using Site Search Data to Improve Merchandising,” which is a free download from the SLI Systems website.

Lastly, be sure your site search provider offers proper merchandising controls for your site so you can quickly test and easily refine the presentation of promotional messages, products and content on your search and navigation pages. Such agility will help you compete for consumers’ spending money during the holidays and beyond.