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A commentary on the search industry from a site search vendor's perspective.
Updated: 53 min 8 sec ago

Do More Selling Within Search: Start Merchandising

April 3, 2014 - 18:58

When I’m shopping for clothes, beautiful, colorful displays tend to catch my attention, as do big “sale” signs. But if I’m shopping for something less personal, like housewares or gardening items, I need signage that makes it clear where I need to go to find what I want. But that’s just me. Other consumers have different preferences – which makes it challenging for merchandisers to figure out how best to compel shoppers to make a purchase.

E-commerce marketers face similar challenges, as they have to understand how best to highlight promotions – on what pages, in what format and with what messages. Search results pages are a prime location for online merchandising, as we explain in the latest edition of the Big Book of Site Search Tips for 2014, available for free download. Once visitors have conducted a search on your site, they’re in the mood to make a purchase, provided they find what they’re seeking and you make it easy to browse through product options. For more effective merchandising, consider bringing these ideas into search:

Override search results (sparingly): While too many overrides can negatively impact the relevancy of search results, it can make sense to do an override when you want to place relevant promotional items at the top of the list – like sales or seasonal items. Online shoppers pay the most attention to the first several results above the fold, after which there’s a steep drop-off in engagement. Take advantage of where their attention is focused. Of course, the products that you push to the top of search results still need to be highly relevant to the search term.

Avoid presenting unrelated cross-sell or up-sell products: Shoppers will distrust search results if they are wildly off-base from their search terms. From their point of view, they’ve used the search box to tell you exactly what they want, and it’s your job to supply it. If you want to promote products that aren’t truly connected to searches, you should do so on other pages such as cart or checkout pages.

Show related searches on content pages: Even if visitors don’t find what they’re looking for within the first several results for their search, they may be encouraged to keep on looking if you offer related searches on content or product detail pages – or they may decide to start a new search. It’s best to create related searches based on keywords or phrases other visitors have used in the past when searching for the same items. Since they’re based on the language of your visitors, they’re a great way to promote related content or products and may also provide SEO benefits.

Create banners related to specific keywords: Keyword-driven banners on search results pages send your visitors the message that they’re seeing the right results for the right products. A banner can also highlight a promotion that’s related to the search, which can either move along the decision to make a purchase (like an extra discount or free-shipping deal), or propel the visitor into related searching (like a banner about products from the same brand).

For more ideas about selling through search, download the 2014 edition of the Big Book of Site Search Tips today.

Boden, LED Hut and SwimShop Talk ROI at Internet Retailing Expo

March 27, 2014 - 09:15

This week at the Internet Retailing Expo in Birmingham, England, thousands of e-commerce retailers are attending presentations, browsing the exhibit hall and taking part in workshops to connect with peers and gain insight into how they can improve their business in a multichannel ecosystem. Among the 60 retail speakers at the event are several SLI customers.

In a presentation on the topic of connecting shoppers to the products they’re most likely to buy, Keith Scott of LED Hut and Mark Sear of SwimShop spoke to an over-filled room about the results they’ve seen using SLI Learning Search technology and other SLI e-commerce acceleration solutions. LED Hut is the UK’s largest retailer of LED lighting products, while SwimShop is the Swim Specialist for Sports Direct, the UK’s largest sports retailer.


Here are a few comments from their presentations:

  • “SLI is giving us an estimated 400% to 500% ROI.” – Mark Sear, SwimShop
  • “My recommendation: I would implement SLI.” – Mark Sear, SwimShop
  • “Keyword suggestions with images and descriptions help our customers find what they’re searching for.” – Keith Scott, LED Hut
  • “The technology learns from visitor behavior to deliver the most relevant products.” – Keith Scott, LED Hut
  • “We use SLI search to examine the customer journey and improve the user experience.” – Keith Scott, LED Hut

In a separate presentation, Boden E-commerce Manager Paul Knutton presented a session on best practices for offering your e-commerce site across multiple countries and languages. Also speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, Knutton provided examples and metrics on how SLI Systems has helped with Boden’s international reach. His comments included:

  • “What SLI does particularly well is make sense of non-English languages.”
  • “Our search users convert at 1.77x the rate of non-search users and spend 2x more than what non-search users spend.”

To read more about how Boden, LED Hut and other leading companies around the globe use SLI to increase their profitability, take a look at our case studies.

If you’re at IRX today, stop by to see us on the show floor or in the Top 500 Lounge. Otherwise, keep an eye on our Events page to see where SLI will be in the coming months.

Kidrobot Makes More MUNNY with Social Content in its Search

March 18, 2014 - 16:54

Kidrobot is one of those brands that people love to Like – it’s common for a single Kidrobot post to receive more than 1,000 Likes on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. As the retailer’s popularity has expanded for its mustache-sporting Labbits, paint-it-yourself MUNNYs and other popular art toys, so has the company’s need to connect its online shoppers with its wealth of social media and blog content.

Such rich non-product content can be the catalyst that transforms a browser to a buyer – or drives up order values.

Case in point: While researching Kidrobot for this blog, I searched the company’s site for Yummy brand toys and enjoyed looking at Yummy’s plush pizza, hot chocolate and ice cream sandwich… but it wasn’t until I clicked on the Instagram tab and saw the adorable photos of these stuffed toys that I experienced the overwhelming need to own more than one Yummy plush of my own (#truth – I now own nine).

Six months ago, Kidrobot did not yet have this valuable social media content available on the site’s product pages. A fan searching Kidrobot for Marvel MUNNY toys would not have learned from the search results that Kidrobot also has Marvel Labbits, or that Marvel Labbit artist Frank Kozik would be signing products at certain Kidrobot store locations. In fact, six months ago it was challenging for shoppers even to find the products they wanted on

“We give our products unique names, and it used to be that if you didn’t get the spelling correct for an on-site search, you wouldn’t find the product you were looking for,” Kelsey Vendetti, Kidrobot e-commerce & digital marketing manager, said in a case study and press release published today. “Visitors would search for something as simple as a t-shirt and get one result when in fact we offer over 20 t-shirt styles.”

To resolve these challenges and others, Kidrobot turned to SLI Systems. We made their products easily findable with technology that produces the most relevant search results, and we brought in the social, blog and video content that could help shoppers decide to buy. We also increased their site traffic through our Site Champion SEO solution.

The results tell the rest of the story: a 13% increase in orders, a 4x increase in conversions for visitors using the search box and a very happy customer.

“From the capabilities of their technology to the helpfulness of their support, the whole package of working with SLI is a huge improvement from what we had before,” Vendetti said.

Take a closer look at this and other SLI customer success stories by browsing our case studies.

Do Your Search Results Pages Drive Customers to Buy or Bounce?

March 13, 2014 - 18:08

Search results pages are usually the place where online shoppers convert or leave. If your search really works and shows visitors the products they’re looking for, you’ll strengthen loyalty from those shoppers – or, if your search delivers a jumble of results that have nothing to do with the search terms used, it’s likely that shoppers will make a quick exit.

Search results pages need a little TLC so they can do the best possible job of showing off as many relevant products as possible, while allowing customers to adjust their view of results according to how they want to browse and shop. Here are a few tips to make sure your search results pages lead shoppers to buy, rather than bounce.

Create a consistent look and feel: Search results pages should not look dramatically different from the rest of your online storefront. It’s important to reinforce your brand in every element of your site, especially on the pages where visitors are making a purchase decision. Your results pages should mirror the look and feel of your overall website, brick-and-mortar stores and social channels. When all of these elements are properly coordinated, they create a positive brand experience.

Keep the search term in the search box: It is good practice to leave search terms in the search box, even when visitors are already viewing results. They may realize that they should add more descriptive words to their search terms or correct spelling errors. Some might want a reminder of what they just searched for. Whatever the reason, it’s helpful and saves time if visitors don’t have to retype their search terms.

Show a breadcrumb trail: A breadcrumb trail displays the search term and any refinements that the visitor applied to search results. It helps visitors understand where they are and how they arrived at the current page. It also makes it easy to remove search refinements and go back to a wider range of results. Breadcrumbs take up very little space on the webpage, but they can go a long way toward helping visitors navigate through search results.

There’s much more you can do to make search pages easy for visitors to browse, including allowing visitors to select the number of results they want to see on a page, or adding infinite scrolling so that visitors never have to click on a new page to see more results. For these tips and over a hundred more, download a free copy of the 2014 edition of the Big Book of Site Search Tips.

Amazon, You Don’t Know Me

March 11, 2014 - 16:00

I’m an avid online shopper. It’s convenient and simple, and best of all, I don’t have to deal with annoying store clerks. These are attributes that are absolutely necessary in my ideal shopping experience. is one of my shopping destinations of choice because of its wide selection of products. It’s like Walmart with a cooler name and actual customer service. The online juggernaut also gets into my head via typical big data fashion — it always tries to guess what I want. The keyword in that last statement, however,  is “tries.”

Amazon thinks it has me figured out as a shopper. The retail giant knows that if I click through to an item on a search query — an item like “Legend of Zelda” — even if I don’t ‘add to cart,’ I have shown interest in said item. Ideally for Amazon, the next time I visit, I would see, click, and buy one of these ‘recommended’ items related to “Legend of Zelda” that are scattered throughout my view as I browse the site. Although Amazon’s concept is spot on, it’s not quite right in execution.

I searched for “The Legend of Zelda,” and as we all know, “Zelda” and all its associated products are exclusively Nintendo products. Therefore, if I’m performing search queries for anything “Zelda” or “Mario” or “Metroid”-related, you’d think that Amazon would recommend Nintendo-specific products to me.

This isn’t the case with Amazon’s recommendations. On my Amazon homepage, I have an entire “recommended” section devoted to — you guessed it — Sony and PlayStation accessories and games. Not only is this a waste of valuable real estate, it’s a missed opportunity. If Amazon’s recommendation algorithms were effective, they would surmise my interest in Nintendo and show Nintendo accessories and games in my feed. PlayStation 3 games are absolutely no interest to me as a Wii U owner.

Now I was curious; would Amazon’s algorithms make similar incorrect assumptions outside the realm of the video game console wars? The conclusion was what I expected. I performed search queries for iPhone and Apple products, clearly showing Amazon that I have an interest in iPhones and Apple products. But, back on my homepage, I get a section dedicated exclusively to LG and Samsung phones. I have literally asked Amazon in all its infinite wisdom to show and bring me directly to iPhones, and the retailer shows me something it should know I don’t want. It’s no different than asking a sales associate where the iPhones are and that associate trying to up-sell LG and Samsung accessories — it does not make sense. In the brick-and-mortar retail world, this would be a lost customer.

There are countless instances of these faulty “product recommendations” not only on Amazon, but all over the e-commerce web space. In theory, product recommendations are a form of suggested selling. It’s the same as merchandising like-products next to each other on a store endcap. If you put too many random products near each other, or completely unrelated ones, you’ll confuse and lose that customer to the store with better merchandising. Need proof? Look at the in-store customer experience in T.J.Maxx and Marshalls versus the experience at Target or Best Buy.

Effective recommendations are a proven way to up-sell and increase conversion. To be effective, however, relevancy is absolutely necessary. SLI Systems recently announced the availability of a new product, SLI Learning Recommendations, which uses the power of SLI Learning Search data to provide contextually relevant recommendations. To learn more, take a look at our Learning Recommendations product page, or contact me at

Max Bunag, who clearly favors Nintendo over Sony, is an enterprise sales representative for SLI Systems. 

Get Psychic with Search by Improving Relevancy

March 5, 2014 - 23:46

Have you ever conducted a search on an e-commerce site, only to wish it could read your mind and deliver the exact items you’re looking for? OK, maybe expecting “psychic search” is a little much, but it’s certainly possible for your search to provide results that are in line with your customers’ needs. Here are a few ways you can bring some psychic power to search:

Keep an eye on user behavior: How your visitors navigate around your site and click on products can help you do a better job of creating relevant results. Examine search data to uncover the products that customers click on after they enter a given search term. Then you can place these products at the top of search results, which makes the results more relevant.

Control results that matter to your business: Sometimes you need products to appear in search results in a different order than what your search product might recommend. For instance, you may want to place promotional or sale products higher, or perhaps highlight certain brand names. A full-service search solution should allow you to reorder results to suit business goals, while still ensuring that visitors see plenty of relevant results.

Jump directly to a results page: When you know exactly what visitors are searching for, it makes more sense to direct them to a product page, rather than a list of results. This may be the case if there’s only one result for their search, or if visitors type in specific product or SKU numbers, which means you know precisely what they want.  Similarly, if they type in a search term such as “returns,” you can take them directly to the page about your returns policy. This is a good way to improve visitors’ satisfaction with search.

You can dig deeper into tips about relevance and many other facets of site search by reading SLI’s 2014 edition of the Big Book of Site Search Tips. We’ve pulled together many helpful ideas on making search more relevant – along with more than 100 tips on search boxes, refinements, merchandising and many more key search topics. Here’s a free download of our latest e-book.

Three of the Best Trends in E-commerce Site Search

February 25, 2014 - 17:46

Sasha Butkovich is senior writer for Ecommerce Outtakes and a guest blogger for SLI’s Site Search Today.

When it comes to e-commerce site search, what’s going to be the next big trend? Well, there are a few serious contenders to take a look at. Some truly cool features have been popping up in online stores around the web, and they are bound to take off for widespread use throughout the coming year. Take a look at the newest best practices in site search.


Personally, I can’t wait until autocomplete and rich autocomplete are the norm on every e-commerce site. Until then, this growing trend is well worth exploring, since there are a few different levels of this feature. At the most basic level, autocomplete can guess at the user’s search term, prompting them to select from a drop-down. Even this is helpful to steering shoppers in the right direction and avoiding spelling errors.

Beyond this, rich autocomplete can come into play for an even more satisfying search experience. Displaying suggested search terms is great, but displaying specific products is even better. Rounding it out by showing a thumbnail image, short description, and in some cases the price, goes above and beyond for the user. The example below from The Home Depot even offers project guides. All this extra info in the search helps people get to shopping faster, which is really the whole point. Easy and seamless!

Creative Refinements

Once shoppers enter a search term and view the results page, there are even more opportunities to create a great experience. Refinement options are a prime example of this. Get creative here, and show your customers images to help narrow down their search. The key is not to go too over the top and overwhelm a shopper, but to create imagery that is helpful to the shopper and makes your brand memorable. The Republic of Tea does a great job of this, displaying images of what the brewed tea looks like. Very cool!

Social Media Integration

Have a strong fan base on social networks? Tie it into your search results page. This offers some interesting refinement options for your shoppers. For example, FTD offers the ability to sort search results by most Facebook likes. It’s an awesome way to show shoppers which products are popular among their peers. Or check out Kidrobot. Their search results pages offer tabs that give users all kinds of social options. You can see when these products were mentioned on Instagram and Twitter, for instance. Can someone say “retweet”? When site search is social and fun, it’s a win for everyone.

These are just a few ideas to implement into a site search to kick it up to the next level. Expect to see these on more and more e-commerce sites in the year ahead. With the way these features make the search experience easier and richer for the shopper, they are bound to take off in a big way.

To learn more top site search tips, download the 2014 edition of SLI’s Big Book of Site Search Tips.

SLI Launches Learning Recommendations

February 19, 2014 - 18:24

SLI Systems’ mission is to accelerate sales for our e-commerce clients by helping their site visitors find the products they want to buy. We’ve done this over the past 12 years by developing and offering advanced site search, navigation, merchandising, mobile and SEO solutions. Today we announced a new way that SLI is connecting shoppers with the products they seek: SLI Learning Recommendations.

SLI Learning Recommendations shows related products to shoppers at various stages in the online buying process. Because the logic behind selected recommendations is based on our proven and patented learning technology, the suggestions are highly relevant. As shoppers notice additional products they want and add them to their online carts, the result is more conversions and higher average order values.

Not only does Learning Recommendations provide more relevant choices to the buyer, but also provides sellers with more ways to up-sell and cross-sell products. SLI clients can implement Learning Recommendations in one or multiple areas of their site, including home pages, landing pages, product results pages and checkout pages. Retailers can also use SLI Learning Recommendations beyond the online store – think in-store kiosks, catalogs, shipping receipts and order confirmation emails.

There are many types of recommendations SLI clients can implement, each based on different algorithms. We can create recommendations based on what other buyers searched for, clicked on or purchased. We can show other products by the same brand, top-selling products in a category or previously viewed products.

An example of SLI Learning Recommendations in use is on the site for Michael C. Fina, a leading East Coast retailer of fine jewelry and home goods. In its first two months of using Learning Recommendations, an average of 34% of Michael C. Fina customers viewing the recommendations clicked on at least one of the product suggestions shown. In the screen shot at the left, you can see the “Recommended” section SLI populates.

SLI has also helped Michael C. Fina see a 313% increase in per-visit value and a 187% increase in conversions for site search users, as detailed in a new case study posted today.


SLI Learning Recommendations can be very effective on checkout pages as well. In the below example, Footwear etc. shows recommended products based on the item the visitor put in her cart.

Footwear etc. VP of E-commerce Mike Baranov told us the feature improves how customers find products of interest on the site, and said he expects it to positively impact sales and revenue.

In addition to increasing conversions and order values, Learning Recommendations can reduce the bounce rate on your site and help shoppers discover new products you want to introduce. The Learning Recommendations solution is one more way SLI helps you accelerate your e-commerce business.

To learn more about SLI Learning Recommendations and our introductory pricing, email or call us at (866) 240-2812.

Why Do Online Valentine’s Day Shoppers Spend More?

February 10, 2014 - 19:40

Online Valentine’s Day shoppers will spend 31% more than those who purchase items related to Valentine’s Day in a physical store, says the National Retail Federation. Broken down to amount spent per shopper, the average person will spend $133.91, but the average online shopper will spend $175.80.

There are many potential reasons for this; online shoppers may be more likely to buy multiple gifts that are shipped to different addresses, or they simply tend to choose more expensive gifts. Shipping and gift wrapping services would account for part of the more than $40 difference.

Search and You Shall Spend

Another possible reason for the extra money online shoppers spend is that they’re more likely to find and buy the gifts they’re looking for if they’re shopping on sites with a good search function. Rather than wandering through aisles of pink and red stuffed animals and cardboard heart boxes of chocolates, online Valentine’s Day shoppers can go to their favorite gift sites, type in search terms, then refine the results until they find the gifts they want to buy.

FTD, Interflora, Samuels Jewelers, The Diamond Store, Lovehoney, Harry and David, Gourmet GiftBaskets and Vermont Teddy Bear are all sites that have Valentine’s Day related gift items. And all are powered by SLI search, which means the search results are incredibly relevant because of SLI’s advanced learning technology. You type a word or two into the search box, you see relevant items, you click the one you want, you go through checkout and you’re done. On these sites, most customers find what they want within the first five search results provided.

It’s not surprising that a great user experience leads to more money spent at that site. Lovehoney saw 16% higher average order values (AOVs) after improving their site search. saw 18% higher AOVs with SLI search. Boden had a dramatic increase of 215% in revenue per visit, and other SLI customers have seen similar results, like a doubling in the conversion rate for customers searching for recipes and products at

Great search makes for a great shopping experience when looking online for a gift on Valentine’s Day – or any day.

Create a Better Shopping Experience with Refinements

February 6, 2014 - 18:19

Think back to the last time you were in a big-box retail store with an overwhelming array of products. How did you find your way around, without being paralyzed by the vast selection? Retail merchandisers work to make it easier for you by categorizing groups of products in certain areas of the store. Signs point you to the correct aisle for bed and bath items, electronics, toys, and other products, so you’re not wandering aimlessly.

For online shoppers, the experience can be very similar. If users encounter a large set of search results for a particular keyword, they can also feel overwhelmed. As an e-commerce merchant, you can help them tremendously by offering refinement options to narrow numerous product results to a manageable set. While site search is considered one of the most essential elements to an e-commerce site, refinements are just as crucial in guiding shoppers to the right product, and to a sale.

Our new Big Book of Site Search Tips for 2014, available for free download, is filled with ideas for improving this vital part of your site search solution. Here are just a few of the suggestions from the Big Book – and you’ll also find more than 100 tips on everything from search box placement to merchandising in the Big Book.

Make refinements intuitive: Don’t force visitors to guess what your refinements are trying to say. When shoppers come to your site, they may have certain keywords in mind. Name refinements in a way that will match your users’ language, and that makes sense for the products you’re selling. SLI customer ReNew Life, which sells probiotics products, has a refinements category called “Concerns,” which highlights common health and wellness issues that customers may experience:

Pick the right place for refinements: Depending on how your visitors search your site, different placements for refinements may be called for. The most common spots are in the left navigation pane, and at the top of the search page. Either option may work fine, but you should test different positions and see which ones your visitors use most. We don’t recommend using the bottom of the page for refinements, since it forces visitors to scroll down, and the right side of the page may confuse visitors that aren’t used to seeing navigation bars there. Additionally, if your site utilizes search pages with infinite scrolling, consider floating refinements that will travel down the page as a user scrolls.

Refinements for ratings and reviews: Sometimes a series of reviews can be the difference in deciding whether or not to buy a product. Depending on the e-commerce business and product types, some visitors find value in sorting products by ratings or reviews. You can allow visitors to refine their search results based on the star rankings, for example, which can help users narrow down a selection to only top-rated products.

Allow users to navigate between refinements: If a visitor has clicked on a certain refinement, but decides he or she wants to see a different refinement, don’t force them to click the “back” button to get to the original search results page first. Users should be able to simply click a different refinement option from the page they are on, and see a new batch of results.

These are just a few of the many tips that you should keep in mind when optimizing your e-commerce site experience to make browsing and shopping easier. Download the 2014 edition of the Big Book of Site Search Tips today.

What features do you plan on adding to your e-commerce site in 2014? We’d love to hear from you! 

Denver or Seattle? Online Shopping Behavior Shows Fan Popularity for Super Bowl 2014

January 29, 2014 - 19:23

Football fans around the world are gearing up for the biggest day of the season. On Super Bowl Sunday a record-breaking 111 million viewers are expected to be glued to their sets to see whether the Broncos or the Seahawks can carry the day.

But which team will they be rooting for? We can answer that question by looking at online searching behavior among shoppers seeking NFL logo wear for purchase.

During the week following the NFC and AFC Championship games, nearly 160,000 searches for the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks were made on e-commerce sites powered by SLI Systems. Looking at which team’s products were searched most often turned up some interesting findings.

State-by-State Team Preferences: The map below shows fan preference by state, blue states searching most for Seahawks gear and orange states searching most for Broncos gear.

West Coast states searched more for Seahawks, as would be expected for a West Coast team. But it’s interesting to also see that many East Coast states searched more for Seahawks gear than for Broncos gear. Most U.S. Central States preferred Broncos fan gear, while Midwest states were too close to call.

Quarterback Preferences: On the same e-commerce sites, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning jerseys and fan items were searched for more than twice as often as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson jerseys and fan items. True, Manning has been on a winning Super Bowl team in the past. But could the drastic difference suggest more fan support for the Broncos?

Type of Product Preferences: As far as which types of fan gear were searched for the most, you can see in the graphs below that jerseys are the top-searched Super Bowl team product. Hats and shirts are the next most popular items. More Seahawks fans want jerseys than anything else, wheras Broncos fans like a variety of fan apparel.


Overall Team Preference: So who do we want to win overall? Out of the more than 160,000 online retail searches we reviewed, the Seahawks led search activity by the slim margin of 2.6%.

Peak Shopping Days: Looking at our search data, it was also interesting to see that online retail site searches for the Broncos or Seahawks were 3-4 times higher within the first three days after the NFC and AFC championship games than on days four and five after the championships. This suggests that online retailers should be ready to sell the winning teams’ gear immediately after the Super Bowl teams are decided – a good point for e-commerce companies to note in preparing for Super Bowl XLIX next year.

Whichever team wins, at least half the country’s fans – and all online retailers who have been selling fan gear – should be happy with Sunday’s result.

Making the Mobile Experience Better, from the Big Book of Site Search Tips

January 28, 2014 - 18:27

You’ve probably made some New Year’s resolutions like getting healthy and going to the gym or watching less TV – but have you thought about how to improve your business?

Now that the holiday rush is over, it’s a good time of year to take a closer look at all the components that make up your eCommerce business and see which ones you can improve.

We’ll be taking a close look in the coming weeks at ways you can improve the online shopping experience for your customers by improving relevancy of search results and other aspects of search and navigation.

The full list is available in our free Big Book of Site Search Tips. Here’s a close look at some of our tips for helping improve ‘findability’ on your mobile site.

Understand mobile users’ intent: Think like a detective, and follow your users around – virtually speaking. You need to learn how visitors find your site, and the paths they take once they get there. This is especially important in the mobile environment because without fast, easy ways to get to the products and content they want, mobile users are more likely to abandon your site. Make sure your mobile reporting systems can record how visitors arrive, which products they view, and how much time they spend on your site.

Account for misspellings and synonyms: Tapping out words on a mobile keyboard isn’t easy for most of us, and it’s common to misspell words – or, to type short synonyms instead of longer keywords, in hopes that you can locate a product with the minimum number of taps. Anticipate that your visitors will run into this challenge, and create synonym rules in search. These rules build linkages between words so that the correct product or piece of content is shown even if a word is misspelled or a different term is used.

Convert links into buttons for easier navigation: Similar to the problem above, even experienced mobile device users can find it hard to click on tiny links within text. (It’s painfully easy to click on something you didn’t want, forcing you to go back to a previous page and start your search again.) You can solve this problem by converting links to buttons, especially for functions like choosing sizes or colors, and adding items to shopping carts. By avoiding mistaken clicks, visitors can choose products and proceed to check out more quickly.

We’ll be covering more tips from the Big Book in the SLI blog over the next few weeks, but if you want to benefit from the full list of more than 100 ideas for better search, download the Big Book now.

2014 Could Be the Year that Online Retailers Outsmart Amazon

January 21, 2014 - 18:30

As I look through articles on trends and business strategies for 2014, it’s clear that Amazon is driving many online retailers’ business decisions this year. With Amazon’s advantages in fulfillment speed, pricing, inventory, and the sophistication of its e-commerce engine, I imagine the question of how to effectively compete with the behemoth keeps many online retailers up at night.

However, there is a category of savvy online business owners – many of whom we have the pleasure of working with – who are keeping the Amazons, eBays and’s of the world at bay by finding their own niches.

These retailers are discovering that they can maintain dominance on their home turf and draw new shoppers to their sites by showcasing their domain expertise and augmenting their unique assets with services from third-party providers. For example, a merchant can use videos and social media marketing to effectively emphasize its unique specialty.

Additionally, retailers are looking to service providers to handle critical areas of their website like search, shopping cart and check-out, mobile design, personalization, and more. When a service provider has a single best-of-breed offering and leverages it across hundreds of retailers, it’s possible for that service provider to surpass Amazon’s own offered capabilities in these areas.

The key for retailers of any size is to maintain a solid focus on delivering the best overall shopping experience possible – through both technology and easy access to great customer service. In other words, don’t worry so much about what Amazon is doing, just worry about making sure you’re doing the best you can at what you do well, and look to your technology service partners to optimize performance for your website, which is what we do well.

As an example, look at Kidrobot, whose pop art and designer toys are constantly shared over Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. SLI incorporated social media content into Kidrobot’s on-site search. Now, when you search for MUNNY (see screen shot below), not only can you easily find a MUNNY product, but you can click on the Instagram tab to view photos of MUNNY toys, click on the Video tab to view videos of MUNNYs, and so on. Even though you can buy MUNNY toys and other Kidrobot products on Amazon, many shoppers still want to buy directly from Kidrobot’s site because they enjoy the delightful user experience that Kidrobot has created for shoppers.

So if you’re looking to beat Amazon at its own game, leverage the assets you have that they don’t. It may be your physical stores, unique access to products, a deep knowledge of your niche, or something else. Also ensure they know that your service and responsiveness is the best around. I wrote more about how we do this in the recent blog, A Unique Approach to Customer Service.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what retailers should focus on in the coming year to compete effectively with the online giants. Please comment below to start a conversation.

The New Big Book of Site Search Tips 2014 has launched!

January 15, 2014 - 13:51

It’s only been a year and a half since we last revised the Big Book of Site Search Tips. But as the speed of innovation for eCommerce increases, we found there were just too many new things we needed to include.

What kinds of things? Well, for one we found that mobile shopping has come so far in the last couple years – what used to account for 7% of total eCommerce sales in 2011 is now estimated to contribute to 16% of total eCommerce sales. This points to the growing comfort that people feel in making purchases on a mobile device. It’s becoming increasingly important to offer a user friendly shopping experience.

When you download the revised Big Book of Site Search Tips for 2014, you’ll find many more recommendations on how to optimize your mobile site so visitors find what they want quickly, leading to decreased bounce rates, higher conversions and ultimately, creating a powerful mobile search that users love.

Additionally, if you’ve been keeping up with holiday shopping trends, you’re well aware of how social media sites, like Pinterest and Facebook, have been a driving factor in increasing traffic and sales to some sites. The Big Book delves into these trends and illustrates interesting ways you can integrate social media, videos, blogs and other content into your site for a richer, more engaging experience.

You’ll find these tips and many more – download the Big Book of Site Search Tips.