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A commentary on the search industry from a site search vendor's perspective.
Updated: 35 min 50 sec ago

Hook “Spearfisher” Shoppers for E-commerce Success

April 20, 2016 - 18:21

At SLI, we’ve always known that shoppers who search are the most valuable. Why? Because these shoppers tell you what they want to buy which gives you a fantastic opportunity.

According to the recent Forrester Research report “Must-Have eCommerce Features,” it’s critical that retailers support “spearfishers” – or shoppers who already have a specific product or brand in mind (versus those aimlessly browsing).

To achieve this, Forrester suggests casting one’s hook with easy-to-use site search, including autocomplete, and clear categories to support spearfishers who want to find, buy and move on. Additional research upholds Forrester’s findings as:

  • 8 seconds is the average time visitors spend before deciding whether or not to remain on a site (MarketingSherpa)
  • 43 percent of visitors immediately go to the search box (MarketingSherpa) and searchers are 2-3x more likely to convert than non-searchers
  • 50 percent of users prefer to use a site’s internal search engine, as opposed to navigating the site (E-Commerce Times)

It’s clear that many online shoppers are spearfishers, which is why it is important for retailers to quickly serve up the products they are looking for.

Top Tips to Hook Spearfishers with Smart Site Search

Here are our top tips to help you provide your most focused shoppers with a satisfying search experience that leads to improved conversions and sales:

Autocomplete with Graphics – Type Less, Buy More

A critical feature for speed in site search is the ability to show product results with images from the first letter a searcher types. It gives shoppers one-click access to products they want to buy, reducing the number of clicks from search to purchase.

For even better guidance, also show search suggestions based on category, brand or department to let shoppers quickly jump to the right section of results. For example, a search for wine at Fortnum & Mason immediately shows popular choices and categories for wine gifts, wine glasses, wine and cheese, etc.

Moreover, allow users to preview products of interest right within the autocomplete box. For instance, update products displayed when users hover over search suggestions to give them more choices and increase engagement.

Jump Directly to a Results Page When You Know the Answer

Use redirects when you want to take visitors to a particular page on your site, rather than showing search results for a query or class of queries. For example, if there is only one result, it may make sense to take the visitor directly there, rather than showing them the search results page. When visitors type in a specific product or SKU numbers, take them directly to the product page.

Create Landing Pages Related to Specific Keywords

For some popular search terms, you may want to redirect users to a specific site search page tailored to that search keyword. For example, you may already have landing pages dedicated to particular brands. When visitors search for specific brands, you can send them to the related brand page instead of a generic search results page.

For example, Sports Unlimited serves up a landing page for any Under Armour brand searches. We recommend examining your site search reports to identify the most popular searches. Then consider whether you can provide a better experience by having dedicated landing pages for some searches.

Optimize the Mobile Experience

Speed and ease are especially critical for mobile “spearfisher” shoppers. Ensure your autocomplete helps you capture sales from your small-screen shoppers with dedicated mobile and tablet designs that automatically display options correctly regardless of device size and orientation.

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 mobile shoppers overwhelmingly prefer social logins for ease of use. Express checkout and easy payment options are as critical here as with any shopping site.

Learn more about supporting “spearfishers” to accelerate your e-commerce sales by reading our Quick Guide to Better Site Search andRich Auto Complete solution brief.

Aussie Retailers Imagine the Future of E-commerce at Annual Summit

April 13, 2016 - 01:50

SLI Systems welcomed leading retailers and e-commerce experts from across Australia to the second SLI Connect Sydney summit last week. Hosted at the iconic Sydney Opera House, the event featured a strong lineup of top brands, including Krispy Kreme, Nisbets, Shopbot, eStar, Braintree, Temando, ChannelAdvisor and Bronto Software. Throughout the day, speakers and guests alike discussed the future of e-commerce and how retailers need to evolve in a fast-changing world.

Change is constant in the e-commerce industry

Consumer purchasing habits are changing. Smartphones and tablets now account for 55 percent of time spent shopping online. And we no longer make purchases through one channel alone.

As Tim Davies, known in the industry as “Mr. eBay” explained, “sometimes we begin buying on one device and then move onto another before making a purchase. Brands need to respond with an omnichannel approach.”

Importantly, it’s no longer just millennials who are digitally savvy. The older generation, those known as digital dinosaurs, are now taking their shopping habits online. And with more disposable income, they offer a new opportunity for e-commerce retailers.

Retailers embrace new technology to remain competitive

Despite acknowledged challenges from international competitors, there was a real sense of optimism in the room. Retailers are taking steps to remain competitive, with nine out of 10 having updated their e-commerce strategies in the last year and adopting new technologies, such as optimising for mobile.

One of our keynote speakers, Krispy Kreme’s Digital Business Manager, Richard Schulman, emphasised the role of e-commerce tools in providing a high-quality customer experience and, ultimately, driving sales.

“It’s no secret that e-commerce retailers need to streamline their websites and make sure that they are easy to use for the average punter, but the secret is how,” he said. “Most businesses don’t realise how easy it is, or how important it is.”

It’s time to go mobile

The importance of mobile was a key theme throughout the day. Mobile commerce now accounts for 11% of e-commerce sales – and this figure is set to rise.

The growth in mobile has huge implications for e-commerce. No retailer wants to provide a poor mobile user experience as it creates friction for shoppers in finding and buying.

More than half of the retailers at SLI Connect had optimised their website for mobile and tablet – and those who hadn’t, have made it a priority for 2016.

No “silver bullet” for long-term success

Looking to the future, Blair Cassidy, VP of product management at SLI Systems, painted a compelling vision for the role of virtual reality in the future of e-commerce. He challenged innovative retailers to take the lead in implementing this promising technology.

But while virtual reality and other online retail technologies have much to offer e-commerce in the future, a key takeaway from the event was that no single approach or tool holds the key to success.

“There is no ‘silver bullet’ for success,” said panel member, John Menagh, director of sales at eStar. “Retailers must ensure their online and offline strategies are in harmony, so that consumers receive a consistent, high-quality experience of your brand, where ever they are.”

So that’s it for this year’s SLI Connect Sydney! A big thank you to all who attended, guests, speakers and sponsors, and for making our second SLI Connect such a success. The next SLI Connect event is planned for September 15, 2016 in New York City at the magnificent Carnegie Hall! Save the date and stay tuned – registration will open soon. Click here to view survey results from SLI Connect UK, which was held in March.

Spring Clean Your E-commerce Site

April 7, 2016 - 14:00

Even those who aren’t in the e-commerce space know that the holiday season is the most profitable time of the year. But that doesn’t mean the other three seasons can’t be revenue-generating.

While you’re prepping for Holiday 2016, you can still please plenty of shoppers (and boost your business’ bottom line).

Spring is the perfect time to refresh your site. It is the season of spring cleaning and tax refunds, both of which can motivate consumers to treat themselves. Speaking of, I think I have some space for a new pair of shoes. …

So how can you attract and covert these shoppers?

Curate aesthetically pleasing landing pages

First impressions are everything. Impress and attract shoppers by curating unique landing pages for specific audiences. For instance, create pages that showcase your new spring inventory of sunglasses or patio furniture. Include links to these pages in your email marketing campaigns. (You can send me the one with the spring sandals.)

Use high-quality product photos and lots of them so shoppers really get a sense of your items. Seeing products from all angles, or clothing on a real person, will make shoppers feel more confident about adding items to their carts and checking out.

Lure shoppers deeper into your site with eye-catching banners that boast relevant content. After shopping for sandals, I will want to look for a new spring bag too.

Optimize for different devices (if you haven’t already)

Don’t be that online retailer that shows shoppers desktop results on mobile. Nobody has time for that! There is nothing more annoying for shoppers than having to zoom into desktop results on their mobile devices. In fact, they probably won’t bother and will instead move on to a site easier to use.

Shoppers are coming out of hibernation and no longer sitting at desktop computers or curling up with their laptops in bed. Make sure they can still enjoy a seamless shopping experience on your e-commerce site when they are out and about using mobile or tablet devices.

Set up your site search for seasonality

If I search for “sunnies,” I expect search results that contain (hot) sunglasses. Set up your site search to handle seasonal synonyms like “sunnies” and “sunglasses” so that shoppers don’t instead run into pesky no-results pages.

It should go without saying that your search should return relevant and popular items based on the search term. Consider conducting a site search audit and make sure the items that you would expect to be returned are coming up in search.

While you’re getting your site ready for winter code freeze, make sure you aren’t ignoring eager spring shoppers and spring clean your site.

For more recommendations on how you can improve your site, set up a site search analysis with our team.

SLI Systems to host SLI Connect Australia next week!

March 30, 2016 - 19:02

It’s that time of the year again! On Wednesday, April 6, SLI Systems will hold its second annual SLI Connect event at the Sydney Opera House.

At the one-day e-commerce summit, you will hear from leading retailers who will be discussing, exploring and learning from each other’s e-commerce opportunities and challenges.

The day will include keynote speakers, presentations and an interactive panel from prominent online retailers and will end with an exclusive reception – all of which will provide quality networking opportunities.

This year, agenda highlights include:

  • Opening keynote: A Future of E-commerce – Virtual Personalisation given by Blair Cassidy, vice president of product management for SLI Systems
  • ChannelAdvisor customer presentation with Nisbets
  • E-commerce expert panel with ShopBot, eStar and Braintree
  • Joint presentation given by Temando with Krispy Kreme Australia: Making Dough(nuts): An E-commerce Success Story
  • Bronto customer presentation with 2XU
  • Closing keynote address given by Mr. eBay himself, Tim Davies, president of the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance in Australia (PeSA Australia)

The 2015 SLI Connect had a number of key takeaways including how Australian retailers can be more competitive with international entrants taking market share. This year’s SLI Connect will take a look at how brands have responded to this in order to remain competitive in an ever-growing global market.

We hope to see you there, register here!

Your Shoppers Shouldn’t Need Luck

March 17, 2016 - 13:00

Some people are just born lucky. You know the ones. It doesn’t matter if they are at a garage sale, flea market or thrift store, they are going to find exactly what they are looking for every time. It’s going to be the perfect size, the hottest color and an outrageously good deal. Their natural good fortune seems to be the only help they need.

Good for them, I say. But luck is not everyone’s lot in life.

What about the unlucky ones. The ones who can’t find a parking spot let alone a pair of Jimmy Choo’s for a screaming discount in the exact right fit and shade.

Yes, I know this is a first-world problem. But life is hard enough for the I-never-catch-a-break crowd. Shopping shouldn’t be a burden too. I can hear them muttering, “Why bother looking for a new dress. I never find anything I like anyway.”

Online retailers, you have the power to make even your most unlucky shoppers feel like they’ve won a million bucks.

First of all, I’m going to assume that if you are reading this blog you value site search. Hopefully, you are already delivering amazingly relevant search results based on what shoppers are most likely to buy. (If you have any questions about this, feel free to call us.) OK, moving on.

Give good recommendations. Almost every site has recommendations these days. That doesn’t mean they are any good. Don’t clutter the shopping experience by displaying random products. Smart recommendations provide a personal shopping experience. For instance, people who bought that lipstick also bought this blush. It’s like a knowledgeable salesperson is walking your shoppers through your store, and that makes shoppers feel cared for and understood.

Build buyer confidence. If you think you are unlucky, you might be hesitant about making an online purchase. After all, you might want to see the product in person before deciding to buy. Help shoppers overcome this mental hurdle by showing them every angle of the product in easy-to-view photos. In addition, catwalk and customer videos provide that almost in real life experience. This can be helpful when selling everything from clothes and accessories to dirt bikes and motorcycles.

Provide a seamless experience from any device. Don’t even try to ignore this one. We are a society addicted to our phones and tablets and phablets. Make sure your shoppers can shop at any time from any device. In addition, if your site is not mobile-friendly, it will hurt your site’s ranking in Google’s organic search results. (By the way, you’re invited to the upcoming Internet Retailer webinar: Mobilegeddon: Not Over Yet.)

The bottom line is this: The smarter your site is, the luckier your shoppers will feel. And who doesn’t like feeling lucky?

For more tips on improving your shopping experience, check out our Big Book of Site Search Tips.

Win Parent Shoppers with a Baby-Friendly Site

March 9, 2016 - 13:00

What once was considered a niche market is now a booming billion-dollar industry. Savvy parents are ready to spend a pretty penny to give their bundles of joy the best start in life. Despite declining birth rates in many countries, the global baby care market is growing at a CAGR of 7% and is expected to reach $66.8 billion by 2017, according to Transparency Research (2014).

You don’t have to have a dedicated site for baby products to win these valuable customers. Many health and pharmacy retailers are catering more to the “parent and baby” demographic. Even lifestyle and outdoor retailers are adding infant and toddler items to their product offerings.

Here are a few ways that any online retailer with baby or toddler products can gain a greater share of parents’ and grandparents’ spending.

Focus on Mobile

Browsing the Internet with both hands free is considered a luxury for new parents. Swaying back and forth with a tiny infant in arms and a smartphone in hand is a much more common scene. Consider your site new-parent ready if the desperately sleep deprived can find what they are looking for while only using their thumbs. You’ll want to enhance the real estate of smaller screens while delivering relevant results with speed.

In addition, think about how best to streamline the purchase process for mobile shoppers. The fewer clicks, the better. Make sure shoppers have the option to save payment and shipping information so they only have to enter it once.

Make the Experience Highly Personal

A few months make a world of difference when it comes to what a baby needs and what parents want to buy. For example, moms and dads of newborns are searching for the perfect swaddle while parents of 6-month-olds are introducing solid foods and encouraging their babies to sit on their own.

When parents sign up to receive emails, gather the dates of birth, sex and names of their children. Tailor email campaigns and curate landing pages with products that match the baby’s age and each exciting developmental stage. In other words, send emails specific to celebrating a baby’s first birthday when the child turns 1, but avoid cluttering up your customers’ inboxes with irrelevant messages about newborns when their baby is already a toddler.

Your clickthrough rate on emails will be higher when parents know you are giving them valuable information specific to their kids. Also, keep in mind that parents will open a majority of those emails on a smartphone or tablet, so make sure both the email and the landing pages are tailored for the mobile experience.

Is it a Binky, Paci, Dummy, Soother or Comforter?

Does your site speak Baby? The pacifier alone has more than 100 pet names. Learning your customers’ language means they will more likely find the products they had in mind. Alternatively, ignoring synonyms, misspellings and popular pet names could lead to search queries ending in a “no results” page by mistake.

In-Store or Curbside Pick Up

Out of diapers and wipes? Need a humidifier for baby’s first cold? Sometimes even overnight delivery isn’t fast enough. If you are a retailer with brick-and-mortar locations, consider allowing customers to complete their purchases online and pick up products the same day at the store. Or even better, deliver their orders curbside to their cars. This will save parents time and keep them from having to wake a sleeping baby.

Cater to Moms

Babies aren’t the only ones who need special care. Retailers can gain brand loyalty before the little one even arrives by helping moms-to-be navigate fertility issues, morning sickness, stretch marks and postpartum preparation. These categories are often labeled “conception,” “pregnancy” and “maternity.”

For more tips on delivering an exceptional online shopping experience that will win over parents and grandparents shopping for baby and toddler items, take a look at our E-commerce Baby Boom industry brief.

The Path to Selling Includes Sharing

March 3, 2016 - 17:25

Your online retail site is about more than just the products you sell. It’s also a valuable resource for your users. It should be engaging, offering unique photos, videos, articles and features that shoppers won’t get anywhere else. This content is a powerful tool that you can use to boost your brand and elevate your sales.

The creative use of content can give e-commerce customers a unique and memorable shopping experience – one that creates brand loyalty and convinces customers to buy.

There are many types of non-product content you can use to enhance your shoppers’ experience, and ultimately lead them to a purchase. Some of the top content types used on retail sites are social posts, blogs and how-to articles.

Showcase social posts

A social media strategy is a given for any online merchant today. When you integrate content from your social media networks into your main website, you can deliver more information to buyers and get them excited about purchasing your products. Show that your social pages offer reliable, valuable content and it will compel users to keep coming back for more.

Social content is especially important because it gives the consumer a window into how others are using the products they’re considering purchasing. Some photos, videos or blogs might appeal to a consumer’s practical decision-making by showing the quality and price of the item. Other posts might strike an emotional response, creating a desire for the item because it’s fun or in-fashion. Either way, social content can be a strong influencer in motivating shoppers to buy.

To take your social strategy to the next level, you can also tune in to the Tuesday, March 8 PracticalEcommerce webinar: 5 Ways Social Listening Can Drive Ecommerce Sales.

Be a blogger

A blog is an excellent way to incorporate great non-product content into your retail site while also showcasing your brand’s individual voice. It can also generate some great organic traffic to your site, since search engines like Google and Bing rate quality, consistent content higher in the rankings. A relevant blog naturally improves your SEO. As search engines increase in sophistication, the days of stuffing blog posts with relevant keywords are over. When you create posts that are relevant to your brand, they will naturally place high in search rankings. It also follows that other sites will want to link to this useful content, increasing the reach of your blog posts.

Giving customers insight into your company helps shoppers feel like they can get to know your brand and what it stands for, which helps to create loyalty that will drive future sales.

Offer how-to articles and videos

Inform your customers not only about what your product is, but also about what it can do. Offering how-to articles, particularly in the form of nicely edited videos, display your brand’s expert knowledge to users. When shoppers see that your company is an authority in the field, they will return to your site as a reliable resource again and again. Maybe they’ll come for those valuable instructions, but they are also very likely to come back to make purchases.

Make it Easy to Find

Whichever type(s) of content you integrate into your retail site, you have to be sure users will see it. Be sure it shows up in your search and navigation results. Then feature it prominently using tabbed results pages.

For the full set of tips and examples of integrating content into your e-commerce site, download our e-book: Use Creative Content to Convince Online Shoppers to Buy.

Get Ready for Bunnies & Blooming E-commerce

February 18, 2016 - 18:58

Love was so last Sunday. Now spring is in the merchandising air.

Never mind the polar vortex hitting the East and Midwest. Easter and its Bunny are arriving Sunday, March 27 – a full three weeks earlier than last year when it hopped onto the scene April 20.

With this year’s abbreviated shopping season, every merchandising day matters. Whether your shoppers celebrate Easter or just long for spring, this is the time to remind them that warmer weather is on the horizon.

Easter is historically the fifth largest spending holiday of the year (after Valentine’s Day but before Father’s Day, Super Bowl, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day), according to the National Retail Federation.

Even if you’re boasting the most beautiful in-store displays, there’s good reason to focus your attention on winning online spring shoppers. Last year, online Easter shoppers planned to spend an average $221.39 – a whopping 58 percent more than brick-and-mortar Easter shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation.

What will shoppers put in their baskets? Food, clothing, gifts, candy and flowers are the top five spending categories for Easter. But don’t make your visitors hunt for what they want.

Read their minds. If shoppers type “Easter” in your site’s search box, make sure your site returns relevant results right away. Candy Warehouse is crushing this by instantly showing search suggestions and product results.

Curate a collection. Boden is using a banner to prompt shoppers to “Make room for new-season dresses.” But the merchandising doesn’t stop there. Clicking on the banner takes shoppers to a collection of spring dresses.

Show the love. Harry & David’s search results not only showcase the most relevant products, but shoppers can quickly see which items have the best and most reviews. This is a great to give browsers the social proof they need to make a buying decision.

For more tips on improving your e-commerce merchandising, download our free white paper Use Site Search Data to Improve Merchandising.

Help Cupids Find the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

February 10, 2016 - 13:00

Cupids (disguised as last-minute shoppers) are aiming their arrows at the hearts of their beloveds. Guide them to the perfect gifts with insight from last year’s Valentine’s Day e-commerce trends, as well as by following these 5 tips to help online shoppers find what they’re looking for this Valentine’s Day.

Another way you can give love a nudge and fuel romance is to follow the tips and tricks in the infographic below from The Shelf. (Hint: If you aren’t marketing to men between 25 and 34 years old, you are missing the mark.)

Amazon & You: How to Win

February 5, 2016 - 13:30

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

January 28, 2016 - 14:00

Easy 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.

A New Look at the Shopper Journey – Introducing the SLI Dashboard

January 21, 2016 - 13:40

“Big data” is all the buzz. It’s a challenge to merchants and data providers alike. Complex calculations on large volumes of data can be fascinating to a programmer. But these aren’t just numbers – they represent real-life actions of people on a website. If we aren’t careful, our calculations can outsmart the spirit of these actions, resulting in meaningless (or at least misguided) data for merchandisers.

Recently we undertook a project to create a new dashboard for the SLI Merchandising and Reporting Console. With more than 100 metrics already available in our console, it would have been easy to present some of these and call it a day.

But we decided it was time for a fresh start. We talked to our customers about what was most important to them. Then we went further – all the way back to the basics. We examined our underlying calculations to ensure the way we tracked data considered customers on their shopping journey and not just purchases.

Many existing reporting systems, including our own, count events like transactions and compare them to other events like page or session counts. But tracking events in isolation doesn’t always reflect how shoppers behave. Consider a shopper who starts browsing in the early evening, breaks for dinner and returns to make a purchase after putting the kids to bed or the shopper who has a late-night browsing habit and completes her purchase after midnight. Many analytics simplify and examine activity based on a set time period. As a result, each of the previous examples would likely be considered as two sessions – one that failed to convert and one that succeeded – when in actuality each was a single shopper.

A session-focused versus shopper-focused model can cause e-commerce sites to worry needlessly about conversion rates when in actuality the trouble is with how their analytics views the data.

Another example of analytics skewing reality is when a customer completes a transaction and then realizes he forgot something and makes a second purchase. Should one customer be treated as two just because he completed a second transaction? When considering conversions, is a shopper who transacts twice buying one item each time really more valuable than the shopper buying two items in a single transaction? We don’t think so.

The new SLI Dashboard now includes shopper-focused attribution. As a result, SLI looks at all of a shopper’s activity in the 24 hours leading up to a transaction, regardless of when it occurred. A site visitor with activity before midnight that continues into the next day is counted once, and multiple conversions from a single customer are treated as one successful conversion.

Conversion rate and average order value are critical measures of your e-commerce site. You need them to be an accurate representation of how many people successfully found what they were looking for, how many items people bought and how much they spent. The new SLI Dashboard provides a real-life view of how your customers are interacting with your site. In a world of numbers and calculations, let’s remember our customers are people too.

Refining Your Site Navigation (Part 2)

January 13, 2016 - 14:10

As we discussed last week, the purpose of refinements is to allow shoppers to find what they are looking for more quickly. By indicating specific characteristics to narrow down the number of options shown in a category, visitors don’t have to scroll through pages of products to find the right one.

There are some simple ways you can deliver an exceptional shopping experience through your refinements.

Consider a Color Palette

Color palettes provide a visually appealing way to show color options for a particular product. Plus, it takes the guess work out of identifying colors with names like vermilion (a reddish orange) or verdigris (a yellowish green). Color palettes are often displayed on the left column with other refinements.

Show Products in the Right Color

Display products in the color shoppers requested. For example, if the default image for a shirt is red, but it is also offered in blue, show the blue shirt when shoppers refine the category to blue.

If your product is available in several colors, let visitors see the color options from the navigation page. One effective way of doing this is to allow visitors to hover over the color palettes directly under the picture of the product. The color of the product changes, while other products on the page remain unchanged.

Use Images

The human brain processes images faster than text. Consider using images to signal certain refinements, such as apparel type (dresses, shirts, pants), brands, ratings, colors and shapes. Of course, images won’t work for some refinements, so use your judgment. Make sure the images you use are clear and simple, so your customers won’t be left guessing.

Use Easy-to-understand Navigational Images

If you use navigational images to identify subcategories, make sure they are easy to understand. You want to make sure shoppers don’t accidentally confuse the subcategory images for the product selection.

Provide the following visual cues:

  • Show products as well as subcategories
  • Include the number of results for each subcategory
  • Label the subcategory images clearly
  • Distinguish between the layout of your products and subcategories

Offer Multiple Ways to Unselect Refinements

Let visitors easily change and remove refinements. Customers may want to navigate to the top or up one or several levels within a category. Use a Show All link or a breadcrumb trail to enable a quick link back to a category page or higher navigation levels. Breadcrumb trails help visitors see
 exactly where they are on the site and what refinements have been used.

Another best practice is to use an X or checkmark beside the selected refinements. This allows visitors to easily remove a refinement selection without deleting all the selected refinements and gives shoppers the flexibility they need to find the item they’re looking for. A Clear All option offers a quick “back-to-the-top” navigation alternative.

For more tips on how to improve your site navigation, download our Big Book of Navigation Tips.