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A commentary on the search industry from a site search vendor's perspective.
Updated: 2 hours 46 min ago

6 Ways to Optimize the Mobile Shopping Experience

October 16, 2014 - 18:00

The stats are in and the message is clear: people are shopping on their smartphones and tablets more and more every day. Mobile commerce in the U.S. is:

Mobile shopping is outpacing desktop shopping; billions of dollars are on the line; and yet smartphone conversion rates remain at an embarrassingly low 1% or less for many retailers. Why? 80% of shoppers say they typically abandon a mobile site if they have a bad user experience (Limelight). To take advantage of this massive opportunity, online retailers need to provide shoppers with an excellent customer experience.

While there are many different ways to address all these different device formats, such as dedicated mobile or tablet sites or even a complete overhaul like Responsive design, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Whichever approach you choose, here are six tips to help you optimize your mobile customer experience:

1. Speed Matters

Nearly half of consumers expect a web page to load in less than two seconds (KISSmetrics). Remember that there is a distinct difference between what a computer calculates as page weight/load time and what a user will consider the page speed. Optimizing web pages for “visually complete” – or the user’s perception of when a page is complete – and optimizing actual page load times will create a better user experience. Tip: Use Google Page Speed Insights for overall comparison and WebPageTest to compare visually.

Image size also matters. Make sure to serve appropriately sized images and remember that even images hidden via CSS for a mobile view will still be downloaded.

  • If using a mobile site, make sure images are sized for that form factor; don’t simply reuse desktop images as they will force users to download excessively large images.
  • If the site is Responsive, make use of client side conditional loading (imager.js) or dynamic image compression (e.g. Akamai’s ION product line) to ensure users aren’t downloading unneeded bytes. Tim Kadlec found that by using a responsive image technique, sites could save up to 72.2% of image weight.

2. Reduce Customer Friction

Conversion rates on average are four to five times higher for people who use on-site search. Additionally, the type of visitors who utilize the search box are showing explicit intent and are more likely to purchase (PFSweb). Mobile users specifically are more likely to use search so make sure your search box is in an obvious place near the top of the page. Tools to ease the on-site searcher’s path-to-purchase include:

  • Rich Auto Complete ­­­­– Ease the pain of typing in search terms on small mobile devices by adding Rich Auto Complete to your search box. Through predictive analysis, this will offer suggested keywords and products as the user is typing the search term. This saves the user time and frustration and is a great way to reduce a customer friction point.
  • Spelling Suggestions – One of the difficulties that come with shopping from a mobile device is that the keyboard may be small or difficult to use, and customers may not be able to type in search words correctly. Account for misspellings or similar words by employing autocorrect or synonym rules. These rules create linkages between words to show the correct products when a word is misspelled or a different term or slang is used. 
  • Reviews & Social Media – Show ratings and reviews with your product results. Provide this social currency on site so users don’t need to leave your site to research products. Also, more shoppers are using social media to get ideas for gifts or find new items they’d like to purchase. Make sure you are catering to your mobile visitors by allowing them to share their favorite products easily among their social networks.

3.  Touch-Enabled Devices

When designing for touch-enabled devices, it’s important to remember the size of the human finger and thumb. The touch target for an index finger is 57 pixels and a thumb is 72 pixels. Making touch targets smaller than these targets can lead to user frustration and incorrect clicks. Moreover, don’t require users to pinch and zoom in order to navigate pages as these actions also lead to a negative user experience.

A very common mistake in mobile development is attempting to port desktop features directly to a mobile device. With a touch-enabled device, the user is not navigating the page with a mouse cursor so keep in mind that functions like hover don’t translate into a positive customer experience. At best, the user will attempt to click the item multiple times to activate the link; at worst, the user will be unable to click through at all. According to Thomas Fuchs, “The easiest way to deal with this is simple: don’t use hover on touch-enabled devices.”

4. Make Checkout Easy

Smart e-commerce companies create as few steps as possible at mobile checkout. When you allow visitors to checkout quickly and easily, they’re more likely to complete the purchase. To speed customers through checkout:

  • Reduce form length (fewer than 6 fields); if multiple steps, show progress
  • Top Align form labels for easy readability while typing
  • Allow guest checkout (to again, “reduce friction”)
  • PayPal/Google Wallet payment options get customers through the process quickly

5. It’s Time to Revolt Against Sliders (on Desktop and Mobile)

There have been numerous studies showing that sliders are useless. Site visitors are highly unlikely to take the time to read each slide or interact with the slider. Notre Dame performed a test with a slider on their homepage, only to find that the first image was the only image to receive interest from visitors (and only 1% of visitors). Take a serious look at your analytics and evaluate whether or not the extra download time and screen real estate is actually providing your customer value or simply satisfying everyone on the committee. Instead of sliders:

  • Show relevant sales items, or personalized offers based on season or geography
  • Show returning customers something based on their shopping affinity or past purchases
  • Avoid banner blindness and focus on what you really want the customer to do

6. Without Testing, You’re Just Guessing

Mobile customer expectations are evolving at a rapid rate so adapting to these ever-changing requirements is critical for success in an extremely competitive e-commerce environment. Performing tests, whether A/B or multivariate, can identify whether a feature can help or hurt your bottom line and is the best means of identifying which tips will best improve your conversion rates.  Looking at what your competitors do and industry best practices are only starting points; you also need to know what your audience responds well to.

To learn more about how to improve conversion rates and increase revenue from your mobile sites and apps, visit http://www.sli-systems.com/solutions/mobile-site-search.

Brazil’s $35 Billion E-commerce Boom

October 9, 2014 - 20:13

In 2014, Brazil is much more than FIFA World Cup host or Carnival central when it comes to business. It is also the next hot spot for e-commerce business. According to Forrester, e-commerce in Brazil grew 21% to a whopping $15 Billion in 2013, from $12.4 billion in 2012. And over the next five years, e-commerce in Brazil is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 18% to reach annual online retail sales of $35 billion by 2018.

“Brazil is a top five Internet audience now. It shows no signs of stopping in terms of the audience size, the growth, the engagement, the use of search, the use of video, the use of social media,” said Alex Banks, the Latin America head for market-research firm comScore Inc. “If Brazil is not part of your international expansion and you’re an Internet company, then you’re doing something terribly wrong.”

While SLI recognized several years back the incredible opportunity to expand into the Brazilian market to help retailers boost their online presence, others are now also promoting their desire to do business with Brazil. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article about Alibaba’s plans for business in Brazil.

To compete with the likes of Alibaba, retailers in Brazil need to have compelling e-commerce sites. One critical aspect is to have strong site search tools so that shoppers can readily find the products they are most likely to buy. Companies accelerating their e-commerce sales with strong site search include Raia Drogasil, the largest pharmacy group in Brazil; retail giant Colombo; and others such as Centauro, Saraiva and Nike. All are working with SLI to boost customer conversion rates by as much as 30%.

For SLI, expanding into Brazil was the best decision; the company’s annualized recurring revenues in Brazil grew 95% during its 2014 fiscal year. This in part is due to a strong sales program, good relationships, effective solutions and the availability of SLI solutions in Portuguese. See it for yourself at http://www.sli-systems.com.br/.

To learn more about how SLI helps global e-commerce retailers accelerate sales by connecting shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy, check out our best-practice case studies.

 

Time for a Change! SLI Reveals Its New Brand

September 25, 2014 - 22:02

At SLI Systems, we’re proud of our 13-year history of providing high-quality learning-based site search, and our status as the leading SaaS-based site search provider to the Internet Retailer Top 1,000. We’re also proud of our culture of ongoing innovation, which has led us to expand our solutions to include learning-based navigation, recommendations, user-generated SEO, mobile search and an array of merchandising tools and analytics. To communicate our commitment to meet the expanding needs of e-commerce retailers around the world, today we launch our new brand identity.

E-commerce Accelerated

Seen in this photo with CEO Shaun Ryan, the new SLI Systems logo and tag line embody our mission to accelerate e-commerce by connecting shoppers with the products they are most likely to buy. As mentioned in today’s press release, the ‘S-like’ symbol in the new logo represents a shopper’s seamless path to purchase. The interwoven elements reflect the customer collaboration that is core to SLI’s ongoing success and the success of our customers. The color palate considers the nuances of cultures across the five continents where SLI operates. We believe the logo enhances our already-strong brand recognition among the world’s leading e-commerce businesses.

As you see our new identity carried out on our web site, ads, tradeshow graphics, etc., I hope you’ll take a fresh look at what SLI has to offer – solutions that are proven to deliver e-commerce results, like the 30% increase in site revenue Lakeshore Learning experienced after implementing a range of SLI solutions, or the 10% sales lift Boden saw after implementing SLI Dynamic Product Banners.

We timed the launch of our new brand to coincide with several important events in the next week, including Shop.org 2014 in Seattle Sep. 29 – Oct., the SLI Connect customer summit in Seattle on Oct. 2, and the E-Commerce Expo in London Oct. 1-2. If you’re not joining us at any of these events, I hope you’ll browse the rich array of on-demand webinars, e-books and case studies available on our website at sli-systems.com, or connect with us on social media. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Back-To-School Shoppers Search for Charts, Magnets and… Common Core?

September 24, 2014 - 18:07

Nothing softens the summer’s end and back-to-school blues like a little retail therapy. According to eMarketer, online shoppers spent more than $50 billion during the 2014 back-to-school shopping season, which represents a 16% gain from $43.3 billion in 2013. Sixteen percent!

A key aspect of the back-to-school shopping blitz is of course school supply shopping – and purchasing materials online is becoming more and more convenient for time-strapped families and teachers.

To uncover the most highly sought after school supplies driving unprecedented online sales for the 2014-2015 school year, SLI’s data team analyzed more than 33 million searches conducted between June 1 and August 22, 2014. We looked at three popular U.S. online retailers selling office and school supplies, including instructional materials. These e-commerce retailers are SLI customers that use our site search software to ensure thousands of products are easy for educators, parents, and office managers alike, to find and purchase.

Our analysis revealed that teachers and parents were busy readying classrooms, supply kits, and bookshelves with a variety of materials, from charts to stickers. The most popular items searched for were “chart pocket” at 96,000+ searches, “magnet” with 88,800+ searches, and “calendar” with close to 76,000 searches. Trailing down the top 20 list, we saw that “pencils” garnered 40,800 searches and “Dr. Seuss” more than 32,000.

Common Core Materials

A not too surprising discovery among the site search data analyses was the volume of interest around the term “Common Core,” indicating that many teachers – and possibly parents as well – searched for materials related to the mandated, yet controversial standard.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the U.S., currently adopted by 44 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, that details what students in K-12 grades should know in English, history, social studies, science and mathematics at the end of each grade. It seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states and ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter college programs or the workforce.

Our data analysis revealed that during the back-to-school season, there were more than 72,000 searches for “Common Core.” Digging deeper into the numbers, we found:

  • Top Five States – Site searches originated most from CA (with nearly 3x that of the next state), followed by NY, IL, and FL with between 4,200 to nearly 5,000 searches each, and then GA with 3,000+ searches.
  • Top Five Grades – While 75% of the searches conducted for “Common Core” did not include a specific grade, “Common Core + 2nd grade” garnered the most interest with 4,500+ searches, followed by 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, which averaged 3,300 searches each. First grade saw just shy of 2,000 searches.

A value add of SLI is that we provide online retail retailers with insight regarding the products consumers are seeking. Accordingly, vendors know which products to stock and can promote those items consumers are most likely to buy. And through our easy-to-use search, consumers can readily find the merchandise they desire and get recommendations on related products that they may have overlooked, leading to a truly rewarding shopping experience.

Visit our library of best-practice case studies to see how SLI helps leading e-commerce retailers accelerate sales by connecting shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy.

Get Face-to-Face with E-Commerce Peers at SLI Connect

September 18, 2014 - 19:05

Technology allows us to connect with anyone anywhere more easily than ever before, but there’s still something special about face-to-face meetings. The quality of communication is better when you meet someone physically, and that enhanced connection continues long after the in-person meeting.

My theory is that you form a more complete mental model of an individual when you meet them in person and that model improves your future communication, whether it’s on the phone, via email or on a video conference. We see this time and time again when SLI team members visit each other in our global offices, and it’s why I’m excited to be traveling to Seattle next week for our customer summit, SLI Connect.

We held our inaugural customer summit in London earlier this year and it had a wonderful feeling of community. We intend to replicate this in Seattle. SLI Connect will give our customers the opportunity to plan strategies, learn from peers and give direct feedback to members of the SLI executive team.

An Invitation to Connect

We planned SLI Connect to coincide with Shop.org 2014. So, after you’ve networked with thousands of your peers at Shop.org and are teeming with inspiring e-commerce solutions and ideas, you can connect with SLI, face-to-face, to start putting those ideas to work. You’ll have the opportunity to strategize with your customer success manager and account manager on how to increase your online sales. You’ll hear how your peers have done this already and how SLI can help. You’ll be able to give us direct insight into your upcoming priorities and get a sneak peek into our product roadmap.

I hope you can join us for this full day of valuable insights as we continue to build and foster SLI’s growing community of more than 800 e-commerce sites.

Here’s the Who, What, When, Where and How of SLI Connect:

WHO/WHAT: SLI Connect is a day of learning and sharing ways to accelerate your e-commerce strategy and sales through the holiday season and into 2015. The full-day agenda includes:

  • E-commerce trends talk with SLI CEO Shaun Ryan and SLI CTO Wayne Munro
  • Industry panel with Alicia Fiorletta, editor of Retail Touchpoints
  • Retailer presentations with best practices for site search, navigation, SEO, mobile and more:
    • Sam Sarullo of Lakeshore Learning talks about how SLI helped Lakeshore increase online sales by 30%
    • Lisa Dahlke of Silver Star Brands shares how Silver Star uses SLI to help customers find products from their tens of thousands of SKUs
    • Sneak peek into the SLI product roadmap
    • Drinks, dining, interactive discussions and plenty of networking

WHEN: Thurs, October 2, 2014 – after Shop.org (kick-off dinner the prior evening of Oct 1)

WHERE: The Hyatt Olive 8 at 1635 8th Ave in downtown Seattle

HOW: Click here to secure your free registration for SLI Connect today!

 

SLI Systems’ CEO Takes ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

September 11, 2014 - 20:34

There is one more celeb Silicon Valley hasn’t seen take the #ALSIceBucketChallenge yet: our very own CEO Shaun Ryan! After Kim K finally responded to her fans to take the challenge this week, Shaun knew he couldn’t let his team down. Thanks again to Nextopia for nominating SLI Systems for this great cause, which raises awareness and funds for ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

As any fearless leader would, Shaun bravely accepted the challenge on behalf of the company. Here is the video for your enjoyment!

Shaun Ryan Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Downtown San Jose

We nominate our partners Magento, ROI Magazine, and Gorilla Group to take the challenge next. You’re up, and good luck!

As of September 11, the ALSA has received $112 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations from 3 million donors! To learn more about the challenge and the fight to treat and cure ALS, visit http://www.alsa.org.

E-Commerce Sales Growing, but We Can Do Better Than 9%

September 4, 2014 - 18:31

Each year, online sales take a bigger slice of the ‘total retail sales’ pie. This year, analyst firm Forrester expects e-commerce sales in the United States to reach $294 billion, a small 9% slice of all sales in the country. That means that 91% of retail sales still occur in brick-and-mortar stores. The question is: can e-commerce do better? Can e-commerce grab a larger slice of that pie by making simple changes? A recent large-scale study on e-commerce search by the Baymard Institute says YES.

“When e-commerce search works, it’s fast, convenient and efficient. It’s no wonder that so many users prefer searching over clicking categories. Unfortunately, our recent study finds that search often doesn’t work very well,” said Christian Holst, Baymard Institute co-founder.

The Baymard Institute found:

  • 16% of e-commerce sites do not support searching by product name or model number
  • 18% of sites provide no useful results if the product name was off by a single character
  • 70% require users to search by the exact jargon for the product type that the site uses, failing to return relevant products for “blow dryer” if “hair dryer” is typed
  • Searches with symbols and abbreviations are not supported by 60% of e-commerce sites
  • Only 40% of sites have faceted search, despite it being essential to e-commerce search because it is the foundation of contextual filters

Consistent with Baymard Institute findings, our own SLI study conducted last year found that 57% of e-commerce brands were not using their site search data to enhance marketing campaigns. Only 25% of retailers integrated site search data into email marketing campaigns to better customize offers; 27% created SEO landing pages populated with site search results and custom banners; and only 13% took advantage of site search to power mobile search.

It’s also interesting to note that amid generally weak Q2 earnings, the retail giants that announced spikes in e-commerce sales ranked as having excellent site search in Baymard’s search study:

  • #2 Wal-Mart global e-commerce grew 24%, heavily contributing to a $3.2 billion increase
  • #4 Wayfair, multinational e-retailer, reported a 50% YOY increase to total $574 million
  • #5 Sears, multinational department store chain, reported strongest sales came from e-commerce
  • #11 Staples, the world’s largest office-supply chain, grew its web sales 8%
  • #13 The Home Depot, the largest home improvement retailer in the U.S., increased its online sales 38% to $1 billion

The take-away? The e-commerce industry can do better than 9%. As more e-commerce sites optimize site search, online shopping experiences will improve and e-commerce will gain a greater share of the $1.7 trillion retail pie.

To see how small changes in your site can significantly impact revenue, schedule a demo with an SLI Systems sales director.

Make Back to School Shopping a Breeze – Even with 60,000 Products

August 27, 2014 - 18:06

This is first in a series of guest blogs where online retailers offer insight into their e-commerce success.

At Chalkfly, providing everything our customers need while making it easy for them to find those products is a fine line we walk. As an office and school supply e-commerce retailer, we sell nearly 60,000 products that range from kitchen goods to office chairs to scratch and sniff stickers (which are still as awesome as they were when you were in third grade).

Given our broad selection of products and the looming presence of some pretty hefty competitors, we knew that great site search would provide us with a critical edge. After implementing SLI Systems, conversion rates increased 30% and average order value increased by 33% for customers who searched our site.

For other retailers looking to simplify the search process for customers – during back to school season and beyond – I’d like to share a few things we’ve learned.

Shorten the Search

Since our robust site inventory is organized into dozens of categories, the parents, teachers and students shopping with us can end up in many corners of our site. To streamline our customer experience, we’ve used historical data and worked with local Parent Teacher Organizations to learn which supplies are most important for which grades. Using this information, we created curated categories and Back to School Kits, organized by grade, that provide refined options for shoppers. These curated kits not only make shopping easier, they also increase our average order value by marketing other, in-demand back to school products to users.

Sweeten the Results

We’ve paired many of our search results, especially within back to school categories, with custom search banners that drive customers to some of our best-selling products. These banners make shopping simpler for customers by placing some of our most popular products right at their fingertips. The SLI functionality that allows us to easily create these banners is a major plus for us because it simplifies search for customers and allows us to put selected products front and center.

When searching for “pencils” customers are presented with an attractive banner that brings them right to one of our best-selling products.

Search is a Gold Mine

At Chalkfly, we use SLI and Google Analytics to monitor the search terms our customers use. This data is chocked full of actionable insight for any e-commerce store. You should always test the top search terms on your site and ask: “Are these the best, most relevant results?” If not, tune those results to increase conversion rates. We analyze the top 50 terms on a weekly basis, and SLI’s reports help us answer several questions:

  • What are the popular seasonal products? (e.g. an uptick in searches for “supplies kit” means its time to feature our back to school kits throughout the site)
  • What are our highest converting search terms?
  • Are customers searching for information that can be answered through our blog? (e.g. queries that start with, “how to…”)

As your customers buy the supplies to start the new school year out right, optimize your search and curated products to ensure they continue shopping in their pj’s instead of “searching” through the aisles at a store.

Lissa Cupp is the CMO of Chalkfly, a Detroit-based e-commerce company that sells offices and school supplies and gives 5% of every purchase to a teacher of your choice. Read today’s press release about Chalkfly here.

From Blog to Buy: Content That Converts

August 20, 2014 - 18:09

It’s no secret here at SLI that we are arming online retailers with the e-commerce tools they need in the battle against Amazon – and creative content is proving to be a valuable weapon of choice. Many savvy e-commerce retailers use content (videos, blogs, social posts, etc.) to draw shoppers and turn browsers into buyers.

Target is a great example. Target’s e-commerce site now allows shoppers to buy items directly from its blog, A Bullseye View. All a shopper has to do is click a red box (“shop this look”) that hovers over the image of the desired product. Instantly, a box pops up with the item ready to be added to the consumer’s shopping cart.

Target’s new catchphrase? “Buy the products you want from the content you love.”

Creative content is driving sales in a way that it never has before. Converting shoppers into buyers directly on a compelling blog post is what all retailers strive for with their content. While a blog is a pretty traditional form of content, here are two great examples of SLI customers using non-traditional forms of content to ease the shoppers’ path-to-purchase:

1. King Arthur Flour Shares Recipes

Retailer of specialty flours and baking tools King Arthur Flour combines aspects of its community and knowledge base into its site, providing a wealth of searchable recipes, videos and blogs from expert bakers. Visitors can find enticing recipes with high ratings, see that they have been Pinned to Pinterest 1,000+ times, or read reviews from other users who have made those dishes themselves. Since customers can click a link in the recipe to buy ingredients they need from King Arthur Flour, it’s a seamless path-to-purchase for those eager to try the recipe.

Since working with SLI Systems to integrate this recipe content into its e-commerce search (versus its previous use of Endeca), King Arthur Flour has seen its conversion rate jump from 3.7% to nearly 6%.

If you’re an online retailer that sells any kind of food or kitchen product, you’ll want to offer recipes to showcase your expertise and the value of your products. When you create links from your recipes to the products or ingredients needed to complete the recipes, you’ll see the increase in sales.

2. FTD Gets Graphic

Online flower delivery retailer FTD uses infographics to drive visitors to its site and help generate sales. When the brand created an infographic using interesting stats about Mother’s Day, it was a nice visual article showing that 76% of moms polled would choose flowers as their gift. It was a popular infographic to share on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as millions of sons and daughters considered what to give their moms for Mother’s Day. The infographic not only provided the insight and incentive for buying flowers for mom, but it also linked straight to the FTD site, offering easy access to purchase that Mother’s Day bouquet.

Infographics combine visual appeal with condensed information, making them perfect for grabbing people’s attention and giving them content quickly. They are also nice for the skimmers out there – those of us who are short on time or attention span. Finally, infographics are easy to share. Whether on social media or blogs, infographics are just the kind of content thought leaders love to re-post.

To learn more about how e-commerce sites can increase conversions by creating remarkable content, watch a recorded webinar on this subject or download our free e-book, Use Creative Content to Turn Online Shoppers into Buyers.

At eTail East, Plan for a Profitable Holiday and Beyond

August 11, 2014 - 11:55

As eTail East begins today in Philadelphia, we want to point out some of the highlights we’re looking forward to at this year’s show.

Monday Roundtable:
Use Creative
and Social Content to Convince Shoppers to Buy
Moderator: Jason Miller, Product Evangelist, SLI Systems
Grand Ballroom C, D – Table 6
August 11, 10:05-11:05 AND 3:10-4:10

At this eTail East Roundtable, SLI Product Evangelist Jason Miller will share examples of leading retailers that increase site conversions by using rich content like videos, blogs, social posts and how-to articles – all integrated into their site search and navigation. He’ll discuss why compelling content helps entice and convince shoppers to convert. Learn and discuss best practices that leading retailers use to create a site experience that turns shoppers into buyers. If you can’t make this session, listen to our on-demand webinar, “Use Creative Content to Turn Shoppers into Buyers.”

Monday Dinner with SLI Systems:
Del Frisco’s Steakhouse, private Vault Room
August 11, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
For retailers only, by invitation
RVSPs accepted until 2 p.m. EST today

To kick off the first night of eTail East in style, SLI Systems is hosting an unforgettable dining experience at Del Frisco’s Steakhouse. We’ll have the privilege of dining in the private Vault Room of Del Frisco’s, located inside what once was the First Philadelphia Bank. If you are a retailer and have not yet reserved a place at the table, you may RSVP here until 2 p.m. today.

Wednesday Main Session:
Easy Upgrades to Optimize Holiday Profits
Presenters: Victor Castro, Director of E-commerce, Zachys Wine & Liquor and Tim Callan, CMO, SLI Systems
Grand Ballroom E, F
August 13, 12:50 p.m.

With no time to spare before the 2013 holiday shopping rush, Zachys Wine & Liquor’s Director of E-commerce Victor Castro implemented e-commerce acceleration solutions to the Zachys site and saw an incredible 130% increase in site revenue by the end of the season. In this main-stage presentation, hear from Victor about the solutions he used and how you can optimize your own e-commerce site before Holiday 2014.

Enjoy eTail East!

Appliances Online and SurfStitch Win Online Retail Industry Awards

August 5, 2014 - 18:03

SurfStitch Showcases SLI Learning Search

Aussie retailers Appliances Online and SurfStitch have been picked as equal winners for ‘Best Pureplay Online Retailer’ at the Online Retail Industry Awards (ORIA).

The annual awards, which recognize the pinnacle of excellence in digital retailing, handed out the top accolade to the joint winners. Both online retailers use SLI Systems’ Learning Search solution that ‘learns’ from past site search activity. It does this by tracking visitors’ search behavior, and then uses that data to deliver the most relevant results. The technology also brings clients’ non-product information (such as user ratings, reviews, social content, blogs and videos) into search to deliver an impressive user experience that compels shoppers to buy.

“It’s a great achievement to win the top award at the ORIAs,” said CEO John Winning for Appliances Online. Since implementing SLI Learning Search, Appliances Online noticed that people who use site search spend twice as much time on site as visitors who don’t use site search. The appliances retailer also witnessed a 20% increase in site revenue.

As well as using SLI Learning Search, SurfStitch also uses SLI Site Champion, which builds upon SLI Learning Search technology to deliver high-quality organic search traffic to sites. It learns from site visitors and dynamically creates SEO-optimized landing pages that are indexed by Google and other Internet search engines, extending the site’s SEO footprint and making more content findable.

Since  inception in 2008, SurfStitch has recognized that investing in its e-commerce platform, customer service and engagement is key to offering customers an optimal online shopping experience.  Learning Search and Site Champion have eliminated dead-ends for SurfStitch’s customers, as site visitors no longer find themselves lost or stuck looking at products they don’t want. In addition to experiencing a 90% reduction on ‘no results’ pages, average sales are up 15% for SurfStitch and site visitors spend 25% more time browsing. Appliance Online has seen a 20% increase in revenue.

“SLI is committed to offering the world’s leading e-commerce acceleration solutions such as Learning Search and Site Champion. I congratulate our customers Appliances Online and SurfStitch on their achievement in winning this award,” said Shaun Ryan, CEO, SLI Systems. “We are excited to see these two important customers increase customer conversions through the use of our solutions, and to have them recognized for their successes.”

E-Commerce Sites Fend Off FireFly with Social, Search & Video

July 30, 2014 - 18:59

Think again, Amazon. The Fire Phone’s new FireFly feature – an alleged “showrooming on steroids” – may be one more way you drive more shoppers to your site, but it can’t beat the hundreds of thousands of e-commerce sites in the U.S. that are driving visitors to their own websites with incredibly creative content. In fact, more than 40% of marketers report that inbound marketing, such as blogs and social media, demonstrates a positive return on investment for their company.

Using compelling content, smart online retailers like Kidrobot, ReNew Life and Artbeads give customers unique and memorable shopping experiences that create powerful brand loyalty and convince customers to buy. Here’s a peek into how they do it:

1. Kidrobot Goes Social

Designer art toy retailer Kidrobot regularly sees its Instagram posts receive 1,000+ Likes, and many of its YouTube videos have received 10,000+ views. So Kidrobot brought its videos, Instagram photos, Twitter feeds and Facebook content into easy view on the search results pages of its site. Now when shoppers search Kidrobot for a product, they’ll also see Tweets, Instagram posts and other social content related to the product searched.

Social content can certainly motivate shoppers to buy. When Kidrobot integrated its social media content into its search result pages, online orders increased 13%.

When going social, the most important consideration is to leverage it in a way that aligns with the way your customers use it. If you have more fans on Pinterest than Twitter, cater to those users with high-quality photos perfect for pinning.

2. ReNew Life Uses Standout Site Search

One of the latest best practices for site search is an advanced autocomplete function that can suggest search terms, categories and specific products – as soon as shoppers type in the first couple letters of their searches. This type of autocomplete is especially powerful for retailers with products that don’t lend themselves to very specific searches, such as health and wellness retailers that often have users searching for conditions rather than specific products. ReNew Life is a great example. A search for “cleanse” offers up product suggestions for a variety of types of cleanses, along with other popular search terms.

Optimized site search has allowed ReNew Life to grow sales in a big way.  The conversion rate for ReNew Life customers who use site search is nearly 10%, more than 4x higher than non-search users.

Implementing content-rich site search is a great way to improve conversions on your e-commerce site. A standout site search can go above and beyond customers’ expectations, building loyalty and driving sales.

3. Artbeads Offers How-To Articles and Videos

Retailer StacksandStacks.com found that a customer who viewed a product video was up to 144% more likely to buy the product.​ Online shop for beads and jewelry supplies Artbeads.com truly exemplifies the power of how-to videos by showing shoppers exactly how to create stylish jewelry looks with their products. In addition to more than 125 videos on its YouTube channel, Artbeads also incorporates these how-to’s into its e-commerce site, displaying links to the exact products viewers need to purchase to make the pieces shown in the videos.

With rich content integrated into its site search, Artbeads’ conversions from search increased 30% (over a 4-week promo period), while overall site conversions rose 8.6%.

Offering how-to articles, particularly in the form of nicely edited videos, displays 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.

To learn more about how e-commerce sites can increase conversions by creating remarkable content, watch a recorded webinar on this subject or download our free e-book, Use Creative Content to Turn Online Shoppers into Buyers.

Why You Don’t Need to Brush Your Hair When You Buy Cosmetics

July 21, 2014 - 23:09

Are you addicted to cosmetics? Hoarding makeup is not uncommon. If you own multiples of eye shadows, lipsticks, blushes and brushes (as I do…), then you’re not alone. Indeed, it’s globally pandemic: according to research by Feel Unique, there are millions of women on the planet who hoard cosmetics. The same research also found women spend more than US$170,000 on makeup in their lifetime — and would rather ditch their man than go without cosmetics. Really! (Can’t say I share that sentiment!)

Pore-refining, firming, lifting, tightening, toning, brightening, whitening, collagen, retinol, vitamin A, vitamin C, aloe vera, lactic acid, glycolic acid, grapefruit seed extract… sound familiar? Of course, all of these processes and ingredients promise women the one thing we’re so desperate to hold on to … eternal youth.

Traditionally, women have bought beauty products offline, visiting their aesthetician at a department store cosmetics counter, pharmacy or specialised cosmetics boutique. Some still do, to get the informed opinion of someone they possibly know and certainly trust.

But that’s changed. Nowadays, consumers can access this information from the comfort of their own home (where, they’re probably wearing a snail slime mask — yes it really exists, I’ve tried it). They can even browse for cosmetics on the go via their tablet or mobile device.

With online beauty e-tailers such as Sephorae.l.f. CosmeticsAdore Beauty and Strawberrynet, women can feed their insatiable beauty-beast desire in a matter of minutes. Online beauty retailers are not only price competitive and stock the latest and most coveted beauty products — they also provide a wealth of information in the form of blogs and forums. So instead of talking to one person, who no doubt has some degree of vested interest in the sale (which may, or may not change their view of a product’s suitability), women can get the honest feedback from as many people as reviews they want to read. And often it’s those comments that shape purchasing decisions.

Buying online is also fast.

Beauty e-tailer e.l.f. Cosmetics (which stands for “eyes lips face”), has an intuitive search solution that instantly connects users with the products they’re looking for; in fact, the search “learns” from past site search behaviour by tracking visitors’ aggregate search queries and clickthroughs. What does this mean? That digital shoppers are being presented with the most popular and relevant search results. (So no plugging in “eye shadow” to annoyingly receive results for “mascara”.)

Beauty e-tailer, e.l.f. Cosmetics, “learns” from every visitor’s search. The result is a search function that helps users find exactly what they’re looking for in a matter of seconds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t know exactly what you’re looking for? No need for a breakout. In addition to the user product reviews and popular and relevant searches, online beauty retailers make the shopping process even more stress-free by offering best-sellers, how-to’s, celebrity-inspired looks and video makeup tutorials… as well as a list of all the products required to achieve those looks. Did a new blush colour catch your eye in a magazine, but you can’t recall the product’s name? Not a problem. Sticking with our savvy beauty e-tailer e.l.f. Cosmetics (and yes, I do own quite a few of their products!) allows you to search for the product type, e.g. “blush,” to reveal “as seen in,” which displays cosmetics and skincare that has received press mentions.

Reviews written by people who’ve previously bought the product help visitors decide what to buy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also like e.l.f. Cosmetics’ intuitive product-recommendations engine; this optimises suggested products based on recommendation logic and data learned from past customer behaviour. For example, when a visitor lands on a product details page for a lipstick, they’ll be presented with other products typically bought with that lipstick, such as a lip exfoliator.

Australia’s Adore Beauty uses video demonstrations to help guide shoppers’ decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian-based cosmetics e-tailer Adore Beauty allows visitors to navigate its site by skin type, catering for dry, oily, problem or blemish-prone skin. Shoppers can also search for products by ratings and reviews; this will be important if they only want to consider top-rated products to buy.

Onsite videos demonstrating how to use products also help to humanise the whole digital experience. While it’s not the same as asking the assistant at the counter for tricks in using shaded tones to make your eyes appear larger, you can sit, to your heart’s content, and learn how to apply products you may never have seen before, or products you felt too silly to ask about. You get the benefit of experts, and no one will know — until, of course, they see how well you can shade your eyelids!

So to fellow beauty addicts who haven’t yet tried the online shopping experience, give it a go: chances are, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for!

Technology Makes Back-to-School Shopping Elementary

July 17, 2014 - 17:32

Though many of us are barely settling into summer, retailers are already touting back-to-school clothes and supplies. This year, the role of e-commerce in back-to-school shopping is bigger than ever. According to a June report by eMarketer, online back-to-school purchases in 2014 will increase 16% over 2013 – a growth rate that’s nearly triple the 5.85% growth rate in overall retail sales.

Smart retailers are optimizing their mobile sites and using more advanced search and navigation technology to capture the growing audience of online back-to-school shoppers.

Mobile-Optimized Sites

In mobile shopping experiences of years past, many site visitors would give up out of frustration with the cumbersome navigation. Today, retailers with good mobile-specific sites make it exceptionally easy for customers to shop using smartphones or tablets. These retailers will gain loyalty and carry an advantage into back-to-school shopping and beyond.

Tea Collection is a great example of a mobile site done right. My eight-year-old’s one desire for new clothing is a maxi dress (the kind that “are swirly and go to the floor,” in case you didn’t know). On Tea Collection’s mobile site, I search “Girls 8 maxi dress” and three great options come up – all in the right size. Easy peasy, as a third grader might say.

Advanced Site Search & Navigation

Just as with mobile search, online retailers will win shopper loyalty when they make it easy for visitors to find and buy what they’re looking for. Just as great search is critical to help shoppers find exactly what they want, great navigation is essential to help them browse or narrow down items in a broad category.

I went to Lakeshore Learning’s site knowing that I wanted some type of learning game. I typed “learning game” in the search box, then with 529 search results I was able to narrow down to a few great options by clicking the refinements “mathematics,” “puzzles & games,” “3rd grade” and “top rated.” Yes, The Allowance Game looks like a great way to ease my third grader back into math practice.

Next, visiting Gymboree, I searched for some clothing basics for my 12-year-old, entering “girls uniform navy.” Up popped navy blue cardigans, skirts, pants and hair accessories – I picked what I needed and was on my way through checkout. Done.

It’s Not Always So Easy

Unfortunately, not all e-commerce sites make it so simple for visitors. It’s hard to know the immense value of good search technology until you encounter a site that does it poorly. I thought I might stock up on notebooks, folders and other basic staples at DollarTree.com. But when I searched “notebooks,” the results just showed me filler paper, legal pads and journals. I had to scroll beyond the first 12 results before I saw composition notebooks and spiral bound notebooks. Annoyed with the less streamlined experience, I left the site and decided to pick up these items another time.

Make Sure Shoppers Don’t Lose Patience

As more stores learn how to do search and navigation right, consumers lose patience with retailers who make it more work than fun to do their shopping. Retailers who want to compete effectively need to keep up, and that means looking for the best technology possible for site features like search, navigation, product recommendations and merchandising. Retailers who go with a cheap, basic search function just to check that item off their list are missing the opportunity to delight and retain the customers who are used to better relevancy and a better, faster, more fun shopping experience.

Do Americans Like Soccer? World Cup E-Commerce Data Is Revealing

July 11, 2014 - 19:44

Americans have a love-hate relationship with soccer. Just look at the headlines this week:

  • “The Debate is Over, Americans Love Soccer” (article3),
  • “America’s Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer” (Ann Coulter),
  • “World Cup Gives Soccer Momentum” (SFGate),
  • “Future of Soccer: Bright for Our Team, Not the Sport” (CBS),

Because SLI works with 800+ e-commerce vendors globally and can study consumer search behavior online, we are in the unique position to put this debate to rest and learn how the World Cup really affected interest in soccer. Forget opinions and gut feeling, the data don’t lie.

So what did we find? Well, the 2014 World Cup kicked up more than just a sea of Tim Howard fans in the U.S. Increasingly more consumers appear to be interested in soccer and soccer gear. SLI studied consumer search behavior between March 2 and July 9, 2014 and found that for the month of June, soccer-related searches increased by 280% compared to May.

The study was conducted across eight leading international sporting goods and apparel retailers with combined monthly revenue of approximately $500M and analyzed more than 341 million consumer searches to track interest in soccer-related products. The interests of U.S.-based consumers were clear: there were more than 2.2 million soccer related product searches from just these eight e-commerce sites alone.

And that’s not all. Soccer is played year-round in the U.S., but recreational soccer gear tends to be purchased before the fall and spring seasons. We found a boost in online shopping behavior during June for products ranging from soccer cleats, balls, shin guards, gloves and other equipment, demonstrating the country’s increased interest in actually playing the sport.

Additional findings from the study include:

  • June 16th was the peak day for soccer-related shopping in the U.S., the day the U.S. played Ghana.
  • In the U.S., the international teams with most consumer interest are Brazil, followed by Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands.
    • The most popular search terms, in order, for the U.S. were:
      • Soccer
      • USA Soccer
      • FIFA
      • Nike Soccer

It’s clear that The World Cup U.S. fanfare will continue long after Sunday’s final game. Writer Alan Black of SFGate put it best, “File soccer under American.”

Going Global: It’s About More than Translation

July 2, 2014 - 14:08

Taking your online business into new international markets presents a huge opportunity. Global e-commerce sales have already passed the trillion dollar mark and growth in overseas markets like Asia-Pacific and South America have already surpassed growth in North America.

But expanding your online borders comes with a fair number of challenges. Translating your site into the local language is no easy feat – and it’s just one part of the puzzle. There are many other factors you need to consider to develop an international e-commerce site that appropriately serves the local market.

 

Offer Products in the Correct Language and Currency

When expanding into new global areas, retailers mostly focus on their e-commerce platform and its ability to accommodate visitors from those regions – whether information is offered in the right language and prices reflect the local currency, for example.

Ensure Superior Search Ability in Every Language

But it’s important that retailers don’t ignore site search, which is another critical element for success in a new region. The best search helps visitors find what they want in their language, plus accounts for cultural differences that impact the way shoppers in different countries navigate a site. Shoppers looking for household items on retail sites in Japan and Brazil will likely have different preferences than someone searching for the same items on retail sites in the U.S.

Account for Regional Preferences

That variation in consumer preferences vary by region is also an important aspect to address with search and navigation. Your international visitors will likely jump to another site if they don’t see what they’re most interested in on yours.

Some of SLI’s international clients like Boden (in the UK) and Surfstitch (out of Australia) look to us to help them not only provide adequate language translation support, but also to deliver the items that are relevant to their visitors in different countries.

Next Steps?

We recently announced complete support for seven additional languages, which brings SLI’s language support to cover 14 languages – Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, German, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish English. With this extensive language support, plus SLI’s flagship Learning Search technology, it’s fairly simple for retailers to get the site search component of their international site working successfully.

Having SLI Systems part of an e-commerce internationalization project can take a huge burden off of a company’s marketing and IT teams. SLI takes care of making sure the relevancy of search results always reflects the most popular items in different regions of the world, which helps with inventory and fulfillment strategies as well.

If you’re thinking about going global and want to meet local language and cultural requirements, be sure you don’t overlook your search and navigation to ensure you maximize your ROI and establish local brand loyalty.