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Now that more than half of all time spent shopping online is done via mobile devices, mobile commerce is growing three times faster than overall e-commerce. In its “Spotlight on Modern Retail 2015,” NRF found that during the first three quarters of 2014, retailers reported their mobile sales grew a whopping 87 percent!
To meet these quickly changing usage patterns, Google is again adapting its algorithms to help users discover more mobile-friendly content. On April 21, Google will expand its mobile-friendliness ranking signal to make it even easier for users to find ‘mobile-friendly’ websites in search results.
According to Google, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” And if anyone wants to test mobile web pages, Google provides a handy tool: The Mobile Friendly Test.
Mobile-Optimized Site Search Boosts SEO
Heavily contributing to the ‘mobile-friendly’ signal will be whether or not visitors, after landing on a mobile page, can complete the tasks they wanted to accomplish by solely using the mobile site.
For instance, when visitors using tablets search for new running shoes on Sports Authority, the company’s mobile-friendly site helps them easily find and buy the shoes they want, which in turn will help Sports Authority fare better in Google rankings after the April 21 algorithm change.
Mobile site search is a vital part of delivering a satisfying shopping experience to mobile users as it helps visitors quickly and easily engage with the site. Given mobile’s space and speed challenges, the search box is the best gateway to finding products and content on mobile sites. That in turn has a big impact on engagement metrics such as conversion rate, bounce rate, average time on site, average pages requested per session and more, which has a direct domain-wide impact on its ‘mobile-friendly’ signal and mobile search ranking.
For a complete guide to providing mobile shoppers with a great user experience, download the new white paper Site Search and the Mobile User Experience.
Mobile 101 – New Webinar!
Join us on Tuesday, March 24 at 10:00 a.m. PDT for a new SLI Webinar, Mobile 101 – Best Practices, to learn more about how to convert mobile shoppers with an engaging mobile user experience (and in turn, boost your mobile search ranking!). Registration is open until 8 a.m. PDT on March 24, plus an on-demand version of the webinar will be available soon.
SLI Connect is sparking exciting e-commerce discussions on both sides of the globe this month.
Earlier in March, we had our most successful SLI Connect UK yet. With an unprecedented 200 attendees from 150+ leading retailers such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Tesco, Jigsaw London, Warehouse, Chemist Direct and Paul Smith, we could not have asked for a better or more expert turnout. I want to thank all who attended and presented for your invaluable participation at the show.
At the end of the month, we will hold our next SLI Connect in Australia – SLI Connect AU.
Through discussions with customers and colleagues at SLI Connect UK, it was clear that the future of e-commerce is flush with opportunity. We’ve all heard the buzzword ‘omnichannel,’ but the reality comes down to this: true ‘omnichannel’ means the channel becomes totally invisible to the customer. To make the omnichannel experience seamless and successful, the retailer must subtly meet shoppers at all points in their user journeys in a personalized manner. Here are two real-world examples I was fortunate to learn about at SLI Connect.
Fashion Retailers Move Toward Omnichannel
Top clothing retailer Jigsaw is positively moving toward omnichannel retailing. Jigsaw’s Head of E-commerce Kate Holt presented at SLI Connect, where she revealed that Jigsaw was experiencing a massive rise in smartphone traffic. She informed us that 55% of traffic and 44% of sales came from mobile devices! Jigsaw uses SLI Mobile to ensure its mobile shoppers are quickly finding the items they want to buy. Kate reported that the results to date have been staggering, with revenue up 47% and conversion rate up 30%.
Leading clothing retailer Warehouse is also working toward omnichannel retailing by executing a robust personalization strategy, according to SLI Connect presenter and Warehouse Digital Trading Manager Liam Price. Through Warehouse’s popular blog ‘Tales of the City’; various payment, delivery and returns options; product recommendations (via SLI Learning Recommendations); and advanced site search (via SLI Learning Search), the retailer’s e-commerce site is experiencing a 7% increase in visitors and 3.4% increase in conversions.
In fact, a test run by Warehouse found that when SLI Learning Recommendations were removed from the product page, total revenue fell by 2%!
Multichannel, Omnichannel – It’s Just Retail!
E-commerce industry analyst Linda Bustos says it best, “Whether you refer to it as multichannel or omnichannel, the ways in which your consumers are researching, purchasing, and interacting have evolved, effectively backing most brands into a largely-reactive corner…organizations must realign with experience-driven systems to build relationships with, and sell to, the modern consumer.”
The two savvy retailers mentioned above are personalizing the e-commerce experience, making the ‘channel’ virtually unseen, to meet the needs of their modern shoppers and drive e-commerce sales. SLI Connect attendee Jon Woodall from Space48 summed it up nicely: “Forget omnichannel, it’s retail!”
SLI Connect Australia – Less than Two Weeks Away!
There’s still time to register for SLI Connect Australia, which is coming to Sydney on 31 March 2015 at the Quay West. More retailers and e-commerce professionals will gather there to discuss and explore the future of e-commerce, with speakers from ChannelAdvisor, Shopbot, Bras N Things, Appliances Online and more. We hope you can be part of this powerful event!
50+ years ago, futurists predicted that advances in technology would provide a life of ease. Instead, we use today’s technology to do more, faster – even with shopping. As an increasing number of online shoppers want to find, buy and get on with life as quickly as possible, here are five must-have features for e-commerce sites that want to meet the needs of these “speed shoppers.”
1. Learning-based Site Search
Speed shoppers are likely to go straight to the search box and expect relevant results within the first few items displayed. To deliver such on-target results, a site search provider needs to offer technology that learns from multiple aspects of user activity and continually re-ranks items that are most relevant. The smarter the technology, the better the accuracy and speed for shoppers.
2. Autocomplete with Graphics
A critical feature for speed in site search is the ability to auto-populate product results and images from the first letter a searcher types, as offered by SLI Rich Auto CompleteTM. If I want to quickly find polo shirts and I start typing “polo,” I appreciate a retailer who shows me “polo” shirts after just typing “po.”
In this example, the retailer also uses SLI Learning SearchTM technology, which intelligently infers that by typing “po” I was most likely looking for a polo shirt and not a “pocket tee” or “popover hoodie.” Smart – and fast.
3. Social Content and Reviews Integrated Into Search
Keep in mind that not all speed shoppers know exactly what they want when they search. A last-minute gift-buyer, for instance, may search for “makeup set” at e.l.f. cosmetics, but before clicking “buy” the giver wants to make sure it’s a quality product. Since e.l.f. incorporates a special “As Seen In” feature into its search, the gift shopper can see that this item has been featured in magazines like O and Woman’s Day. And if that doesn’t instill enough confidence to click “buy,” the shopper can see that it’s a 4-star product with more than 61 reviews. This quick-reference information, placed on the product page, can make a speed shopper giddy about the efficiency of it all.
4. Easy Payment Options
Online shoppers are quickly getting fed up with multiple-step checkouts that require them to provide personal and financial information. As more consumers experience the convenience of PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet or similar payment options, paying with credit cards could soon become a relic. Be sure you offer the payment experience your customers prefer, or they’ll find other sites that do.
5. Optimized Mobile Experience
Speed and ease are especially critical for mobile shoppers. The smaller the screen size, the smaller the amount of patience a customer has before giving up. 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 shoppers overwhelmingly prefer social logins for ease of use. Express checkout and easy payment options are as critical here as with any shopping site. Other critical features are those that will improve findability, like learning-based search and navigation.
The investment in meeting the needs of speed shoppers will undoubtedly pay off. Speed shoppers are usually searchers, which are 2-3x more likely to convert than non-searchers. And when you meet speed shoppers’ needs for efficiency, they’ll quickly become some of your most loyal repeat customers.
There’s no question. Site search isn’t sexy, but it doesn’t have to be, because the revenue it drives speaks for itself. Internet Retailer Senior Editor Thad Reuter said it best in his February article, Reading Shoppers’ Minds:
“Site search receives little in the way of celebrity-level attention in e-commerce… But with retailers typically reporting two or three times the amount of conversions for site search users, the stakes are obvious: Better site search can translate into more profits.” Period.
However, one question still remains: Which site search approach best connects shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy, making shopping easier and retailers more profitable? Do online shoppers use natural language search, which interprets subjective terms to serve up search results? Or do the most relevant search results come from learning site search, which “learns” what specific search terms resonate most with consumers and – with SLI Learning SearchTM technology – reranks the order of search results based on the latest activity of users?
In e-commerce, there is some uncertainty around the demand for natural language search. North Face e-commerce manager, Charles Caison, told Internet Retailer, “At North Face, for instance, most shoppers search using terms that describe the product, not ambiguous phrases that require natural language processing to decode. It may be that we have been trained by Internet search engines for keyword searches rather than natural language searches.”
A new SLI study also supports Caison’s insight. To demonstrate site search user behavior today, SLI evaluated natural language terms, focusing on subjective search terms including “cheap,” “nice” and “cute” for a Fortune 100 retailer. As you can see in the chart below, out of 67,000 searches, the word “quality” was only used 3 times while “cheap” and “nice” had similar results. The findings reveal that subjective search terms are not yet commonly used among online shoppers.Total searches performed ~67k Searches containing “cheap” 11 Searches containing “quality” (high-quality) 3 Searches containing “nice” 0 Searches containing “cute” 42
Lakeshore Learning, an IR Top 500 company, also finds less use of natural language search from its shoppers. Lakeshore Vice President of E-commerce Sam Sarullo told Internet Retailer, “an analysis of the retailer’s top 1,000 searches revealed that consumers use an average of 1.8 words to search – a signal that consumers remain wedded to keyword search, and that natural language-type searches may not yet be intuitive. That said, I see return customers who are more familiar with our products using these natural language or long-tail searches.”
The beauty of Learning SearchTM is that if it detects shoppers’ use of longer search terms, it will “learn” and tweak its results to reflect that behavior. Learning Search continuously analyzes the terms and phrases that prove most popular and lead conversions.
Perhaps the best argument for the value of Learning Search is to let e-commerce companies’ results speak for themselves. Here are some of the results leading retailers have experienced using Learning Search:
- Lakeshore Learning, an education supplies manufacturer: 30% increase in online sales
- Boden, a British clothing retailer: 1.8x higher conversion rate using search
- e.l.f. Cosmetics, an international cosmetics brand: 21% higher per-visit value using search
- Marine Depot, world’s #1 supplier of aquarium supplies: 11% increase in revenue
- SurfStitch, Australia’s #1 surf retailer: 30% improvement in page position for organic search
Some say “sex sells,” but in e-commerce, Learning Search sells more.
Does your retail operation manage both online and brick and mortar shopping experiences? If so, you understand the importance of showing shoppers a wide variety of products online, while also giving them the option to find their desired product locally where they can see it, try it in person and perhaps pick it up the same day.
A popular way to provide these options to shoppers is to use geospatial information to localize the online shopping experience. By allowing geospatial queries, retailers can offer location-based searching and navigation so that shoppers can:
Filter and Order Search Results by Distance
Retailers can allow customers to see the availability of products within a geographic range, narrowing results by the distance they’re willing to travel for the item. Additionally, retailers can order results by distance so that products located closer to the specified area are listed first in search results.
Shop by Store Location
This feature lets customers view results for products that are available at a particular store location. This can come in handy if customers are more interested in seeing products at the location closest to them. Some retailers carry different inventory in various stores or have a wider inventory online. Allowing shoppers to search by store location provides a specific, localized and convenient online shopping experience.
Andersen Windows, the largest manufacturer of windows and doors in the U.S., uses a store locator map on their site to show the closest stores where their products are sold.
Show Search Results in Map View
The easiest way to convey information about location is through a map. Showing shoppers where product inventory is located and giving them the ability to see more or less based on geographic perimeters provides a richer and very intuitive search experience.
Show Available Inventory on Product Detail Pages
When shoppers view a product detail page, retailers can provide additional information about the closest local stores where the inventory is located. This is especially helpful for shoppers who want to examine the item in person before a purchase or for those that need it quickly. It can also be helpful for products that are difficult to ship due to size or weight.
Giving shoppers a localized shopping experience streamlines their ability to find and buy products in a way that is most convenient for their needs. It’s an easy way to add tremendous value to shoppers by showing information that is directly relevant to them – it also improves the chance for a sale.
SLI supports geospatial queries in the ways listed above to help retailers create a stronger omnichannel connection between their physical and online stores.
With Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, many are asking which team is most popular. The Seahawks and Patriots are not only competing for the championship, but also for most die-hard fans. Do Seahawks fans really put Patriots fans to shame? Did ‘DeflateGate’ have any impact on fan loyalties? SLI Systems was eager to set the record straight and find out “Where The Fans Are” with a state-by-state look at Patriots’ and Seahawks’ popularity.
To determine the states’ loyalties, SLI studied more than 300,000 Super Bowl product-related searches taking place between January 1 and January 25, 2015 across 32 U.S. sporting goods and apparel retailers. While many devoted fans might be tempted to root against teams that take them out of championship, SLI uncovered that fans actually remain loyal to their region’s respective Conference (with a few exceptions). SLI’s “Where the Fans Are” map shows where all 50 states’ loyalties lie.
Not surprising, Seahawks-branded products were most sought by fans in northwestern states; and, with the exception of Alabama, Iowa and Wisconsin, fans in states on the eastern half of the U.S. favored Patriots-branded products.
What was noteworthy was that fans in Wisconsin (home of the Green Bay Packers, which lost to the Seahawks in the NFC championship) searched more for Seahawks than Patriots items. And, fans in Indiana (home of the Colts, which lost to the Patriots in the AFC championship) most sought Patriots items. Online shopping behavior shows that AFC/NFC Conference loyalty is stronger than getting revenge on past losses – and in turn, fans across the country searched for merchandise for the teams and players they know best. It seems that for Super Bowl XLIX, team loyalty takes a backseat to simple team familiarity.
For an interesting comparison, take a look at the map and infographic from last year’s SLI Super Bowl E-commerce Study. When the Seahawks faced off against Denver in 2014, Wisconsin also stood out among other midwest states in their online shopping preference for Seahawks gear. And most New England fans that are searching for Patriots items this year were searching for Seahawks items last year.
Whichever team you’re rooting for, I hope you enjoy the Big Game!
At the beginning of each year, many people ask me what trends to expect in e-commerce technology for the year ahead. For 2015, I see vast opportunities for increased personalization in the online shopping experience.
Most retailers do a poor job of personalization because they don’t know enough information about their customers, or because the information they have is poor quality. Their knowledge is limited to what they can gather through the interactions customers have with them, which are inevitably a small part of shoppers’ total retail experiences – plus they often lack context.
An example of failed personalization is when I recently logged on to Amazon and saw an array of suggested romance novels – not because I’ve read or purchased them, but because my wife did so using my account. Although Amazon has information about a lot of purchases made on my account, they don’t know who those purchases are for. Other retailers know even less about me than Amazon does and are likely to make even worse recommendations.
As an industry, I think we can do a lot better with personalization.
Customers Expect a Personalized Experience
Shoppers enjoy having a seamless shopping experience. For example, in our core competency areas of search, navigation and recommendations, if these work well then they’re almost invisible to shoppers – shoppers just know that they’re getting what they want quickly and with minimal effort. There is an opportunity to use personal information to improve this experience further. Most online shoppers are willing to have a site gather and store personal information about them if they know that it will benefit them in the future. For instance:
- In a study by ClickFox, more than 80 percent of respondents said they expected retailers to know their purchase history and past consumer experiences
- In a survey by Accenture, 73 percent of consumers said they prefer doing business with retailers who use personal information to make their shopping experience more relevant
While consumers expect and prefer the personalized shopping experience, they also want the ability to control how their personal information is used. Trust is also a critical factor, and retailers can best earn customers’ trust by consistently providing secure and positive shopping experiences.
Personalization is a Priority for SLI Systems
At SLI Systems, advances in personalization are among our high priorities for the coming year. In supporting more than 1.5 billion search queries last month, we have a wealth of insight into search and conversion patterns for shoppers around the globe. When we combine that knowledge with our team’s decades of expertise in site search and navigation, there’s a lot we can do to continue improving the ways we help shoppers quickly and easily find what they want to buy.
We also have customized solutions for customers that want to auto-filter based on gender or other previously-gathered customer information. For example, when you navigate on BodenUSA.com to the women’s section of the site – then perform a search for “shoes” – the SLI engine remembers you’re looking at women’s products and keeps you in that section for your subsequent searches, unless you specify otherwise.
There’s a lot more we can and will do with personalization. I look forward to unveiling future products and features that bring personalized shopping to an entirely new level.
Tomorrow, please join me and Lakeshore Learning VP of E-commerce Sam Sarullo for the webinar “The Shopping Experience of the Future,” where we’ll talk more about personalization and other trends for 2015. The webinar takes place at 11 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, January 28. Please register here at least two hours prior.
The customer is key — particularly in today’s social commerce environment. Faced with tough economic conditions, increased competition, and more informed and demanding customers, businesses must provide a superior customer experience. According to a Dimensional Research survey, 95% of respondents who have had a negative experience told someone about it or socialised it. Alternatively, 87% who had a good experience neglected to share it with anyone. This means providing a positive customer experience is essential for the success and continuation of your business.
In the Business to Business (B2B) market, actively managing customer relationships is vital. A single customer — or just a few — can significantly impact the success or even the very existence of a business. Forrester research shows that the Internet has changed the way companies do business and many now offer their products as services, instead of physical objects. This has moved businesses away from a capital expenditure-based model to the “subscription” model, thus creating a long-term customer relationship through trust and rapport. Essentially, the economic value of a customer is realised over time, instead of an up-front, one-time transaction.
The subscription economy, also known as ‘the age of the customer,’ has given the customer more control over the companies they chose to engage with for business. Customers that stay loyal to a brand can be more demanding, and if unhappy they can more readily move onto another brand. As a result, actively managing customer relationships to ensure satisfaction has become key to the success of B2B companies, particularly those supporting the e-commerce space.
The Customer Success Management Model is fast becoming the best way to provide customer support. It also ensures a company’s customers are successful with the products and able to realise the economic value from their investments. As a trusted advisor, a Customer Success Manager is dedicated to actively managing and engaging with the customer to help achieve the desired outcome.
Zogby International shows that 83% of people are willing to spend more on a product or service if they feel a personal connection to the company. For many organisations, this connection and personal interaction can be via the Customer Success Manager. One-fifth of adults surveyed said they would spend 50% more on companies that they felt put the customer first. Growth in customer loyalty and spend, increased positive word of mouth and minimal customer churn have all been witnessed as a result of positive customer experiences.
We can see an example of the impact of Customer Success Managers with Omnichannel retailer Super Retail Group, one of Australia’s top 10 specialty retailers with more than 600 stores and annual revenue in excess of $2 billion. The group has operations in Australia, New Zealand and China, and is home to Amart Sports, BCF Boating Camping Fishing, FCO Fishing Camping Outdoors, Ray’s Outdoors, Rebel, and Supercheap Auto. Super Retail Group’s online businesses work closely with Customer Success Managers from SLI Systems to improve their customers’ online shopping experiences and to boost e-commerce sales.
Elizabeth Emery, Group Web & E-Commerce Manager of Super Retail Group explains: “SLI was able to implement their site search solution on our Supercheap Auto, BCF, Rays Outdoors and FCO desktop and mobile sites within six weeks from when we signed off on the project. This was at a crucial time, leading up to our busy Christmas period. SLI was extremely dutiful and responsive. Post implementation, their flexible support model has allowed us to roll out multiple enhancements at no additional cost. Having a dedicated Customer Success Manager that is local and in our time zone has made a world of difference. I am able to engage with SLI to ensure optimal usability of our sites.”
The Customer Success Management Model works in the favor of both the company and its customers. Providing a positive customer experience through speed and responsiveness enables a significant competitive advantage. Metrics published by Dell show that 97% of unsatisfied customers can be rescued with proactive intervention and more than 40% of those customers will then become brand advocates.
A good customer experience drives growth. In today’s business environment, where the value of a customer is realised over time, the duration of the customer relationship has enormous impact on the company, its revenue and its overall success. Over time, the Customer Success Management Model will be a differentiator for companies. Those that adapt will succeed, while those who refuse to reshape or neglect the idea of customer engagement will be left behind.
When it comes to holiday shopping, peak shopping days and times are experiencing a dramatic shift that could impact the timing of critical promotions. Consumers are shopping on days that were previously considered taboo for this type of activity, such as Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It’s time for retailers to take note to ensure they don’t miss big opportunities to reach their buyers when they are actually shopping.
In Australia, it is well known that Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is the peak shopping day of the year. Yet, according to a new SLI study, many consumers are starting their shopping on Christmas Day. SLI researched e-commerce site activity across 100 Australian retailer sites, analyzing 20 million queries over the month of December. Online shopping activity peaked at 8:00 p.m. AEDT on Christmas Day and 10:00 a.m. on Boxing Day. While Boxing Day exhibited 49.6 percent more activity than Christmas Day, the spike in shopping activity on Christmas night is certainly a new trend worth exploring.
In the U.S., similar shifts in shopping behavior occurred. Most notable was a spike in shopping activity at 10:00 p.m. EST Thanksgiving Day, the night before the renowned Black Friday. There was also a spike in shopping activity on November 30, the night before the busiest U.S. online shopping day, Cyber Monday. To gather these results, SLI studied e-commerce site activity across 500 retailer websites in the U.S. (100 were Internet Retailer Top 1,000 retailers), analyzing 45 million queries during Thanksgiving week.
Consumers (increasingly online night owls) are beating retailers to the punch on unexpected days and times. By timing key promotions accordingly, savvy online retailers can take advantage of these new opportunities and have a jump on their competition in 2015.
With 1 billion people using YouTube today, video is the most powerful means of spreading information to the world’s 7 billion people. And since more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube, that’s almost one hour for every person on this planet!
As a content marketer in the e-commerce space, I’m especially interested in watching the speed of adoption of video in online retail. Product videos offer details that static images can’t, like how someone might hold or wear the product. According to an Animoto study and infographic, 73% of U.S. adults are more likely to purchase a product after watching an online video that explains it.
A Proven Way to Differentiate
Many sites use video as a way to set themselves apart from big-name brands. Bulk Reef Supply has created more than 300 videos for its saltwater aquarium and reefing products, even branding its video channel as “BRS TV” to make it more visible on YouTube. This is a smart way to increase product discovery, establish expertise and provide affirmation to buyers that they are choosing the right product. Simply by providing the information consumers need to make the right purchase, Bulk Reef Supply differentiates itself from potentially less knowledgeable competitors.
Northwest River Supply is another business that succeeds by providing expert advice that’s typically not found on many sport supply sites. Search for “kayak” and you’ll see a menu of more than 200 videos about kayaking. You can refine the search by whitewater, tour/rec and other types of rafting sports to find how-to videos that meet your particular interest.
As mentioned in Shaun Ryan’s recent blog, “shopping haul” videos are another type of video format that retailers can leverage in 2015. As the popularity of these videos increases, so does the opportunity.
Worth 1.8 Million Words?
I’ve often found truth in the maxim: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So naturally, I’ve wondered how many words a video might be worth. I recently found that Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research actually made an attempt at calculating the comparative worth – he estimated that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Well, the writer in me thinks that’s too high. But whether or not his assessment is true, it’s evident that video is an incredibly effective way to influence consumers who want bite-sized bits of information and entertainment that will fit into their busy lives.