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A commentary on the search industry from a site search vendor's perspective.
Updated: 40 min 55 sec ago

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.

Learn to Entice Shoppers with Great Content

June 25, 2014 - 18:42

Want to drive e-commerce sales, plus bring customers to your site instead of going to competitors’ sites or Amazon? Think content. The creative use of content can give your customers a unique and memorable shopping experience – one that creates powerful brand loyalty and moves customers along the path to purchase.

In our new e-book, “Use Creative Content to Convince Online Shoppers to Buy,” you’ll learn how e-commerce sites can increase conversions by creating remarkable content – social media posts, videos, blogs, infographics and more – and then bringing that content into their search results.

As I explain in today’s post on Ecommerce Outtakes, some online shopping decisions are easy, like finding a new water filter using the replacement number. But many online purchasing decisions – buying clothes, shoes, electronics, toys, etc. – are made through closer scrutiny of product details and non-product content, like Instagram photos of real product users or a how-to video showing what can be done with the product.

Such content can really help convince a browser to click the “Add to Cart” button. Consider this sampling of advice from the e-book:

  • Always add photos to your blog or social media post to catch readers’ attention through visuals as well as content.
  • If you’re an online retailer that sells any kind of food or kitchen product, it is a no-brainer to add a recipe section to your e-commerce site.
  • A standout site search is especially critical for retailers with products that don’t lend themselves to very specific searches.

The new e-book features many more tips, along with success stories of companies who have used content to increase conversions, including e.l.f. Cosmetics, FTD, King Arthur Flour, Kidrobot and others. Click here for a free download.

How to Drive Sales from Popular Search Engines

June 11, 2014 - 15:10

Jason Miller will provide additional insight on this topic at IRCE 2014 at the E-commerce Accelerator Theater, Booth #601. Catch his presentation at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, or at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 12. View other Theater information here.

I recently did a webinar about how online retailers can increase conversions – and lower bounce rates – through dynamic landing page banners. I find this topic very interesting since, in my previous position with Motorcycle Superstore, I had a lot of success using SLI Systems Dynamic Product Banners. What makes this concept highly effective is the use of a learning engine, like SLI Learning Search, to determine what products and content to show in the landing page banners, based on the behavior of previous shoppers.

It’s no surprise that people shop for different items in different ways. It is extremely valuable to have a learning engine that, in real-time, can analyze and aggregate data on how visitors shop your site for various types of products. Rather than making assumptions about how to best present relative products to your customers, you can use all the rich data and user behavior on your site.

For example, through a learning engine you can see which facets people typically select for certain types of searches, as well as what colors are most popular and what items convert at the highest rate. The learning allows the search itself to present results that best match people’s interests and deliver a better more relevant experience. This learning can be applied to on-site merchandising, autocomplete and product recommendations, to name a few.

When it comes to SEO, SEM and landing page optimization, some key performance indicators are conversion rate and bounce rate. The industry average bounce rate for e-commerce sites is generally agreed to be around 34%, though some large e-commerce sites claim bounce rates of less than 10%, according to the Q2 2013 Web-Analytics Benchmark study by ClickTale. (Note: If you happen to have an exceptionally low bounce rate, I suggest you check your analytics tagging, because you may have duplicate site tagging.) Among its many other negative impacts, a high bounce rate will obviously hurt conversion and make your SEM campaigns less cost effective.

Some common reasons why users bounce:

  1. Page content doesn’t match users expectations (this often happens with poorly managed SEM campaigns that aren’t targeted enough)
  2. Poorly designed UI, including sites that don’t properly handle tablets and mobile devices
  3. Site performance (milliseconds matter – users are not willing to wait)
  4. Out of stock or unavailable products

 

A few ways to reduce bounce rate:

  1. Closely monitor your SEM campaigns for relevant landing pages
  2. Use responsive design and a qualified UI team, which can help you optimize user experience on the widest range of devices
  3. Use a high-performance content delivery network such as Akamai to decrease page load times
  4. Take advantage of SLI Dynamic Product Banners, which use advanced learning algorithms to show relevant products on your product pages – even when the current product is unavailable or out of stock

 

As an e-commerce retailer, you may have very little control over what page Google ranks your site for a specific search term. However, you can still drive sales through popular search engines using Dynamic Product Banners to populate landing pages for natural and paid search. This approach has proven very effective for many SLI clients. If you’d like to view my recent webinar to see how e-commerce sites like Wine Enthusiast and others use Dynamic Product Banners, you can get it here.

10 Years of IRCE, and This One Could Be the Best

June 2, 2014 - 19:59

As IRCE prepares for its 10th annual e-commerce conference and exhibition next week (June 10-12), I look forward to my 10th year of attending on behalf of SLI Systems. SLI will have a strong presence at IRCE – we plan to give the thousands of retailers gathering in Chicago the message that the quality of their site search makes an enormous difference in whether shoppers decide to buy or bounce from their site.

To showcase the difference that better search delivers for our clients, we’ve created the E-commerce Accelerator Theater at IRCE. Throughout the show, visitors to the theater (booth #601) will hear representatives from successful e-commerce businesses share how they have increased conversion rates and per-visit value by optimizing their site search. Visit our IRCE 2014 page for a complete schedule of speakers from businesses including Harry & David, Internet Retailer, Silver Star Brands (formerly Miles Kimball), Carolina Rustica, ReNew Life, Steiner Tractor, Zachys Wine & Liquor, JAM Paper and eImprovement.com.

Chicago is a great backdrop for the quality content and excellent networking opportunities that the Internet Retailer and IRCE teams put together each year for the industry’s biggest conference and exhibition. We’re taking advantage of some of Chicago’s best attractions for our retailer-only show events. On Tuesday night, we’ll take retailers out for a fabulous dinner and drinks at Lawry’s Prime Rib Restaurant — space is limited, so RSVP now. On Wednesday night, we’ll serve cocktails and offer an unforgettable experience at Tilt!, for those daring enough to peer out over Chicago at a 30 degree angle, from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building. Please note that this is not the Chicago observation platform that cracked last week – thankfully. We’ll continue taking RSVPs for these events until space fills up, or until noon on each event day.

One of my favorite parts of IRCE is meeting retailers and sharing how SLI can make a significant impact on the user experience and revenue. If you’d like to schedule a one-on-one meeting with me at IRCE, submit the mini-form on our IRCE page and I’ll make it happen. If you’re missing the show, you don’t have to miss out on the expert advice our sales directors can provide – just sign up for a demo or free site search critique at your convenience.

 

Overcome the Limitations of Solr Search

May 22, 2014 - 17:28

If you’re like the vast majority of online retailers, you will face the need to re-platform at some point. Maybe you’re in the middle of one of these initiatives now, or are about to get started. Or perhaps you recently completed a re-platform. Whatever the case, you may be less than satisfied with the merchandising, indexing and customization capabilities of the default Solr search that comes with your platform.

Thankfully, it’s a cinch to implement an advanced site search that addresses the shortcomings of Solr and integrates quickly and easily with your platform – new or old. Upgrading your search offers your customers a much better experience on your site, which leads to stronger brand loyalty and more sales. Here are a few examples:

e.l.f. Cosmetics, a well-known U.S. consumer brand, experienced disappointing results from the search that came as a default feature of its e-commerce platform. The company knew it had a problem because customers often abandoned the site after conducting a search and the customer service team was tapped out by calls from visitors who couldn’t find what they wanted. Additionally, e.l.f. had a difficult time getting visibility for non-product content like videos and blog posts.

Once e.l.f implemented SLI Learning Search, it was able to take advantage of features like Rich Auto Complete and Learning Recommendations to get more products in front of visitors. The e.l.f. team was also able to offer detailed refinement capabilities to help customers narrow down the field of search results. Plus the new search indexed the educational content the company wanted to showcase.

As a result, e.l.f. saw a 21% increase in per-visit value on its e-commerce site. With SLI powering its mobile commerce site, e.l.f. also saw a 4x higher conversion rate on mobile for site search users.

Thompson & Morgan is one of the UK’s largest seed and plant retailers. This longstanding consumer brand recently re-platformed and decided to try the default Solr search. Unfortunately, the company soon realized that the Solr search was creating a poor user experience, as demonstrated by the negative customer feedback it received. A previous user of SLI Learning Search, the company’s e-commerce team decided a switch back to SLI was necessary to keep customers happy.

According to Clare Dixey, e-commerce manager of Thompson & Morgan, SLI’s implementation with its new platform was swift – the new search was live within six weeks. And the results are significant: the 21% of site visitors using site search now account for 47% of total site revenue, and the conversion rate for site search users is 74% higher than the site average. Plus, the negative customer feedback about the site’s search function has turned to praise.

Dixey attributes the impact on Thompson & Morgan’s business to SLI’s ability to continually improve relevancy through its learning-based approach, as well as the SLI Auto Complete feature, which helps customers with particularly difficult-to-spell product names. Additionally, rich merchandising capabilities allow Dixey’s team to create custom landing pages for specific terms.

Zachys Wine & Liquor is a specialty retailer of high-end wine and spirits. The company recently began a re-platforming initiative and found that its reliance on SLI to power its search has smoothed the transition. The company also uses SLI Rich Auto Complete and refinements to improve the search experience, and gets a traffic boost from the SEO-optimized landing pages created by SLI Site Champion.

These are just a few examples of retailers that were able to use advanced search features to create a more engaging online experience and, in some cases, ease the move to a new platform. Other retailers have even delayed the need to move to a new platform because of the site improvements they were able to achieve with advanced site search. You can read more about the possibility of extending the life of your current platform in the white paper “Site Search vs. Re-platforming.”

If your platform’s default search is causing you unneeded aggravation and lackluster results, perhaps you need an upgrade. With the ROI benefits you can expect, not only will your customers thank you, but your bottom line will, too.