Top 2013 priority: proactive customer service

With our optimization series winding down at the peak of the holiday season, you may have missed the final installment on customer service — but it’s well worth checking out, as it may be the most important topic we covered.

After all, while social media, SEO and mobile strategies may or may not fit a given merchant’s target audience and business goals, every seller strives to deliver stellar service to potential and returning customers. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: with consumers more empowered than ever to voice their opinions, failure to meet expectations carries a heavy price. Nearly a third of consumers have complained about poor service using social feedback methods such as social networking sites or third-party review sites such as Yelp, according to Forrester,  and 45% of consumers say they’ll quickly abandon an online purchase altogether if they can’t find a quick answer to their questions.

The good news is that empowerment is a two-way street. Merchants now have the ability to move beyond reactive customer care and into the realm of proactive relationship building. The ability to deliver targeted service messaging appropriate to the touchpoint customers prefer means that merchants needn’t wait for the phone to ring to demonstrate excellent service.  And just as poor service risks damaging the brand, merchants who meet consumers’ high expectations stand to reap substantial rewards. Satisfactory service interactions can lead to additional purchases from existing customers and a cost savings due to reduced customer churn. In addition, a positive customer service experience can lead to a boost in word-of-mouth recommendations: for example, shoppers who use social networks for customer service are three times as likely to recommend a brand after a successful interaction, according to a survey by NM Incite. In addition, merchants who can differentiate their brands through superior service are better positioned to compete against online behemoths such as Amazon: stellar service can help contribute value to the brand that goes beyond discount pricing.

To achieve such gains, merchants should not only invest in optimizing service across touchpoints, but they should take a proactive stance in shaping customer communication and building relationships. Delivering fluid, user-driven customer service helps merchants provide information that’s relevant to the audience and the touchpoint – enabling sales and boosting loyalty. Download the whitepaper to read how merchants can
•    lay the groundwork with organizational changes that boost consistency and open communication
•    build substantial self-service content – with help from customers
•    adopt a proactive approach, touchpoint by touchpoint

Will customer service be a focus for you in 2013? Why or why not?

Webinar recap: Using social media to differentiate your brand

Although the busy holiday season is underway, we wanted to take a moment to recap our recent webinar on optimizing social media. Not only did the presentation contain a bevy of information about how to use social media to serve your business goals, but it included tips and ideas relevant to engaging consumers during this peak selling period.

In fact, the webinar demonstrated that driving engagement with the brand is the primary way merchants can make social media a worthwhile investment. While direct sales derived from social media elude many merchants, there are countless creative ways to showcase what makes their brands unique and connect with shoppers. Merchants should:

Communicate everyday value — and not just by posting promo codes. Any merchant can offer a discount; more worthwhile is using social media to demonstrate how the brand delivers value through its unique selection and deep product knowledge. Online merchant Bulbs.com used its Twitter feed not only to push a discount code (which was available site-wide, not just on social media), but also spotlights everyday low pricing on Ecosmart bulbs – demonstrating that the brand is committed to delivering savings on an ongoing basis.

Social media example from Bulbs.com

Deliver customer service excellence. One of the most surprising statistics revealed during the webinar was that nearly half of social media users have relied on “social care,” according to a survey from NM Incite, and fully 30% of consumers prefer to access customer service via social media than the phone. Savvy merchants are catering to this shopping behavior by using their social media outlets to deliver stellar service — starting by proactively addressing shoppers’ questions and concerns, as Land’s End does with its customer service page on Facebook. From a prominent link on its main Facebook timeline, shoppers can access 24/7 customer service chat as well as information on returns, gift cards and more.

Social media example from Land's End

Merchants should additionally consider the customer service needs of mobile shoppers when crafting social content, as a third of mobile users visit social sites on their smartphones and tablets. One key element for shoppers on the go is a store locator, which merchants should feature on social media outposts. Lowe’s not only offers a store locator within the Facebook environment, but it includes hours of operation for local outlets so shoppers can better plan their itineraries.

Social media example from Lowe's

Crowdsource everything.  Merchants can put shoppers’ opinions front and center in myriad ways, giving social followers a stake in the brand and giving it an authentic identity. When it comes to showcasing products, merchants can create a compelling collection of items by grouping fan favorites and going beyond simply displaying ratings to include snippets of review text, comments from social media or emailed feedback. This collection of “Pinners’ Top Picks” from Diapers.com on Pinterest includes personal feedback in the item descriptions, such as a note on a toy saying, “I can’t even count how many times this has flown off the high chair and smashed off our tile floor. Love this toy – it is INDESTRUCTIBLE!”

Social media example from Diapers.com

And beyond displaying existing user-generated content, merchants can use social media to solicit further input, taking the pulse of followers on everything from product design and selection to discount strategies and beyond. Walmart uses Facebook to solicit ideas for which charities should receive corporate largesse during the holiday season. The feature not only empowers social followers, but illustrates how Walmart has benefited communities in the past – making an effective showcase of the brand’s corporate responsibility.
Social media example from Walmart

For more ideas about engaging social shoppers, download the presentation replay or read the related whitepaper. How are you using social media this holiday season to engage shoppers?

 

Webinar preview: deriving ROI from social media

It’s no wonder that merchants feel compelled to join the social networking fray. As of August 2011, about two-thirds of online consumers reported using social networking sites – more than half of the total U.S. population, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Social networking is third only to search and email as the top online activity, Pew found.

But maddeningly, while brands attract followers by the thousands, in most cases sales and revenue have yet to follow: less than 1% of online purchases from either new or returning customers can be directly credited to social networks, according to industry researcher Forrester. Perhaps because attributing sales to social media is so difficult, as of last year many merchants had not set concrete revenue goals for their social programs, Forrester found, with 62% of merchants reporting that “the returns on social marketing strategies are unclear” and 82% saying they still view social media as an experimental frontier.

Data on social media usage from Forrester

But merchants needn’t simply grit their teeth and play along with no hope of recouping costs; nor can they simply sit back and pray for a magic bullet that will instantly enable seamless commerce transactions on every social network. Rather, building an effective social media presence – one that tightly connects community and commerce – requires merchants to carefully study the opportunities, and to match the right social media activities not only with their target audience, but with shoppers’ needs at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

Tomorrow’s webinar, the final installment in our business optimization series, will examine how merchants can make that connection. We’ll take a look at how merchants are using social media to help shoppers:

  • Research products. Forrester estimates that in 2011, fully 36% of all purchases – not just online purchases – were influenced by the Web in some way, with product and brand research leading the list of online shopping behaviors.  Merchants should cater to this behavior on social media outposts not just by posting product links as status updates, but by engaging brand followers with shopping tools that blend the rich product discovery experience of the eCommerce site with social features such as sharing and commenting.
  • Buy products. Driving sales from social media is possible: marketing firm Ryan Partnership found that 36% of consumers have been spurred to try a product from a brand they’ve never used before thanks to social media, and 22% of shoppers say social media has prompted impulse purchases. To tap into this shopping influence, merchants must streamline and customize the buying experience for social media.  While not every merchant should launch a Facebook store, nor can merchants simply link from the Facebook page to the eCommerce home page; rather, merchants must adapt fully to the social medium with a custom experience that makes transitioning from socializing to purchasing a seamless experience.
  • Get customer service help. Whether or not brands intend it, social media posts have become de facto customer service channels. The medium inherently gives power to consumers by allowing them to post on equal footing with brands; their plaudits or complaints are amplified throughout their networks of contacts, and how brands respond is a test of their commitment to service. Nearly half of social media users have relied on “social care,” according to a survey from NM Incite, and 30% of consumers prefer to access customer service via social media than the phone. To ensure a satisfactory experience, merchants must proactively manage expectations and provide key content.
  • Give feedback. Social media affords brands the opportunity to connect with followers in myriad ways beyond front-line customer service. Not only does soliciting feedback give shoppers new ways to interact with the brand, but followers are empowered with a stake in the brand and its success, forging a tighter connection that can boost loyalty and sales.

Register for the webinar now and join us tomorrow, Wednesday, November 14, at 10 a.m. Pacific,  to explore these topics further, accompanied by a bevy of examples as well as tips for measuring social success and analyzing new opportunities.

Webinar recap: mobile’s influence on search marketing

Tuesday’s webinar on search engine marketing was full of useful strategic advice for helping merchants maximize their investments, both for optimizing to boost natural search results rankings and for paid search advertising. One key takeaway: both types of search marketing have been revolutionized by the advent of mobile.

When it comes to natural SEO, search engines are increasingly allocating real estate on the first page of results to local listings tied to mapping services — a shift that caters to mobile shoppers on the go. Fully 94% of smartphone owners have looked for local information, according to Google  — and more than one in five of all  U.S. consumers have sought local recommendations and directions on mobile devices, according to The Pew Internet & American Life Project

And paid search ads are receiving more and more traffic from mobile devices. The share of clicks to search ads grew 132% in the course of 2011 alone, and is estimated to total 25% of all clicks by the end of this year, according to Marin Software.

Paid search forecast from Marin Software

To adapt search marketing strategies to accommodate the growing importance of mobile, merchants should:

Enhance on-site store locator information with a unique page for each outlet, and optimize off-site listings to match. As discussed in a prior post, most local directories offer the opportunity for business owners to “claim” their pages and add information such as store hours and the types of products and services offered. In addition to local listings tied to search engines, merchants should be sure to optimize their information on other business directory sites, such as CitySearch, Yellow Pages, and SuperPages, as well as review sites like Yelp!.

A search for outdoor retailer REI produces a series of local results in the second position in organic search results. The Google Plus Local page includes store-specific information, such as specialty services offered, and links directly to a page on the main REI site specific to that location, which lists still more localized information, such as a schedule of in-store events and classes.

Local search example for REI

Physical store location page from REI

Target mobile phone search ads by region. Mobile paid search remains cost-effective, with costs per click lower than on desktop browsers: in 2011, the average cost per click for desktop search was $0.83, while on smartphones it was $0.53 and on tablets it was $0.63, according to Marin Software. Merchants should capitalize on this cost-effectiveness by crafting separate mobile campaigns, which perform 11.5% better than mobile-desktop hybrid campaigns, according to Google. Not only should the ad copy be mobile-specific; it should also take into account local physical locations and offer. Merchants should also consider enhancements such as click-to-call and integrated location mapping to further enable shoppers on the go. Such enhancements have the added benefit of giving merchants more real estate on small mobile phone screens, increasing the likelihood for top bidders to dominate the page.

Banana Republic tailors its mobile search ad to include click-to-call functionality as well as a link for directions. Additionally, whereas the desktop ad puts the emphasis on a free shipping offer likely to appeal only to online shoppers, the mobile ad mentions a general $35 discount available in stores as well as online.

Banana Republic paid search examples

Devise mobile-friendly landing pages. Paid and natural search links alike should point shoppers to pages that fit the format of the intended device. Not only do optimized landing pages serve users better, leading to more engagement and conversions, but Google also factors landing page usability into its algorithm for serving mobile ads, favoring those listings that link to mobile-optimized content.  Merchants should:

  • Tailor technology. Eliminate elements that use incompatible technology, such as Flash, or that may not render well on touchscreens, such as Javascript flyouts or popups.
  • Streamline content. On small screens, the connection between the link text and the landing page should be more clear than ever, and the call to action should be prominent.

1-800-Flowers calls out its gift finder as a sitelink in its mobile search ad, which highlights that the brand has a mobile-friendly site. Shoppers who click the “Find a Gift” link can use a streamlined form to specify the delivery region , occasion and date  – thereby fulfilling the ad’s promise of mobile ease-of-use – or browse gift products with the ability to sort by a number of criteria. The label “find a gift fast” underscores the speed and simplicity of the process.

Mobile search ad from 1800Flowers

Mobile landing page from 1800Flowers

The webinar covered many more aspects of search marketing, from social media’s impact on SEO to retargeting campaigns — so download the replay or the related whitepaper today. And tell us: what are your top search marketing priorities?

 

 

Webinar preview: meeting the search marketing challenge

Most merchants know that search engines are a top driver of shopping traffic. Search engine marketing topped the list of acquisition tactics in 2011, according to industry researcher Forrester, with 90% of online merchants saying it was effective, while 44% said organic search optimization specifically was a driver of new business. The Search Engine Marketing Professionals’ Organization estimates that the search industry as a whole will reach a value of $23 billion by year’s end – up 19% from 2011.

With popularity come challenges, however. The maturity of search engine marketing means that competition for page-one status in “natural” search results is steep, and prices for top paid search terms are soaring: more than a third of companies reported spending at least 20% more for keywords in 2011 than in the prior year, according to SEMPO.

In addition, the migration of search onto mobile devices and the influence of social media on search visibility add new levels of complexity to search engine marketing. Merchants operating with tight marketing budgets and limited staff resources can be hard pressed to prioritize their search engine marketing spend.

How to negotiate this challenging landscape will be the focus of tomorrow’s Webinar, the sixth in our series on business optimization.  The Webinar will outline how merchants can focus on “quality, not quantity” —  maximizing visibility to the right audience and boosting effectiveness of their efforts. Topics include:

  • The series of algorithm updates affecting “natural” or organic search results to reward deep, authentic content — and penalize “webspam”
  • The importance of quality inbound links, and how merchants can build a network that boost their rankings
  • How social media factors into natural search rankings
  • Mobile paid search, and whether it’s worth a separate investment
  • How to deploy retargeting to effectively recapture shopper interest

Register now for the Webinar, which is slated for tomorrow, Tuesday, October 30 at 10 a.m. Pacific. We look forward to hearing your questions!

Webinar recap: Three ways to take email to the next level

Last week’s webinar on optimized email presented a range of strategies, but one clear theme emerged: merchants must do more to move beyond the “bast and blatch” mentality and boost relevance of messaging — and doing so needn’t involve complex, resource-intensive processes.

The webinar detailed how email continues to be an ROI winner for merchants, garnering a whopping $40.56 per dollar spent, according to the Direct Marketing Association. But that number has dropped 22% since 2006, and is forecast to drop even more in the coming year — suggesting that merchants must do more if they want to reverse the trend.

The webinar revealed that there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit still to be plucked. As our preview post mentioned, fewer than one in five retailers even cull bounced email addresses from their lists — suggesting that for many merchants, even very basic improvements may reap stronger performance. Winning strategies needn’t require a technology overhaul or increased staff resources to execute sophisticated personalized messages. Just three of the simple ways the webinar suggested stepping up email finesse:

Let shoppers self-segment on signup. According to industry researcher Forrester, just 6% of merchants use the email signup page to allow shoppers to self-select topics or categories of interest — and yet this method is among the simplest for boosting relevance of messaging. Rather than needing to cull behavioral data from analytics, merchants can simply ask up front for some guidance. The key is to strike a balance, labeling clearly that it’s optional for shoppers to indicate their gender, geography, favorite product categories (such as cycling or camping for an outdoor outfitter) or interest in sale items; otherwise, would-be subscribers who don’t want to share such information might be put off.

Old Navy makes tailoring email content easy by presenting subscribers a streamlined set of options on the thank you page immediately after signup. Subscribers can select what categories of apparel interest them based on gender and age, and can opt to supply their birthdays to receive a special discount. They can also navigate away from the page without taking further action.

Email segmentation example from Old Navy

Treat loyalty club members like VIPs — and let everyone else know what they’re missing. Subscribers who are members of the brand’s loyalty or free shipping club should receive targeted messages that take into account their special status. These tailored promotions are proven to earn results, with a 40% higher open rate, a 22% higher click-through rate, and 11% higher revenue per email than non-targeted email content, according to Experian.

Furthermore, messaging about the loyalty club to non-members using a “show, don’t tell” approach — displaying the potential savings and benefits to the general list — is also a winning technique, garnering a 25% lift in revenue per email than non-loyalty content, Experian found. Footwear retailer Nine West spotlights the opportunity to earn double points on shoes from a particular manufacturer, and also includes a free shipping offer and a discount to entice purchase.

Segmentation example from Nine West

Institute an abandoned cart recovery plan ASAP. As discussed in an earlier post, emails sent to shoppers who abandon their carts before completing purchases are effective and can be automated — and yet the percentage of merchants using this triggered-email program is shockingly low. Fewer than 1 in 5 of the largest merchants in the Internet Retailer 500 use abandoned cart emails, and fewer than 1 in 10 of medium-sized merchants in the Internet Retailer Second 500 do so, according to Listrak. With cart abandonment rates still hovering above 50%, recovering even a small percentage of these sales could make a huge difference to the bottom line — so it’s crucial for more merchants to institute a triggered email program as soon as possible.

For more strategies and examples, download the webinar replay. Meantime, what simple but effective email tactics have worked for you?

Webinar preview: Why email deserves a second look

With the all-important holiday season coming up fast, many merchants are planning to rely heavily on one of their old workhorses: email.  Email has a proven track record of success when it comes to driving eCommerce sales; it’s more effective than both social media and search marketing, according to data compiled by marketing services firm Monetate – converting at a rate of 4.16% per session, more than 50% higher than search and seven times the rate of social media.

But perhaps because it’s such an effective tool, many merchants don’t give it the time and attention it deserves. While more than 75% of merchants are sending more email now than they did three years ago, according to the Direct Marketing Association, just over half of merchants — 61% — said they planned to invest more in email programs in 2011 than they did in the prior year, according to industry researcher Forrester.

That’s bad news, because too few merchants are employing even basic best practices, according to Forrester. For example, just 17% of merchants scrub subscribers whose email addresses have bounced, and less than a third reported having a welcome message or program for new email subscribers. Just 6% of merchants offer shoppers a way to tailor email messaging to match the products and services they’re interested in.

Email information from Forrester Research

Consumers have high expectations for email performance – and are apt to unsubscribe, or, worse, mark email as spam if it doesn’t meet their needs. Lack of relevance constitutes two of the top three reasons consumers unsubscribe from email, market researcher Chadwick Martin Bailey found – with fully 56% of shoppers saying they unsubscribe if the content doesn’t meet their needs, and 51% doing so if the messages don’t match their expectations.

Luckily, merchants can come closer to meeting shoppers’ expectations for email without needing to overhaul their businesses entirely; in fact, there are small changes merchants can still implement for their holiday campaigns to help achieve even more success. By making the most of data from new touchpoints like social and mobile and nudging up relevance of messaging, merchants can achieve big gains.

Tune in to tomorrow’s Webinar to get all the details, including best practices for list acquisition as well as methods for fine-tuning relevance and spurring engagement. Meantime, what email strategies are you developing for the holiday season?

Webinar recap: getting the mobile picture

Last week’s webinar on optimizing mobile commerce was jam packed with strategies and advice for meeting shoppers’ expectations for the upcoming holiday season and beyond. One of the biggest takeaways: the importance of thinking visually for the mobile medium.

As stated in the webinar preview post, most mobile shoppers prefer to view brands’ full-fledged Web sites on their devices, rather than streamlined, text-based versions designed for small screens. That desire speaks volumes about shoppers’ preference for accessing bountiful product imaging as well as browsing alluring merchandising offers.

But perhaps more importantly, visually rich mobile sites stand brands in good stead with potentially the most lucrative of mobile audiences: tablet shoppers. The webinar revealed that tablet ownership jumped from 3% of U.S. consumers in May 2010 to 19% by January of this year  – a fivefold increase. Moreover, tablet owners form a potentially lucrative market; more than one in three consumers earning more than $75,000 per year owns a tablet, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Most importantly, the larger screen size makes mobile purchasing a more appealing prospect, as shoppers can more easily navigate products and cart and checkout screens than on a smartphone. As a result, tablets generate more than double the amount of sales than smartphones – 3.2% of all web sales, compared with 1.5% for smartphones. And conversion rates are more than twice as high on tablets than on smartphones. Merchants should cater to tablet users’ abilities to use gesture-based interactions, such as taps, swipes and zoom, to view rich visuals.

Statistics on smartphone and tablet commerce from Forrester Research

To incorporate more visuals into their mobile commerce offerings, merchants should not only offer multiple images on the product page; they should also use pictures to convey the brand story throughout the mobile site. Just a few ways to beef up the visuals:

Navigation.  Gone are the days when navigating a mobile site meant layers of text-driven menus. Use images or icons in the lineup of product categories to help shoppers scan and locate the relevant section, as Cabela’s does with the start page for browsing products by category.

Mobile example from Cabela's

Home and gateway page promotions. Devise a design that includes space for spotlighting products and offers with a primary large image. And maximize screen real estate with “swish merchandising” — swipeable scrolling features such as the “Best Sellers” promotion on HSN’s “Home Décor” gateway page, which elevates a group of bestselling products to prominence.

Mobile example from HSN

Index pages and search results. Give shoppers the option to view product listings in an image-rich format that puts pictures front and center and fits more items on each screenful. Athleta’s “images only” option eliminates price and product name from listings, allowing shoppers to scroll through items quickly and tap for more information when desired.

Mobile example from Athleta
Mobile example from Athleta

Download the webinar replay or the accompanying whitepaper for more strategies and statistics about mobile commerce. What tactics are you using to create a rich mobile experience?

Webinar preview: optimizing mobile for the holidays and beyond

As we noted at the beginning of this year, mobile should be a top priority for merchants of every stripe. After all, the rise of mobile technology has revolutionized shopping; thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices, shoppers now expect a seamless experience from site to store and in between, with mobile bridging touchpoints as well as functioning as its own stand-alone shopping destination. Mobile users will make $10 billion of purchases on their phones this year, according to industry researcher Forrester — 3% of all online spending — and that revenue figure is set to more than triple by 2016. And beyond those who actually make purchases on mobile devices, there are still more consumers whose shopping journey begins on a mobile device and ends with a purchase elsewhere. According to research from Google, fully 96% of smartphone users have researched products on their devices, while 37% have gone on to make purchases via their computer Web browser and 32% finalize the sale in physical stores .

The numbers suggest catering to mobile shoppers is a must — but it’s also a steep challenge. Consumers prefer a rich shopping experience, even on their mobile devices; when asked by Forrester how they preferred to interact with brands on the go, 28% of consumers said they wanted access to the merchant’s full Web site – not a pared-down mobile version. Especially for small and medium-sized merchants, the prospect of meeting this expectation for a full-fledged shopping experience for mobile devices alongside the full eCommerce site is especially daunting.

Data about mobile shopping from Forrester Research

But now is the time for merchants to rise to the challenge — especially with the holiday season looming on the horizon, when shoppers will research intensively and cross channels freely to complete purchases. The good news is that merchants already have a roadmap for mobile optimization: they can apply proven best practice from their years of eCommerce success to the mobile environment to focus and prioritize their efforts.

This approach doesn’t mean that merchants can simply port over their eCommerce site to a smaller-screen format — but it does mean that tried and true principles of usability, credibility and cross-channel service still apply in the mobile world. By adapting these concepts to the mobile medium, merchants can create effective, relevant mobile offerings that connect with customers and win sales.Four guideposts to start with:

  • Know your audience to choose the right platforms and build the unique mobile features that will resonate best with your potential customers
  • Offer multiple pathways to purchase so shoppers can discover relevant products and content
  • Earn customer trust by addressing privacy and security concerns
  • Bridge touchpoints with features that link shoppers across the brand

Tune in to tomorrow’s webinar to explore each of these topics in-depth — and meantime, let us know: what best practices have you successfully implemented for mobile?

Webinar recap: The language of search

Last week’s webinar took a deep dive into the topic of on-site search — the crucial feature that drives one third of eCommerce revenue, according to the MarketLive Performance Index. As discussed in our prior post, most merchants recognize the need for improvement with on-site search to boost relevance and generate even more sales using this potentially versatile tool.

While the webinar covered a range of topics, from determining whether faceted search is right for you to best practices for mobile search, there was an overarching theme — the importance of context and language. The on-site search tool shouldn’t merely generate a page of product listings as a results set; rather, on-site search should orient users to how the results set was generated, guide them to options for narrowing or expanding the range of products they view, and even suggest non-product content as an alternative. In particular, on-site search should:

Prominently place spelling corrections. Users now expect search mechanisms to assist them with alternatives for commonly-misspelled terms, and account for errors from shoppers using tablets and smartphones that rely on tapping rather than typing – such as hitting letters adjacent to the intended target. Spell out the alternatives clearly in prominent type, as Helzberg Jewelers does with its spelling correction feature. Shoppers can click any of the alternate terms or browse top probable matches.

On-site search example from Helzberg

If an automatic redirect is used, explain it. Whenever the on-site search tool overrides the usual functionality, shoppers should be alerted to that fact with a prominent flag. For example, if shoppers enter a term that returns just one match, then many search tools are set to link directly to that product rather than displaying a nearly empty results page — but a special flag should appear so shoppers know why they landed there. Similarly, if a term exactly matches a product category, it’s fine to link directly to that category — but give shoppers the option to see items in a search results set instead, as Sears does with its food processor page. The message highlighted in yellow lets shoppers know they’ve been redirected, with the option to view result without the redirect.

On-site search example from Sears

Maximize the communicative value of facets. We’ve all been on sites whose faceted search tools complicate, rather than simplify, the product discovery process. To avoid overwhelming shoppers, it’s crucial to fine-tune faceted search so the tool communicates effectively and efficiently. Merchants should:

  • Use data to create a usable set of facets. Study existing internal search logs to determine which product attributes shoppers already search for, and what keyword terms they use – don’t assume insider industry terms are commonly used by consumers.
  • Display the number of product matches for each attribute, so shoppers don’t have to select each to see how many results are available.  This addition is especially important in the mobile environment, where shoppers receiving a large results set will invariably rely on facets to zero in quickly on the right products. Outdoor retailer REI’s mobile search returns the same full results set as on the eCommerce site — but gives shoppers drop-down options along with the number of matches for each for a quick shortcut to a more manageable list of products.

mobile on-site search example from REI

Highlight the availability of non-product content. Customer service content such as shipping information, buying guides and lifestyle content should all be searchable — and the on-site search results page should offer clearly-labeled links to that content alongside the products that match a shopper’s keyword terms. Online jeweler Blue Nile uses the heading “Education and Guidance Results” to set off its rich content from the results set — easing access for shoppers who need more information before selecting products.

on-site search example from Blue Nile

Download the Webinar replay and whitepaper for more on-site search strategies. Meantime, how have you tweaked your on-site search presentation and functionality to better orient shoppers?