What are the benchmark reports saying
The IBM benchmark report, 2014 US Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, showed that an average shopper’s attention time is dwindling as they are making quick and abbreviated visits to retailer sites. The average time on the site was measured to be ~7 minutes which is about a minute less over past 2 years, and the data showed that there is reduced trend on page views per session. These metrics become pertinent as the retailers have to continue their focus on bringing the right products to the customers in fewer number of browses and searches.
The WebSphere Commerce search, which empowers the search on the storefront, can be customized, extended and tuned for a retailer’s business. The retailers require to consistently monitor the performance of their search through the search hits, misses, conversion ratio, site abandonment, and accordingly tune and refine based on what the shoppers want and marry it with what the retailers want to sell on their website. We explore some of the use-cases which retailers will find useful in order to achieve a high search to sale conversion ratio.
The foremost design decision is around the search index schema. The retailer would want to add more fields that can be searched, these additional fields would be added to the index schema, for example, a sport clothes retailer will want include to include the sport-type as an indexed and searchable field. This new field sport-type can be then be used for impacting the search results, say for example, the order for the search results.
Search for conversions
One of the ways to increase the search hits and help site users find what they are looking for, is for the business build a strong set of vocabulary which represents their catalog set. This is made available by what is called the ‘Synonyms and Replacement terms’. The synonyms would help a customer say who is looking for a ‘fitbit’, show the different wearable, gadgets, activity tracker, pedometer that the store sells. The replacement would be used for terms, in the same example, if a shopper searches for ‘bracelet’ in a sports store, this will likely be replaced with ‘activity tracker’, ‘pedometer’ for the retailer.
The retailer would further want to refine the search results returned to the shopper based on inventory or brand partnerships. The WebSphere Commerce Management Center tool has a store preview feature which displays the relevancy score in the search results. This data provides the insights on what adjustments the user would make to have the desired result displayed. The retailer can accordingly tweak the result by using the search rule ‘Change Search Result Order’ and then iteratively get the desired set by viewing the relevancy information. Continuing with the example of keyword search ‘activity tracker’, if the business would like the fitbit brand to show up higher than other brands, then it will need to set its ranking order higher.
The retailer can exercise more influential rules than changing order using pre-existing options in the Management Center. For instance, they can specify that the ‘Top Results’ where on keyword search for ‘activity tracker’, the business can decide to show the latest fitbit product – Fitbit Surge as the Top Result. Retailers can infact influence a result where say the search result contains a specific product, and then move it to the top of the result. So with the example, if the search result contain ‘Fitbit’, then specify the Top Result as ‘Fitbit Surge’.
The retailer should use search statistics and experiment data to evaluate the impact and continue refining the search rules to have the maximum return on their shopper behavior.
Concluding with search extensions
Influencing search results is an important extension to the marketing and promotion tool. We have seen several ways in which the retailers can achieve this with ease. We will continue to delve into search extensions in the future posts as my colleagues will share specific extensions to derive enhanced benefits from the storefront search.