How to capitalize on the ecommerce boom with site search and merchandising

Ecommerce has evolved. Watch the webinar to learn how to leverage site search and merchandising to meet heightened customer expectations.

Ecommerce evolved rapidly in 2020, experiencing 10 years’ of growth in a matter of months. The industry continues to boom, but retailers must now turn their attention to sustainably maintaining the growth of the past year. Customer expectations are at an all time high, and a subpar shopping experience will cost you conversions.

As an online retailer, you need to offer a bingeable buying journey that shoppers return to again and again. And that starts with nailing your search, merchandising, and product arrangement.

Watch the webinar to learn how to:

  • Drive quick conversions with a search bar that understands shopper intent and delivers hyper-relevant results
  • Leverage rule-based merchandising to make sweeping changes to your site and strategy with just a few clicks
  • Act on insights and performance data to optimize and tailor the shopping experience to your customers’ needs


How ecommerce evolved in 2020

With the widespread shutdowns of brick-and-mortar retail in 2020, shoppers turned to online shopping in their droves. The evolution of ecommerce accelerated dramatically, forcing online retailers to assess and optimize their shopping experiences to meet customers’ heightened expectations. 

So, what does it all mean for the future of ecommerce? 

Retailers must now focus on maintaining recent growth. 75% of US consumers tried new brands for the first time during COVID-19, and 60% plan to keep shopping from these new brands. The opportunity for increased market share is there for the taking, but with hundreds of thousands of online stores to choose from, what drives customers to shop with you? 

It’s no longer as simple as having the best prices or the biggest selection. Shoppers want their purchasing experience to be intuitive and easy. They want a customized in-person shopping experience, from the comfort of their living room. 

To meet those expectations, retailers must provide site search that delivers accurate, intelligent results, and they must merchandise their online store in a way that gets the right product, in front of the right shopper, at the right time.



Today we’re going to talk about how to capitalize on the e-commerce boom that we’re kind of all experiencing with site search and merchandising my name is ashley i’ve been with search spring for about six years uh previous to that i had a pretty extensive uh in-person retail experience and with search spring initially i kind of started and built our customer success team which we really identify as kind of the consultants to our retailers and then through that i moved on to the product team so what i do now is i kind of help design the product to best kind of help retailers like you um and in doing so we want to make sure that our retailers are more successful ultimately um getting the most out of search bringing their entire ecommerce experience


let’s start off uh by looking at the current state of e-commerce so e-commerce has experienced 10 years of growth in just 90 days of 2020. shoppers have long preferred the in person experience uh but we’re now forced to shop online and so this is big been a big win for the e-commerce world uh 75 of us customers have tried new brands for the first time during coba 19 and 60 of them plan to keep shopping from these new brands um so with more customers shopping online more than ever before the demand has certainly increased uh but with that demand comes a heightened shopper expectation and so to capitalize on this exponential growth of 20 e-commerce growth in 2020 your store needs to stand out from the competition and can your store keep up with this level of growth


and did you know by the end of 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator if you think of the option of going to home depot or lowe’s typically you’ll choose the store that has the better product offering and customer service so we want to take that personal in-person experience and translate it to the online world and a lot of you might ask why does it matter and what impact does it have us customers 65 of them find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising so again getting your brand out there is the first step but once shoppers are at your store what are you doing to keep them there and to keep them coming back time after time so that leads us now kind of where should we start um now that we’ve walked through the e-commerce landscape and know a bit about uh site search and merchandising let’s walk through the steps where we can start optimizing the site


first we kind of start by asking ourselves what makes your store stand out so there’s hundreds and thousands of online stores to choose from i mean we have mom and pop shops to amazon and kind of everything in between um and as i mentioned it’s no longer as simple as having the best price and it doesn’t stop there any longer um they want the customized in-person shopping experience that’s intuitive and easy from the comfort of their living room


also starting by knowing your audience and what is important to your audience um this should influence your general ecommerce strategy to stand out you’ll also need to take in your audience into account and with more people shopping online this year your demographics could be changing imagine two ecommerce stores selling the exact same products with the exact same prices i can tell you that their merchandising strategies are likely very different your strategy should align with the demographic and needs of your shoppers in fact i have many retailers who are owned by the same company have the exact same products the exact same um data and everything kind of in between and the way that they merchandise to their two demographics is totally different um so it’s really important to get to know your audience uh and for example kind of a few general things to take into consideration new customers usually want to see more of your proven and best-selling products while returning users might want to see more of kind of what’s hot what’s new what’s trending um and then kind of think about if reviews are an important part in the buying and decision making process consider boosting products that have good ratings with a high number of reviews think about how influential ratings are in retail verticals like health beauty apparel power tools kind of especially when you don’t get the ability to to see these products in person to kind of feel them to understand the quality things like that um and if your shoppers are price sensitive don’t elevate the most expensive products to the top of the results uh making it easier on the customer and aligning to what they’re kind of looking for will result in a higher conversion and less friction throughout the buying process so what role does site search play and i emphasis a lot on site search because many retailers overlook the power of search and driving conversions in revenue and that’s typically because a relatively small number of shoppers engage with the search bar um on average about five to fifty percent of your overall traffic will engage with search um and one i’m when i’m consulting with uh e-commerce retailers they’ll say you know seven or ten percent of my shoppers are using search i don’t wanna invest in that ten percent i’d rather do something to invest in that ninety percent but people who are who search are far more motivated they tend to convert at least 400 higher than someone who identifies products through browsing through categories or some other way outside of search and on average for search spring our customers uh sites they see about seven percent uh users using site search and it accounts for generally at least 28 of their overall total online revenue um so by investing in search you’re really going to have an impact on conversion and revenue and by providing accurate results you can guide the shopper to check out extremely quickly with less friction and on the alternative if you provide a poor search experience you’re going to frustrate that visitor and they’ll likely take their business to a competitor that does invest search i always kind of say time is money most most general shoppers don’t make it past page two uh about less than ten percent make it past page two so ensuring that you’re getting those right products most importantly on page one or shortly thereafter uh is imperative to the business and i was going to say with you know google is now the expectation of search um google obviously performs well it has far dominated the market for many many years so that is a customer’s expectation when they are conducting search so if you’re not in line with that and providing a relevant search experience your customers will find someone that is next we’re going to talk about analyzing and leveraging the data um i can’t stress enough that i was like say the proof is in the pudding but the proof is in the data really anything that you need to know is going to be answered through these data points um you’ll want to look at how your shoppers are engaging with your store look at what they’re searching for what categories are most important to them and what they’re frequenting the most the terminology that they use is so important and how they interact with those filters and sorting options oftentimes you know i get e-commerce stores that don’t necessarily know where to start from a strategy um and really if you’re kind of clueless at that point where you might start is what are they filtering on and what are they sorting on um if you see you know that they’re constantly sorting on newest products uh that might be a great indication that new arrivals is important and they’re probably gonna be more of your repeating shoppers um but a lot of these kind of just uncover some of those basics you know i know i tend to focus on reviews the average customer review that’s a great indication of okay elevating products that have higher reviews might take away the need for someone to kind of sort based on that and we’re going to giving that to them without forcing the user to make extra clicks don’t also forget about kind of basics in your merchandising strategy like inventory status if it’s on sale or not and especially right now competitive shipping i think is really important um and then one important caveat to mention here is that you want to make sure that you know as we’re recommending to leverage sorting and filtering options ensure this data is complete throughout your product catalog and that you’re not missing valuable data points um for example if you’re offering a color filter ensure that all applicable products have that color data assigned otherwise a feature like filtering can have the inverse effect if uh you know only half of your products are tagged with a color and those would be products that the customers are then now missing out on um and likewise if you’re still early in the process of obtaining reviews it might be best to hold off on leveraging that data as a filter or a sorting option until it can provide more value


it’s also important not to focus on a single metric um i see this a lot where someone only focuses on conversion or only focuses on exit rate only focuses on clicks uh it goes so much more than that all these variables kind of tell a story and just because a product has high clicks does not mean it’s a high performer and wasting that real estate above the fold for an overexposed product is a no no um analyzing metrics such as exit rate and bounce rate conversion rates click rates page depth those all help paint the overall picture of how a search result page or a category page is ultimately performing and i always kind of say identifying both of what’s performing well and what isn’t understanding why a page or product is performing well is sometimes the key to understanding why a page isn’t um so while you know we kind of say if it’s not broke don’t fix it it is important to understand why a page might be performing well and that would kind of help improve the experience through pages that aren’t


and in analyzing your data you’ll probably find a lot of opportunities for synonyms and redirects taxonomy and descriptors of products are not universal throughout any industry so what you might call a fuzzy boot another person might call a furry boot so it’s important to kind of cover all of those bases and give your shoppers multiple ways to find the product that they’re looking for as you can see through this example on justfab a search for furry boots also provides results for fuzzy boots and anything in between i can’t tell you how many different ways people search for fuzzy furry um faux fur etc types of boots um and this is just particular to this product but kind of think about everything um you know in the past a dress store might have you know cocktail dresses and evening gown dresses and kind of now in the world uh people are searching for a little black dress or a party dress or a vegas dress kind of things along those lines so instead of having this kind of really proper categorization taxonomy think about talking about your products more like the average user would would shop for them and include those in keywords and synonyms and things like that um and then to talk about redirects typically search doesn’t power content and cms pages like shipping faqs returns blogs however customers tend to leverage a search bar for locating these pages very frequently um and with implementing redirects for these types of queries this helps the customer get to the page they’re trying to locate quickly without frustration and while it might be common knowledge for people like you and me that a page like this typically lives in the footer i can tell you that that is absolutely not the norm for the everyday shopper um and one of the biggest points i can harp on is anything that you think is obvious probably is not


next we’re going to talk about autocomplete there’s lots of different ways to describe autocomplete at search spring we call it autocomplete here but it can be called type ahead autocomplete search drop down etc but ultimately this is the module that displays when you start to type something into the search bar and this is beneficial for a lot of reasons um oftentimes kind of going back to that taxonomy categorize it categorization customers don’t know what a product is actually called um you know sometimes a search for a kitchen jar someone might call it a kitchen canister i ran into that specific example um sometime frequently and and do so um with many other examples all of the time so a user might start typing in a brand name or a generic product type and with that we want to give them suggestions as to what the next steps are whether it’s related terms or related products and in that they might understand okay this is you know i’m looking for this particular brand and i’m looking for shoes or i might be looking for this particular product and oh this is the name so i might continue my search query um and autocomplete isn’t just for product discovery either it’s also really beneficial for spell correction um and there are different types of autocomplete that actually have a true spell correction built in but even for the ones that don’t it really does help the user with spelling so users might start to type in the first few characters of a word that they might not know how to spell correctly and then once they see those suggestions in the drop down they’ll kind of like autocomplete take over the rest and press enter um in the example shown here this is an option with spell correction enabled but um a customer is searching for a divot they’re clearly misspelling it and autocomplete guides the user to the correct spelling and also gives them relevant terms associated with divit as well as relevant products associated with a divot and shoppers who click a product directly from autocomplete convert 200 more than those that simply press enter after a search so earlier i mentioned shoppers that use search convert 400 higher that 200 percent is on top of that 400 percent so showing those products in autocomplete is very beneficial from a conversion standpoint as well


so we just walked through some site search uh best practices how to make that search bar more valuable as a tool to your shoppers now uh we’ll move into e-commerce merchandising and so e-commerce merchandising takes those search results category pages and overall shopping experience to the next level it’s not just about delivering relevant results merchandising gives you the control over which products are displayed and in what order it also gives you the power to add visual promotions to product pages curated targeted landing pages uh to send shoppers to and so ecommerce merchandising means something a little bit different for everybody and rightfully so i’ve always kind of said relevancy is in the eye of the beholder your e-commerce strategy should be influenced by your business and your customers but broadly speaking it’s about getting the right product in front of the right person at the right time which sounds easy enough right


um automated site merchandising and i put a large emphasis on the automation part um you don’t have to hire a full team of merchandisers to achieve a fully merchandised and relevant experience by automating rules you can showcase products that currently meet those business objectives as well as getting the right product in front of the customer


automated merchandising is broken down into a few parts so we’ll start here with promoting or elevating the right products the products you choose to boost will depend on your retail vertical your demographic trend and seasonality newest and best selling products are always popular to boost but you shouldn’t stop there um you should also take current shopping behaviors trends upcoming holidays into consideration so considering promoting products that qualify for also maybe in-store pickup fast shipping for example for seasonality a home decor retailer might align products that resonate with fall or halloween or christmas an apparel retailer might be currently promoting their fall line or cozy styles i can tell you that in the past six or eight months um i’m seeing a lot less kind of high heels and fancy dresses but a lot more of kind of that athleisure wear uh normally as you can see in this particular example um if someone searches for face masks you know there might be clay face masks cotton masks um toning face mask but with this kind of day and age if someone’s searching for a face mask they’re probably looking for a face mask covering um so here’s a great idea to elevate those particular products that are more in line with the current state of the market as well as promoting the ones that are better selling over others


and then grouping the right products together so displaying similar related matching products together can be an intuitive way to cross-sell certain items within a product listing page so sometimes this is done through product recommendations but it also can be done through the product listing page um or you know something like new arrivals grouping those similar products together think for example a bikini top and a bikini bottom we want to ensure those matching pieces are together um not only can the simple tactic increase the average order value but it can also minimize the customer’s need to continue to search and refine and you know on a new arrivals page like i mentioned um if there’s both you know women’s and men’s products that might be best to group together women’s products followed by men’s or vice versa um just so the customer doesn’t have to uh constantly you know look over each individual product to find what’s applicable to them um and you know of course there’s always options like filtering but typically the user is going to scroll the page first and then filter if the products aren’t aggregated or displayed in an order in which they prefer and while it might seem obvious that certain products should be grouped together some retailers don’t have this ability and some just often overlook this need


next we’ll talk about demoting the right products so while promoting products is important um demoting products is also equally if not more important um you’ve heard me talk about out of stock a few times here but i harp on that because you have no idea how many category or search result pages that are flooded with out of stock items on the first page this is a huge disservice to the end user and to the customer because ultimately they can’t do anything with those products um well out of stock is kind of a no-brainer and pushing down to the bottom products with limited size inventory our products on backorder aren’t ideal to show above the folder on the first page either um other examples might include pushing down products that don’t have a thumbnail image yet or that have recently become out of season um you know once we we move past halloween we’re not going to be wanting to promote halloween products we’re going to kind of move right on to thanksgiving and other holidays um in the example here this category page includes both swimwear and swim accessories so with these automated rules it’s easy to push the actual swimwear to the top followed by accessories after that and then out of stock and weightless products towards the end of the results


also worth mentioning badging those products too so that the customer doesn’t have to click into the product and be frustrated when it’s not available


lastly we’ll kind of talk about leveraging banners bearers are a great way to highlight special offers and promotions they also aid in telling the customer a story or providing useful content to those products on that page banners can also be useful for brand pages to further enhance that brand image um common offers used in banners include free shipping buy one get one seasonal discounts links to curated landing pages just to kind of remind the user um what they have available to them and kind of further encourage them to make a purchase um this is a great way to give shopper visual cues and keep them engaged this can also help keep the brands that you work with happy um oftentimes i do see retailers that work with particular brands um you know receive discounts on invoice or kind of things like that when they you know highlight their brand image or they highlight those brands products so lots of um ways to kind of get creative with merchandising and banners those are just a few examples um so with that uh we have a few key takeaways here um in order to capitalize on e-commerce growth um you’ll want to stand out by providing your shoppers the best online shopping experience your product offering and prices are no longer enough to differentiate your brand from the competition um use these learnings from data and performance to make improvements in the shopping experience while continuously raising the bar um don’t overlook the power of a search bar a search bar that produces accurate results can guide the shopper to the checkout extremely quickly at at least 400 percent more than those that don’t use site search and it’s important to constantly review the data and trends to make sure your strategy aligns with these changes use these learnings to improve the shopping experience and set the standard of what the online experience should be and don’t make this harder than it has to be equip yourself with the tools needed to make this easy again this isn’t you know hiring a full team of merchandisers or a staff to to build a search uh internally leverage kind of rule based merchandising to ensure that merchandising is up to date and that key components are being utilized um this also allows for big sweeping changes and a strategy with just a few clicks and then lastly kind of rinse and repeat this never stops this we kind of go through this and start over all the time it’s important to iterate on your report on your approach i can tell you that nobody thought that toilet paper would be one of the best-selling products of 2020.


um and just a little bit about search bring what we do uh we essentially provide intelligent site search and merchandising solutions for e-commerce stores um as you can see we focus on multiple aspects but we ultimately help optimize your search and category pages um i kind of mentioned earlier that relevancy is in the eye of the beholder if someone’s searching for a dress and there’s 200 dresses you know it’s not enough that the dresses are showing first we have to show the right dresses right either that’s the best selling or the newest or the trendiest or the trending colors uh or maybe a mixture of all of those things right um we ultimately customize your entire site um and the way products are shown to help you leverage banners badges product recommendations reviews while highlighting certain products and categories as i mentioned earlier in the presentation your site data is so valuable to help you make these decisions so we do have um our own internal team of customer success experts um i kind of look at them as the consultants for all of the online retailers they’re the ones that kind of see this data day in and day out help identify trends help identify low hanging fruit opportunities for improvement search spring does have its own analytics suite as well as the direct integration with google analytics to kind of help connect the dots between all of these sources of data to be able to give you these insights to help make decisions um and lastly we’re platform agnostic so we don’t work with one particular platform but have worked with just about everyone to you know custom platform shopify magento kind of everything in between


um and here’s just a few things that um our search spring customers have said about us so again our goal is to really make things easy for the customer and for the merchant we’re always looking to help support our clients to ensure they’re getting the most out of the platform the feedback we received from our customers on g2 kind of confirmed this we were recently honored to be named momentum leader in the e-commerce merchandising software category and g2’s fall report along with badges on best support easiest admin and easiest setup i can say that in all my years of search spring our service and support is kind of bar none so um not only are they quick and speedy but um you know they’re smart and they can kind of help you get the most out of your business and optimize these things so thank you everyone for joining me today to stay tuned follow us on linkedin or twitter at searchspring

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