October 23, 2003, 12:00 AM

How retailers are making their web sites stickier to keep customers coming

Increased control over how their site search feature can serve online customers is helping companies like Dell and IBM make their sites stickier, giving shoppers more reason to come back for more.

Increased control over how their site search feature can serve online customers is helping companies like Dell Inc. and IBM Corp. make their sites stickier, giving shoppers more reason to come back for more, says John Reuter, vice president of global marketing for FAST Search & Transfer. "Companies are now seeing that enterprise site search has large ramifications for ROI," he says.

 

Dell and IBM use FAST technology to monitor how well their e-commerce site search is serving customers, whether or not customers are typing in accurate phrases to find what they need, Reuter says. The technology allows web site operators to view reports on the site search results that show up for keywords that shoppers have entered, then uses a web site administrative tool with a graphical user interface to adjust the results that appear for particular keywords.

 

Nordstrom has also signed on with FAST to use its search-monitoring technology, FAST said, but Nordstrom was unavailable for comment.

 

"Companies are learning how to turn a bad query into a good query," Reuter says. For example, he says, if a web retailer sees several searches using the same misspelled keywords, or commonly used incomplete phrases to identify its products, it can use the administrative tool to have those keywords produce the correct product listings. Another technique is to improve cross-selling and up-selling opportunities by increasing the relevance of multiple products to make them show up in the same search results.

 

Another way web sites are keeping customers coming back through search technology is by letting shoppers save a search that resulted in a listing of a preferred product that was out of stock or too expensive. "If the customer is looking for a laptop under $2,000, but finds that all available laptops are too expensive, she can sign up for an e-mail alert that will let her know when a suitable laptop is available," Reuter says. "So the interaction between the web site and the customer continues even after the customer leaves the site."

 

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