October 23, 2003, 12:00 AM

Retailers should focus on the basics of site functionality, Jupiter says

Many retailers overlook the basics of providing good site search and navigation as a way of keeping customers interested in their sites and coming back for more, Jupiter Research says.

Many retailers overlook the basics of providing good site search and navigation as a way of keeping customers interested in their sites and coming back for more, Jupiter Research analyst Matthew Berk, who specializes in web site performance, says. He adds that retailers often over-invest in personalization technology as a way of wooing customers with customized web pages. "The best investments are usually the low-hanging fruit of site search and navigation," he says. "Focusing on the basics, in particular elements that let site visitors accomplish tasks, is a great use of time, money and labor."

In its recent report, "Beyond the Personalization Myth: Cost-effective Alternatives to Influence Intent," Jupiter says that it`s more effective for e-retailers to help customers figure out their own customization. "Focus on flexible navigation and improved search to help visitors become their own personalization engines," Jupiter says.

It notes, however, that few companies have addresed the slack in their conversion rates or customer satisfaction ratings by leveraging simple tactics like improved site usability. "Other more basic tactics, including clarifying navigation and optimizing site performance, are very high on the list of site attributes known to drive profitable behavior," Jupiter says. "Notwithstanding concerns about price and shipping-and-handling costs, the number-one factor for consumers considering where to purchase a product online is ease of finding products."

Jupiter notes that relevant offers targeted to specific keyword searches can reach sales conversions of 20% or more. Jupiter cites one retailer that has found this approach so critical to its revenue growth that its merchandisers add a human touch to algorithm-determined search results by actively maintaining over 700 keyword campaigns on its site.

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