February 5, 2004, 12:00 AM

TigerDirect tweaks in-house site search for better conversions

Consumer electronics retailer TigerDirect has increased sales conversion rates by using web analytics tools to improve its site search, as it waits to implement a Google engine once Google offers better merchandising capabilities, TigerDirect says.

Consumer electronics retailer TigerDirect Inc. is taking an innovative approach to marrying site search and merchandising. Its in-house-developed site search functionality provides good enough search results, but lacks merchandising capability. And so it’s using web analytics tools like Hitbox from WebSideStory to figure out how to make its search results display merchandise that Tiger wants to promote, producing better sales conversion rates in the process, Lonny Paul, director of e-commerce, tells InternetRetailer.com.

Paul says Tiger would like to move the Google Search Appliance to TigerDirect.com, but is holding off until the Google engine offers more merchandising capabilities.

"We’ve played with the Google site search, and it makes search more thorough than we could build in-house, but it’s not ready for e-commerce," Paul says. "It can search for every product of a particular brand, but it’s not set up for up-selling."

Google has made its Google Search Appliance available for about two years as a site search tool. A spokesman says Google is still working on improving the way it integrates with back-end databases, which could provide better support for merchandising efforts. Pricing for the Google Search Appliance starts at $28,000, which includes two years of support and software updates.

While waiting for the Google Search Appliance to mature, Paul says, TigerDirect has stepped up its use of Hitbox and other tools to monitor how customers use its site, then use that information to modify its existing search function. If it sees that most customers are buying a particular model of laptop after searching on particular keywords, for example, TigerDirect will modify its site search function to send shoppers directly to a page that features the most popular model along with links to alternate models. "This allows us to customize and tweak our search better," Paul says.

The retailer also analyzes the keywords shoppers have used in Internet search engines to arrive at its site. This provides the retailer with insight on how they’re likely to search on TigerDirect.com, Paul says. "It’s important to know how people are searching on the web, because that indicates how they’ll search on our site," he says.

Paul notes that TigerDirect will continue to analyze customer search behavior after it replaces its in-house search engine to keep abreast of changes in the way customers use its site. "We have to watch this every day because people’s search patterns change as they become more tech savvy," he says.

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