June 29, 2006, 12:00 AM

Rugs Direct targets site search to keep web sales soaring

The retailer uses new search and navigation technology to transform its internal site search with the hope of decreasing its cart abandonment rate. “Site search like this helps us differentiate ourselves in the marketplace," says CEO David Craig.

Bill Briggs

Senior Editor

The Internet enables retailers to do things that no crack staff of in-store employees could possibly accomplish. Quickly searching through tens of thousands of products is one of the most critical feats the web can perform for shoppers and merchants.

Rugs Direct, a multi-channel retailer that sells area rugs, knew it had a serious problem: very high cart abandonment. Late last year the retailer used research firm ForeSee Results to study its site. The two organizations reached a conclusion: Rugs Direct needed to make fixing its site search capabilities its top priority to help decrease abandonment and boost conversion.

“The No. 1 complaint users had about our site was their inability to find what they were looking for,” says Randy Kremer, president. “It’s great to offer 60,000 choices, but customers don’t want to have to look through thousands upon thousands of area rugs to find the one that is just right. When faced with too many choices, many people opt to make no choice.”

The company purchased site search tools from Endeca Technologies Inc. and rebuilt its internal search engine in house. It tested the enhanced search on a development site. In one test with a focus group of online shoppers, two shoppers were given an assignment by Rugs Direct: find the same rug. One shopper used site search on the existing site, the other on the enhanced development site. After 15 minutes of hunting, the shopper on the existing site gave up. By contrast, the shopper on the development site found the specific rug in 2 clicks.

“This technology enables customers to easily find the rug they’re looking for,” says CEO David Craig. “Site search like this helps us continue to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.”

Rugs Direct, operated by Winchester Carpet & Rug Co. Inc., sells its wares via the Internet, catalogs and two retail stores. Last year the company reached $22.5 million in web sales, a 70.5% jump over $13.2 million in 2004. Online sales represent close to 75% of total revenue, which in 2005 totaled nearly $30 million. The company is No. 250 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites. It predicts greater than 50% sales growth this year.

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