February 15, 2007, 12:00 AM

How Petco.com is making it easier to search for products

To get a clearer picture of what customers are searching for, Petco.com expanded the attribute fields in its database from five to 58 fields when it implemented Endeca’s site search tool, says John Lazarchic, vice president of e-commerce at Petco.

To get a clearer picture of what customers are searching for, Petco Animal Supplies Inc. expanded the attribute fields in its Petco.com database from five to 58 fields when it implemented Endeca’s site search tool, says John Lazarchic, vice president of e-commerce at Petco.

“We use site search to drive any aspect of what a customer wants to use to shop for the product, including traditional shopping navigation and search refinements-color, size, flavor and brand,” Lazarchic says. “But we also added some unique items to that customer refinement process-the ability to either sort or refine items by customer ratings and reviews.”

Petco feeds average ratings of its products generated by the Bazaarvoice Inc. customer review application into the Endeca engine to enable customers to sort products by customer ratings or reviews. The technology also has enabled an automated process that upgrades left-side navigation based on top-rated items. As products become rated better or worse, they automatically fall into or out of that top-rated category, Lazarchic explains.

“It really gives the customer the power to decide what way they want to find something,” he says. “As a retailer, you tend to get stuck in your own paradigm of what you call things or how you think things should be categorized. You quickly learn that customers don’t think of things in the same way you do.”

Petco also is improving its site search experience by enabling customers to determine how many items they want to see displayed on a page. Customers can select the display of as few as six search results to as many as 50 per page. They also can choose either a list or grid view of the products. “Some customers prefer to see a lot of products above the fold, just seeing a picture. They don’t care about information,” Lazarchic says. “Other customers really want to see a description as they’re browsing for products.”

The system has also helped Petco save on merchandising costs, he adds. “We’re probably saving half of a full-time employee a year in incremental labor just from not having to manually set up rules,” Lazarchic says.

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