April 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Improved search marries products with customers

With a new site search application that learns the most popular items in each product category and presents those first in search results, AmericanBridal.com is helping shoppers find what they`re looking for.

By Don Davis

If one typed in “candle” at AmericanBridal.com recently, the first product that came up was a stout, off-white candle with a lopsided heart on its side designed as a favor for wedding guests. A year ago that candle would have been the 91st product to come up, and one would have had to scroll down eight pages to find it. The candle with the lopsided heart moved to the top because American Bridal Accessories adopted a technology that learns the most popular items in each category and presents those first.

The Learning Search from SLI Systems also helps consumers refine their search-click on “as seen in” and the site displays candles recently featured in Modern Bride and other wedding magazines. Customers also can limit their search by price range.

“The biggest benefit for us is that it allows users to find what they are looking for easier,” says Shirley Tan, CEO of the web-only retailer of wedding favors and bridal party products. “People are staying on our site longer, which means our average sale has gone up.”

More views per visitor
Tan says last year the average visitor to the site viewed four pages; now they click on seven or eight. While she would not disclose the average purchase amount, she says it is up 10% over last year. The SLI system also displays across the top of a page suggested items, chosen based on what other customers who viewed candles, for instance, also viewed.

Tan did not disclose what the retailer pays for the service. SLI says it charges primarily by the number of search queries it handles from a site. Smaller customers may pay $800 per month while the largest, whose sites might generate 20 million queries a day, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, the company says.

After enjoying search success, American Bridal also began using SLI’s Site Champion service designed to optimize results on search engines. Shaun Ryan, CEO of SLI Systems, concedes American Bridal has seen only a modest lift so far: about a few hundred extra referrals each month from pages that search engines typically would not have found, he says.

American Bridal gets 200,000 unique visitors every month, Tan says. The retailer pays the vendor 15 cents for each click from a referral the vendor produces. She figures it would cost her 30 cents to 40 cents to generate those clicks by buying keywords on search engines.

don@verticalwebmedia.com

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