May 10, 2007, 12:00 AM

Leading online retailers focus on “searchandising”

More than half of best-in-class retailers surveyed use site search as a merchandising tool, and 70% say it helps to convert browsers to buyers, according to “Web Site Search: Revenue in the Results,” a new report from Aberdeen Group.

More than half of best-in-class retailers surveyed use site search as a merchandising tool, according to “Web Site Search: Revenue in the Results,” a new report from Aberdeen Group.

70% of leading online retailers report that visitors who use web site search tools were more likely to convert from browsers to buyers, Aberdeen says. Aberdeen defines best-in-class as companies that outperform their peers in key metrics within financial, operational and consumer categories.

Among best-in-class retailers, 62% continually fine-tune search for desired results based on user actions, current promotions and collective behavior, Aberdeen found. Half of these retailers segment search query results based on different attributes of product categories, and that number of retailers will grow to 92% in the next 24 months.

“These metrics show that leading companies are thinking about their search tools as a way to serve up products and inextricably link their merchandising processes to their product discovery tools,” according to the report.

76% of all online merchants surveyed report that producing search results that meet customer needs is a significant challenge. But 41% of those responding say they spend very little time managing research, Aberdeen says. Among best-in-class, 17% of retailers have staff dedicated to managing search results, and 33% spend more than 5 hours per week fine-tuning search.

In addition 65% of best-in-class retailers use search analytics data to build customer profiles, evaluate buying patterns and discern successful keywords and conversion paths. This data is leveraged by 26% of the leading merchants to fine-tune results for merchandising to customers and customer segments on a predictive basis, according to the report.

55% of best-in-class retailers actively monitor conversion rates achieved from search organization tactics and continually fine-tune results as a corrective measure, Aberdeen found.

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