May 17, 2007, 12:00 AM

PlumberSurplus.com tightens up its site search with Mercado

With a retail e-commerce site that offers 30,000 items, the online-only supplier of plumbing and home improvement products says site visits are up 25% and conversion rates up 20% since implementing Mercado’s site search system in February.

It wasn’t easy in the past for customers to find what they wanted among the 30,000 plumbing and home improvement products at PlumberSurplus.com. But that has changed since the online-only retailer switched to the hosted site search service from Mercado Software, says Vanessa Hofmann, merchandising and public relations team leader at PlumberSurplus.com.

The previous search technology would sometimes produce thousands of results, including every product with any connection to the search term the customer entered, Hofmann says. The Mercado system allows the customer to narrow the search by category and by such attributes as price, color and items eligible for free shipping.

Type in “faucet”, for example, and the search produces 11,471 items. But a few clicks on the navigation bar on the left side of the page produces 17 choices among brushed chrome bathroom faucets under $80. The Mercado system can also recognize numerical search terms, such as 8x8 access doors, and present the customer with a selection of 8-inch-square doors, a search the previous system could not handle.

Hofmann says the Mercado technology also makes it easier for the company to develop, manage and execute promotions, to take advantage of cross-sell opportunities and to control product rankings. She says the retailer can now create custom landing pages tied to search engine advertising, so that a customer clicking on a search ad goes directly to a relevant page.

The improved search is paying off, Hofmann says. Since introducing the Mercado system in late February, she says the average number of visitors per day has increased by 25% and conversion rates are up by 20%. She says search usage has increased 46% and the search page has become the most popular page on the site, replacing the product detail page.

Founded in 2004 and based in Riverside, CA, PlumberSurplus.com exceeded $1 million in sales in 2005 and is on track to surpass $10 million this year, Hofmann says.

Timothy Jackson, president of PlumberSurplus.com, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 4-7 in San Jose, in a session entitled How A Small Retailer Handles Customer Service.

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