April 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Follow-the-crowd recommendations boost online sales at Sun & Ski Sports

With many of its customers shopping its web site only a few times a year, the retailer of outdoor sports gear has found a way to tap the “wisdom of crowds” to recommend products and boost conversion rates and sales.

 

With many of its customers coming to shop only a few times a year, multichannel sports gear retailer Sun & Ski Sports has found a way to tap the “wisdom of crowds” to recommend products and boost conversion rates and sales.

“It’s hard to recommend products based on a one-to-one relationship with most of our online customers visiting our web site only two or three times a year, so we work with the viewing patterns of all of the visitors who come to our site,” says Scott Blair, director of e-commerce and interactive marketing.

Sun & Ski uses product recommendation technology built into its site search platform from Baynote Inc. Baynote’s Social Search technology aggregates shopping and browsing behavior of all Sun & Ski’s web site visitors to dynamically recommend products to visitors based on the search terms they entered into SunandSki.com’s site search window or into Internet search engines.

A search on Google.com for “ski jackets,” for example, shows a link to SunandSki.com on the first page of search results. Clicking that link takes the shopper to a dynamically modified SunandSki.com home page to show four images of the retailer’s most popular jackets-two under the Spyder label and two from The North Face. Those selections are based on past visitor shopping and browsing behavior.

Those same four jackets appear at the top of search results when the same term is entered into the retailer’s site search window, followed by dozens of the next most popular jackets spread across several pages of results.

In tests, Sun & Ski found that shoppers who viewed and clicked on products recommended through the Baynote system converted to a sale 44% more often and had an average order value 28% higher compared to shoppers who did not click recommended products.

The retailer has also found that site visitors who use SunandSki.com’s site search feature have a higher conversion rate than those who use the site’s navigation system. With that in mind, the retailer has taken steps to emphasize site search, such as by enlarging the site search window and placing it directly under the Sun & Ski Sports logo at the top left of every page.

In addition, it has improved results by modifying its pages to ensure that the product recommendations always appear in the top half of page displays.

Sun & Ski Sports, which is owned and operated by Houston-based Retail Concepts Inc., also has 22 retail stores across 11 states from Texas to New Hampshire, including some stores that operate under the Ski Chalet and Ski Stop names.

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