July 1, 2010, 12:33 PM

As you like it

Improved site search lifts sales by 13% for online bookseller Prestwick House.

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Sales have increased 13% since Prestwick House improved its site search late last year to make it easier for educators to search for books on the retailer’s web site.The bookseller, which caters to schools and teachers, about eight months ago launched improved site search capabilities, with SLI Systems providing the technology, says Keith Bergstrom, general manager of Prestwick House. The sales increase figures comes from comparing the eight-month period since the launch of better site search to the same eight-month period from a year ago.

“The old site didn’t do a good job of sorting things,” he says. Before trading its in-house system for the one from SLI, a search for a book such as “As You Like It,” a Shakespeare play, might return thousands of results instead of a handful of relevant ones, he says.

The old system also required several of the retailer’s 30 employees to spend considerable time managing the results the site search engine produced for the 9,000 SKUs Prestwick sells. For instance, workers would have to make sure the site can tell the difference between a third edition and a fourth edition, a task that was largely manual. Now, such tasks are much more automated, he says.

The new system enables online shoppers to sort by book category, author, format and price. Search results bring forth item images and short descriptions, along with links to related products. Prestwick also received help from the vendor in setting up a Google Analytics account through which Bergstrom and the rest of the company expect to learn more about conversion rates and what types of searches results in sales.

Having an efficient site search system is vital to Prestwick, where the average web order is $80. Bergstrom says that while only 25% of site visitors use site search—shoppers also can find products through tabs that cover various aspects of education, such as “core language and learning”—those visitors who do search account for 62% of the company’s revenues.

 Prestwick also takes non-web orders from institutions, with most coming in the fall. Web customers are more likely to be individual teachers spending their own money at the start of the school year.    

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