August 19, 2010, 1:54 PM

Site search guides product selection

Retailer eCommerce Outdoors adds SKUs based on consumers’ site searches.

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By paying heed to what its customers are searching for, eCommerce Outdoors, which sells fishing, beach and sporting gear online, has improved its product selection, says Patrick Gill, the multichannel retailer’s head of marketing and e-commerce.

The key is looking at reports of negative results from consumer searches on the site. For instance, the retailer noticed that consumers were searching for trolling motor—a piece of boating equipment that includes an electric motor, propeller and controls—which none of the company’s four e-commerce sites carried. After noticing the trend, the retailer began offering those products.

“I get a lot of product-buying ideas through search,” Gill says. “If hundreds of people are searching for a product, we are interested in it.”

Gill would not release figures about sales, conversions or visitors. But about two and a half years ago, the retailer started using software from Nextopia Software Corp., technology that gives the retailer better metrics about what consumers are looking for than a previous vendor could offer. For instance, reports tell Gill the terms and synonyms for those terms that shoppers use in search.

“But you still need to mine the reports for nuggets,” he says. “You can’t just set it and forget it. You have to constantly review and tweak.”

Now Gill is anticipating doing even more with site search.

For instance, he foresees tying in eCommerce Outdoors’ site search with social media. The retailer could create a feature on its Facebook page that regularly displays the top 10 or 20 search terms that shoppers are using on the retailer’s sites, giving consumers a peak into hot products.

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