February 15, 2012, 1:13 PM

IRWD 2012: U.S. Toy leverages site search across its brands

A conference speaker shares the benefits of linking search across its sites.

Lead Photo

Seth Freiden of U.S. Toy Co. at IRWD 2012.

Linking search across its three toy-focused e-commerce sites netted U.S. Toy Co. a combined conversion increase of 300%, Seth Freiden, the company’s co-chief executive officer told attendees Tuesday at a session at Internet Retailer’s Web Design and Usability Conference in Orlando, FL. The site search overhaul, which also incorporated merchandising improvements and incorporating synonyms for terms searchers use, also boosted shoppers’ use of site search by 400%, Freiden said.

U.S. Toy, No. 499 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide linked search across the e-commerce sites it operates for three of its brands: US Toy, which features novelty items for school fairs, classrooms and birthday parties; CP Toys, featuring toys the company designs and manufactures; and Constructive Playthings, featuring toys for early childhood. The sites target different audiences, ranging from parents to teachers to daycare operators, and that sometimes left visitors to any of its sites confused, Freiden said.

For example, a teacher might search for a product on the CP Toys site and receive zero search results, though the item was available on another U.S. Toy site. To solve the problem, U.S. Toy worked with SLI Systems to implement a site search system that would search all the retailer’s sites and return the combined results on a single page. Searched products available on other U.S Toy sites were grouped together in the search results, and the page includes a notice that clicking on those products will take the shopper to a different U.S. Toy site.

U.S. Toy and SLI leveraged the cross-site search linkage further by analyzing what searchers looked for on any of the three sites but did not initially find. They then developed a list of products that the sites offered but which shoppers tended to search using other names, and started filtering search results through that list.

A search for toy cash registers on one site, for example, had been returning results for only for one product on the site—toy coins—because “cash register” was in the toy coins product description. The improved site search returned not only the toy coins, but also a toy cash register available on one of the other sites, with a link to that site for purchase.

Freiden noted that cross-linking site search to display results across all three sites and implementing synonyms for searched items on the back gave a particular boost to CP Toys. Parents who wanted to buy toys they’d seen their kids play with at day care might start at the Constructive Playthings site and, through the linked site search, find the toy they sought on the CP Toys site.

Session co-presenter Shaun Ryan, CEO of SLI Systems, offered advice from U.S. Toy’s experience for attendees examining their own sites’ search functionality. “Improving site search is always a good thing,” Ryan said. “Pay attention to what people are searching for, including poor search results.” If common searches yield few results that may mean the retailer is not using the same terms as consumers or that it should add the items consumers are seeking. “If you have multiple sites, allow people to find products from all on any site,” he said.

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