April 8, 2004, 12:00 AM

NHL.com’s hat trick: search, search, search

Improved site search from any number of entry points at NHL.com has boosted sales in some categories by more than 50%. Shoppers can click on NHL’s storefront and search for merchandise by team, category or specialized events portal.


In selling licensed merchandise online, NHL ICE--for Interactive CyberEnterprises--the Internet retailing arm of the National Hockey League, has always had a willing and eager audience eager to purchase hot products, particularly after the annual all-star game, playoffs and Stanley Cup final. Now that NHL.com has expanded the number of ways diehard hockey fans can search for-and find-the merchandise they’re looking for, the sale of team jerseys, t-shirts and hats has increased in some categories by more than 50%. The e-commerce unit launched new site search features in conjunction with a major redesign at the start of the professional hockey season in October.

NHL.com carries more than 22,000 SKUs in its various online stores. The most popular items are licensed team apparel, particularly after the playoffs or if a particular team has a successful year or wins the championship. NHL.com used to have just one way customers could search for merchandise, but after ongoing site enhancements over the last year, the site now offers shoppers multiple search options. They can click on NHL’s storefront and search for merchandise by team, category or specialized events portal.

Fans who are partial to a specific team can also click on the individual team’s front page and search for merchandise in its “official” store. For instance, a New Jersey Devils fan looking for a specific piece of merchandise can search for and order the merchandise through more than 24 different categories, including apparel and specialty items such as memorabilia, pucks used in games, DVDs and trading cards.

Customizing search options are helping NHL.com increase the conversion rate on some items by more than 35%. “We wanted to give fans multiple ways to search for the items they want, whether they like to go straight to their favorite team site off our home page or do a more general search in the NHL.com store,” says Kenneth Nova, group vice president, business operations. “Whether it’s a micro or a macro search, we want to get them quickly to the merchandise they are looking for.”

The NHL began expanding its site search functions as it added more detail to the 30 individual team portals it maintains on NHL.com. “Each team site has a look and feel unique to that team and that includes search functions for finding particular merchandise,” Nova says. “It’s similar to shopping in a boutique versus a department store when both stores may carry the same merchandise. We are just giving NHL fans more options to search our stores for the merchandise they want.”

NHL.com added new search functions based on six years of accumulated customer feedback, on outside research and statistical analysis from Frank N. Magid Associates, a media and entertainment research firm, and on data from the former Be Free, which is now part of Commission Junction, owned by ValueClick Inc., and from ForeSee Results, customer satisfaction research company.

“We get general fans coming to NHL.com looking for merchandise and we get team fans who want specific items from their favorite team,” Nova says. “Fan feedback told us we should offer expanded search functionality and that was a priority with our redesign.”


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