August 17, 2004, 12:00 AM

Serving different types of shoppers with search

Some shoppers are just starting to look, while others know exactly what they want to buy. To accommodate the needs of multiple types of shoppers on a site, Fry Inc. develops and tests scenarios for as many as five different audience groups.


Going directly from web search to a product page shortens shoppers’ paths to finding what they want. But not everyone is as directed in their online shopping, which makes the information needs of the customer who arrives at a site under a general product search different from the one who gets to a site after typing in a specific model and brand. That means sites must be designed to serve many types of customer, says Dave Fry, CEO of web design and development company Fry Inc.

In fact, when developing sites for clients, Fry Inc. works with scenario designs based on hypotheses about the needs of as many as five different audience groups, followed by tests of whether different designs allowed users on each group accomplish their goals on a site. “Most of our web sites have multiple audiences because most companies do,” says Fry.

Capturing both the shoppers who come to a site after a search under "camcorder” as well as the one who comes to a site after searching for a particular model and brand of camcorder, for instance, requires two different strategies. “The most important thing under model and brand is setting up your web site so all its pages can be crawled by the web servers,” Fry says. “You have to go through specific steps to make that possible. You can do that by setting up a file on your server that indicates exactly what trees to go down to find all of your products.”

Web searches for a particular model number should lead right to a product page, with details including what it costs and when it can be shipped. On the other hand, web searches on “camcorder” should land shoppers on a camcorder category page that should include merchandising opportunities as well as guided navigation showing how to find and sort through products by different attributes such as brand, price, or feature set, Fry says.


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