September 16, 2004, 12:00 AM

Retailers ponder last year’s web analytics data to gear up for this holiday

Two trends are emerging as e-retailers review last year’s Q4 data to prepare for this year, says analytics vendor Coremetrics. More will experiment with “searchandizing,” and more will test and change strategies in season to optimize merchandizing.


Thanks to what retailers learned from web analytics last holiday season, many will be doing things a little differently online this season, John Squire, vice president of product management at Coremetrics Inc., tells Internet Retailer. For many, the past nine months have been a time of practicing for what they’ll do in the fourth quarter when “the game is on,” Squire says.

Many will try “searchandizing” strategies. Essentially, that’s working with site search technology to weight listings so the products merchants most want customers to see in search results-those that offer manufacturer rebates, for instance, or are high in inventory-appear at the top of the listings. “Most search tools are offering pretty sophisticated information and tools merchandisers can use to tweak site search to merchandise the site,” he says. “We have seen some powerful examples of how merchants have been able to use these to drive customers to buy a product that wouldn’t normally be the top product returned in that search query.”

Web analytics are critical to "searchandizing" because the site search engines don`t provide conversion information. "They don’t know what query has lead to a conversion, if it’s a high attrition point, or if someone does a search query today, whether they come back and buy the product tomorrow or in a week," Squire says. Coremetrics can capture all of that in what it calls Live Profiles, which track the online behavior of individuals over time by means of a cookie assigned to visitors when they first visit a site that uses Coremetrics.

Hindsight and analytics also stand to make merchants` online merchandising less static within the season, depending on how the strategies they start the season with perform. “Last year a lot of online merchants set up their campaigns and merchandising strategies with the onset of the holiday season and didn’t change them much throughout the holiday period,” says Squire. However, when a number of Coremetrics’ retail clients reviewed their analytic data after the season, they realized they didn`t get the conversion lift they were looking for compared to some auxiliary campaigns they ran during the season, in which they moved around different recommended products. “We’ll see those retailers moving their merchandising around more in the season,” says Squire. “They will do a lot more testing of products on the home page and in different gift categories.”


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