October 28, 2004, 12:00 AM

Going from 5,000 to 75,000 items equals a 30% sales gain at Prints.com

When Prints.com expanded its online offering beyond limited edition fine art prints to include posters, it needed more than navigation to help shoppers find what they wanted. Netrics site search gets the job done with ASP pricing and the right algorithm.

When Prints.com expanded its online offering from 5,000 to 75,000 SKUs last year, it saw a sales increase of about 30% almost immediately. But that wouldn’t have happened without the implementation of site search from provider Netrics Inc. at the same time, president Jim Felker tells Internet Retailer.

Originally focused exclusively on limited-edition art prints, Prints.com previously used navigation to get visitors around the site. Its three phone salespeople and most of its customers were knowledgeable enough about the 50 artists represented in its collection that the site didn’t need a search function. Customers and phone reps working with them instead searched by artist, using a menu listing the names of the artists. But that changed when Prints.com expanded into the poster business last year and the number of online SKUs quickly rose.

Given the nature of the art business, Prints.com had special requirements of site search. It couldn`t afford to be stumped by frequent misspellings, as many of the searched terms were artists` names and foreign words. And though its annual sales are in seven figures, Felker says sales didn’t justify $50,000 to $100,000 for a single IT project such as site search – which was about the going rate for an installed package he found when investigating the purchase of software.

Netrics solved both problems with a search algorithm that automatically adjusts for misspellings without requiring Prints.com to supply likely misspellings, and with an ASP pricing model. Site searches are actually hosted on Netrics’ server, though that’s invisible to customers using search on Prints.com. At the time he was reviewing site search options early last year, Felker says, Netrics was the only the vendor he investigated that was would work within his budget constraints.

80% or more of Prints.com`s sales take place on the web versus its Milwaukee-based brick and mortar gallery, and the site now gets about 3,000 to 4,000 searches a day. “It would be hard to imagine navigating through 75,000 items,” says Felker. “It had been getting tough at 10,000 items. It was too much for us to handle, let alone a customer.”

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