March 31, 2006, 12:00 AM


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“Generic rules are not necessarily going to deliver the desired results because every retailer has different needs,” stresses Howitt. “As a vendor we can do some behind-the-scenes work, such as adjusting keywords as they are entered to improve the results. But the logic for when a specific business rule is used has to be well thought-out.”

Retailers must also closely monitor performance reports so they understand the connection between keywords and search results across the entire enterprise, not just the web site.

“Poor results may indicate a need to add products based on the keywords that are entered but which deliver no results,” says SLI Systems’ Ryan. “Breaking out the information contained in a performance report and tailoring the fixes to specific areas of content with site search are extremely helpful, especially for larger retailers.”

Ideas from customers

Retailers can even pick up ideas from customers on how to improve their merchandising strategy and that can lead to incremental sales based on keywords entered, he adds.

Still, retailers must be cognizant that they cannot manually control every search query, i.e. feeding information to customers on a per instance basis, as opposed to using a business rule, as they do not have the resources to do so for the millions of ever evolving keywords that comprise their search catalog.

“You can only control results for a limited portion of queries,” Ryan says. “It is all right to manually control the results for the most popular terms, but there are just too many queries to manage in this fashion. Search is only one element of a merchandising strategy.”

While that may be true, there is no denying that search is becoming an increasingly larger component of retailers’ merchandising strategies as they seek new ways to push products and information to customers that can close or expand a sale.

As a result, site search is no longer a passive navigation tool, but rather a proactive tool that can provide retailers with insights into customer behavior and make suggestions on how best to capitalize on that behavior across all retail channels. Given the constant evolution of site search, it is safe to say that retailers have only begun to scratch the surface of this powerful merchandising tool.


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