February 1, 2007, 12:00 AM

Treasure hunt

(Page 3 of 3)

Mercado 4.0 also automates merchandising tasks that are inherently metrics driven. As such, e-retailers do not have to study search results reports on such things as what’s selling, what people are searching for, and what they’re searching for and not finding, and then manually create business rules in response, Chapman says. “When they turn on their systems, retailers will see live reports that say, ‘Here are the best sellers, here are the high conversion rates, here are the things people are searching for but can’t find,’” she says. “Then, when the retailer clicks on them, the system automatically creates a business rule.”

Fast Search and Transfer also has introduced software that automates merchandising by integrating real-time data into business rules. “Our customers are continually funneling data into our index so that merchandising rules can be affected by things like click-through, purchase data, availability and typical customers,” Lichtman says. Using the software, a retailer also can direct a shopper to a specific landing page based on Google and Yahoo keywords.

Ultimately, the benefits of tying site search to merchandising vary from retailer to retailer. For some retailers, such as Delightful Deliveries and Ice.com, the implementation of site search tools has brought in more sales. For others, like Petco, a reward comes in lower merchandising costs. “We’re probably saving half of a full-time employee a year in incremental labor just from not having to manually set up rules,” Lazarchic says.

The convergence of site search and merchandising no doubt will continue to evolve, perhaps offering more advantages to the integration. While tools and strategies may vary, the goal is the same: to get a better understanding of the customer. “The one issue the Internet always has,” says Ice.com’s Gniwisch, “is that it’s very difficult to really get into the psyche of the consumer because they’re not standing in front of you.”

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