JD.com and Alibaba create indexes to identify Chinese shoppers’ spending trends, which help retailers gain insight.
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Abt Electronics also uses site search for more than simply directing shoppers to the products they seek within static categories on the site. It pulls reports from its hosted Nextopia Software system on what customers are searching for every 24 hours and creates new landing pages to take advantage of changes in behavior. For instance, if the retailer sees an unexpectedly early influx of searches for Father’s Day gifts it could create a temporary Father’s Day gift landing page, directing searches for Father’s Day gifts to that page first for further refinement of the search.
Abt also redirects searchers to existing specialized landing pages within search based on the trends it identifies, with the goal of getting shoppers to the products they seek with fewer clicks.
“In e-commerce, the fewer clicks, the better,” says director of e-commerce Ken Au. “When we see a customer looking for something specific, we try to lessen those clicks.” For example, if customers are looking for air conditioners, they might search for “appliances,” then “air conditioners” then “window air conditioners.” That’s three clicks, Au says; a better way is to direct any searches containing “air conditioner” right to the landing page.
Abt is also using what it’s learned from site search to move up in the natural results provided by search engines like Google. “If people are responding to certain products and keywords in our search application, we should be allowing them to find us through organic search using the same search terms,” Au says.
Abt also uses site search to minimize returns and, potentially, increase basket size. When shoppers are searching for products having a lot of technical specifications—high-definition televisions, for instance—it sends searches for those products first to a special landing page featuring informational content on how the product works and what auxiliary items may be required.
Au didn’t disclose what Abt pays for its Nextopia search technology, but the vendor says prices start at $995 a year for up to 10,000 search queries per month and scale up with search volume.
Such site search tools aren’t free. But once an online retailer has made the investment, it doesn’t cost any more to use the tool to derive insights directly from shopper behavior. The smart money in online retail recognizes the opportunity and increasingly is putting site search to work outside the site search box.
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