September 2, 2010, 6:16 PM

Step2 learns a new way to show site search results

Visitors are 2.5 times more likely to buy when they use the new site search.

As a retailer of toys and play sets for toddlers and pre-schoolers, Step2 caters to shoppers who like to thoroughly investigate their options before making a purchase for their young ones. But until it deployed a new site search application, Step2 wasn’t giving its customers the help they needed, says online marketing director Tena Crock.

“Our previous site search provided only basic searching capability, and did not help guide visitors through their searches or allow for misspellings or alternate spellings,” she says. For instance, even a simple search term such as “sandbox,” a product that Step2 carries, would yield zero results if the site visitor typed the term as two words, she adds.

“We needed a site search solution that would allow us to become the definitive source of information about our products, since online shoppers as well as people in stores come to our site to do research before making a purchase,” Crock says.

In addition to its ability to guide visitors to proper search results even when they enter misspelled or alternate search terms, the Learning Search application is designed to improve the relevancy of search results on an ongoing basis by tracking the search results that consumers most often click on. When the system recognizes that particular terms on search results pages are clicked more often than others, it automatically tags them as more relevant and makes them more prominent in subsequent search query results.

Step2’s web analytics data indicate that visitors who use site search are 2.5 times more likely to make a purchase than visitors who don’t use search. In addition, the number of visitors who exit Step2’s site from site search pages is 14% lower than from other pages on the site.

“The return on investment has been four to one—it’s obvious that our visitors are finding what they need, and converting at a higher rate,” Crock says.

Step2 is also using the Learning Search application, which SLI hosts in a software-as-a-service environment, to learn about products consumers want that the retailer does not carry, and passes the information to its product research and development team.

In the future, Step2 also plans to monitor site search data for queries performed on products the retailer no longer carries. It will then post on its company blog lists of discontinued products and suggest alternate products. Because the blog posts are also indexed by the new site search application, visitors searching for discontinued products featured in the blog posts will be able to view links to the posts and find alternate products, the retailer says.


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