February 14, 2011, 3:04 PM

Well-organized data can help boost web sales, says a conference speaker

Good data organization makes it easier for online shoppers to find what they’re looking for.

Lead Photo

David Jones

From 2006 to 2008, LittleTikes.com generated strong sales for its operator, a children’s toy manufacturer.  But, when the recession hit in late 2008, the site’s sales suffered, and the company realized that part of the problem was poor organizational structure of product data, said David Jones, e-commerce infrastructure architect, today at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference 2011 in Orlando.

“We really had to take step back and look at our site’s data organization,” he said at a session entitled “Organizing your data: A place for every byte and every byte in its place.”  “Kids have birthdays every year,” he says. “Christmas and Hanukah take place every year. So our sales should at least stay same every year. “

The children’s toy manufacturer’s sales took a hit because it failed to provide guidance when shoppers culled through the site in a variety of ways, a result of subpar data organization. For instance, LittleTikes.com’s data and descriptions failed to account for the many ways consumers look for a single toy, such as some users looking for a “bounce house” while others looked for a “bouncy house.”

Similarly the site used the industry term “infant toys,” instead of using the more colloquial phrase “baby toys.”

“We realized that we had to structure our data to be available in the way that a mom or grandmother would search for,” he said.

Adding those elements to the site’s back-end data and product descriptions helped the retailer produce the results shoppers were seeking, said Jones.

Midwest retail chain Meijer Inc. faced a similar challenge when it realized that it hadn’t set organization structures for descriptions such as a product’s color. That meant that some of the site’s more than 100,000 SKUs referred to a color as “sky blue,” others “SKY BLUE,” and others “light blue,” said Brad Hileman, the retailer’s web design and development manager, e-commerce, in the same session.

“At Meijer nobody anticipated what role data would have on web site,” he said. “It took a backseat when we launched because we were focused on pricing and design, and the data associated with the products online was secondary.”

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