The motorcyclists who frequent the CruiserCustomizing sites expect performance. So when the on-site search tool wasn't firing on all cylinders, the Livermore, Calif.-based e-tailer of motorcycle parts and accessories decided it was time for a tune-up.
In October 2008, CruiserCustomizing hired search service provider SLI Systems of Cupertino, Calif. By April, CruiserCustomizing noticed that the new feature was driving up results on its five sites: CruiserCustomizing.com, RealHog.com, GoldWingCountry.com, RideGear.com and DollarRider.com.
In October, 14 percent of visitors used on-site search, and by April, 28 percent were plugging in keywords. In October, 14 percent of on-site sales were attributed to search; in April, that number grew to 58 percent. Of those who use the on-site search option, 2 percent more convert than those who don't. And those who do convert after using the on-site search have 10 percent larger orders than those who don't use the option.
Tammie McKenzie, CruiserCustomizing's director of marketing, says the new on-site search capabilities are now a good complement to the company's already optimized search engine optimization. ("We come up first [in search engine rankings] almost every time for just about every product that's on our Web site.")
Target Marketing: What prompted CruiserCustomizing to want to improve its on-site search on its five e-commerce sites?
Tammie McKenzie: ... Our search vendor that we were using before SLI didn't have any intelligence built in to [its solution]. So we were having to, based on gut and best guess, manually rank search results and, of course, sales trends. But ... we now have the learning search functionality which automatically, based on people's behavior on the Web site, pushes certain products up in the rankings.
TM: Why are people who search on the CruiserCustomizing sites more likely not only to buy, but to buy more than those who don't use on-site search?
TM: I do believe because it gives them the ability to drill down to the exact product selection that they're looking for. So let's say they're coming from an e-mail campaign or a pay-per-click landing page and they get a specific set of results, based on some advertising that they've been served. Immediately, they're seeing a large product set with facets along the side ... and so they can immediately say, "OK. I ride a Honda Shadow and I'm looking for this particular brand of exhaust and I want this color and I'm looking for this price range."
TM: How does it help conversions that the on-site search remembers not only the make and model of customers' motorcycles, but their previous searches?
TM: In order for us to remember the make and model, they do have to be signed in. When they first arrive at the site, there's no make and model preselected. When they log in, it will automatically display their registered motorcycle. If they're not logged in and they select it, it will maintain that choice of motorcycle through the session, until they change it, as long as they're using search. And so this helps conversions, primarily because it really, again, hones in to products that are specific for that individual's motorcycle, or the motorcycle that they're shopping for. But it's much more powerful than that. Because in addition to helping conversions, it reduces our contacts per order ... because people are able to quickly find the information and know 100 percent that that particular part is for the bike that they're wanting to fit it on. ... It reduces our customer service costs. And, on top of that, it also reduces the amount of returns that we have to deal with ...
TM: How will enhancing the "My Bike" community's on-site search capabilities, which CruiserCustomizing plans to do next, help increase conversions?
TM: Our CruiserCustomizing Web site currently has approximately 180,000 to 200,000 member buyers. And of those member buyers, we are almost to 50,000 active members in the community. And what that community's doing for us is creating a giant repository of content about motorcycle customization, motorcycle parts, reviews, pictures of motorcycles, videos, audio. Something as simple as listening to the audio of a new installed exhaust can help make a buying decision for a motorcycle rider. What we're currently working on with SLI is the ability to serve the content from our community in line with our product search results, so that when an individual searches, let's say, for an exhaust, they'll see the exhaust that we have available, and they'll also see any videos or blogs or tips of the week that are associated with motorcycle exhaust. And then we are also hoping that we'll be able to flip that and in our community, ... [so] when someone searches for a particular piece of content, to be able to present them with product options that are associated with that content.