For eBags, the Denver-based online retailer of purses, luggage, and other types of bags and accessories, on-site search is mission-critical to improving conversions.
"One of our advantages is that we have 520 brands and 36,000 bags-from backpacks to handbags to luggage to laptop cases," says Peter Cobb, the firm's co-founder and SVP of marketing. But that largesse also presents a navigation challenge for marketers and shoppers. "The complexities of that are, how do you quickly get them to find their perfect bag ... How do you narrow that down from 36,000 to five or 10 and eventually that one perfect bag that they fall in love with and will purchase?" he asks.
eBags has been working with the Cambridge, Mass.-based information access software firm Endeca to blend search technology with merchandising to leverage the best aspects of retail shopping with the power of the Web. Here, Cobb discusses how "searchandising" tactics have helped eBags maximize the value of its site traffic.
Target Marketing: How does your on-site search help visitors quickly find the product(s) they seek?
Peter Cobb: We try and, obviously, think in terms of the shopper. We have a whole series of subcategories or even areas that are not specific to product. [For example,] it may be if you're looking for a piece of carry-on luggage, [we'll ask,] "What type of airline do you fly?" Because we'll show you the carry-ons that are approved by those airlines.
So there are two sides to this:
1) What type of product are you looking for? We've really spent a lot of time with our site architecture ... with subcategories, and then even within subcategories there are various filters.
2) Then kind of on the other side, we try to implement some user[-focused merchandising] ... In the case of handbags, we'll have designer handbags. We'll have On the Street, where we showcase new, up-and-coming designers. We'll also have casual styles ... It all gets down to how we think the customer will visit our storefront and what they'll be thinking about and looking at.
TM: What insights do you gain from on-site search terms and clickstream data?
PC: We've had cases where people click on a link but don't purchase. In one case ... they were madly clicking on designer handbags but had a very low conversion rate. And we were excited for a month or two months - "Boy, look at all these people clicking through designer handbags." But we realized that we didn't have Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi and Prada, and that's probably the reason for the low conversion rate. So, it's important in the full clickstream analysis to incorporate into that what revenue is being generated by those clicks.
The other area that's always interesting is, what are they putting into our search box on eBags.com that's bringing up "no products found," and how do we optimize that? Coach, for instance, is one; we don't have Coach on eBags.com, and we get hundreds of people a day typing in ... different variations on Coach. And rather than having this kind of big, red X that says, "Sorry, dead end," now we've tailored it to say, "We don't have Coach, but here are some things that are similar to Coach or some of the other brands like that." That's been really helpful for us.
TM: What online performance improvements have you witnessed since you implemented searchandising tactics?
PC: The nice thing is it gives you the ability to insert and really experiment ... with various subcategories. Probably the biggest one for us has been handbags. Our handbag business has been up over the last six months around 70 percent. A big reason for that is just adding more categories ... It's a combination of getting more brands and more products and SKUs, but the other side of that is we've got many more categories that we've built out. Different types of materials. Different types of shapes and sizes. You get the products and then add in the additional subcategories and filters, making it easy [to refine a search].
We're even experimenting with different terminology - are women using "handbags" or "purses"? Women know visually what they're looking for, but sometimes online it's a little more difficult. Is the shape a hobo? Is it a clutch, or is it an oversized bag? Coming up with those terms that consumers use [is critical]. Again, that's where we roll back to looking at common searches that people are using.