Always Room for Improvement
By Tracy A. Gill
Problem: Office Depot's Web site search tool, while strong, was one of the weaker links in its user experience.
Solution: Wholesale change of the search tool.
Result: Improved conversion, average order value and customer return rates.
Most online retailers would have been thrilled with a Web site search tool as effective as Office Depot's, converting sometimes at rates higher than 80 percent for certain keywords. According to Noah Maffitt, Office Depot's director of e-commerce, the multichannel company even wondered how much it could actually "move the needle" with a redo of its site search functionality. But there's always room for improvement, and after identifying a few deficiencies, Office Depot decided to implement a more consumer- and promotion-friendly program.
The areas targeted for improvement were overall accuracy, particularly in how the search tool met customer intent, and the search results themselves, which Office Depot wanted to present in a contextualized format that would allow it to better promote and cross-sell. It also wanted to bring in new functionality and search capabilities that allow customers to take multiple paths to a product and to refine their searches on such factors as brand, price and features. "Our previous experience was locked into product hierarchies," explains Maffitt. "So, if you wanted to find something, you had to march down a preset path."
To achieve these goals, the retailer enlisted Cambridge, Mass.-based search solutions provider Endeca and its InFront search product, which Maffitt specifically chose for its navigation capabilities and its more open product hierarchies.
Because Office Depot did have its concerns whether a new system would deliver a strong enough ROI over its already effective search tool, it began by initiating a rigorous proof of concept implementation, Maffitt states. For about three months, it ran a series of A/B tests controlling for factors such as pricing and seasonality, and collected detailed metrics. The results, according to Maffitt, were undeniable. "We did see the overall lift in conversion we were looking for. In fact, it exceeded the business case modeling we had initially [developed]."