E-commerce sales: We can do better


laptop, keyboard, e-commerce, onlineEach year, online sales take a bigger slice of the ‘total retail sales’ pie.

Consulting firm, Urbis, predicted Australian e-commerce sales would account for 7.2 per cent of all local sales by 2015.

According to NAB’s Online Retail Sales Index, which estimated Australians spent $16.3 billion on online retail, equivalent to 6.8 per cent of spending at traditional bricks and mortar retailers, we’re well on the way to fulfil that prediction.

However, these figures also show that 92.8 per cent of retail sales still occur in bricks and mortar stores.

The question then becomes, can e-commerce do better? Can e-commerce grab a larger slice of that pie by making simple changes?

A recent large scale study on e-commerce search by the Baymard Institute believes yes, but notes that there is still a long way to go before this happens.

“When e-commerce search works, it’s fast, convenient, and efficient. However, our recent study finds that search often doesn’t work very well,” said Christian Holst, Baymard Institute co-founder.

For example:

  • 16 per cent of e-commerce sites do not support searching by product name or model number
  • 18 per cent of sites provide no useful results if the product name was off by a single character
  • 60 per cent of e-commerce sites do not support searches with symbols or abbreviations
  • 70 per cent require users to search by the exact jargon for the product type that the site uses, failing to return relevant products for example “blow dryer” if “hair dryer” is typed.

Site search users convert between three and four times higher than the average site visitor. Imagine how much higher this figure could be with search that works.

Optimising site search

When customers land on e-commerce sites, they have two real expectations, they want to find the products they are seeking, and they want to do so as quickly as possible.

Getting this right is how e-commerce retailers keep customers coming back and ensure they remain loyal to the brand.

Before e-commerce can really take a bigger slice of the pie, retailers need to optimise their site search.

The second step to driving online sales is to use site search data to understand exactly what customers want (in their own words) and to deliver it to them.

The search box offers great behavioural data that can help retailers understand shoppers’ language, experience, and changing market conditions (e.g. new product introductions, trends, seasons, and shifting customer demographics) to make informed merchandising decisions.

Consistent with Baymard Institute findings, a study conducted last year by SLI Systems, found that e- commerce brands were not leveraging site search data and missing big opportunities to drive sales:

  • Nearly 60 per cent were not using site search data to enhance marketing campaigns
  • Only 25 per cent integrated site search data into email marketing to better customise offers
  • Only 27 per cent created SEO landing pages populated with site search results and custom banners
  • Only 13 per cent took advantage of site search to power mobile search.

Leveraging site search reporting

Online retailers should be continually monitoring search reports, such as the top keyword searches, which indicate products of high interest and the words visitors use to find them.

Another important report is keyword searches that return poor results, which highlight phrases for which customers are searching and then receiving a poor experience.

Monitoring these phrases can help in planning for future inventory purchases, potentially changing product descriptions, or providing alternatives to visitors.

By regularly watching search analytics, retailers can learn a lot about their customers and in turn create more relevant and engaging online experiences that boost online conversion rates, increase average order sizes and grow online revenue.

The e-commerce industry can do better than 7.2 per cent and it can start by optimising site search and using that rich site search data to improve merchandising and enhance marketing campaigns.

When it does, online shopping experiences will dramatically improve and e-commerce will gain a greater share of the retail pie.

Mark Brixton is country manager SLI Systems Australia.


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