Not long ago, you could implement key technology upgrades to your e-commerce site a few months in advance of the crucial holiday shopping season, all in one go – then leave your site alone until next year. However, the accelerated pace of retail technology innovation, along with higher expectations from users, means that you need to constantly stay abreast of new features and trends and understand how to incorporate them into your online business whenever possible.
Web search engines like Google and social networking services like Facebook are heavily influencing the changing expectations of online shoppers. For instance, site visitors expect to access product opinions and ratings from other shoppers, so they can make informed buying decisions. And they expect to see search results that can be broken down into useful categories, like product descriptions, social media content or videos.
So, even though we’ve just wrapped up last year’s holiday season, it’s not too early to consider how to make your site search even better for the holidays in 2011 – and indeed, for the next 12 months. Here’s what to consider adding to site search to meet the needs of your visitors.
Get social: add social media content to your site search. Since your shoppers are becoming avid consumers of social media content, it’s important to bring this material into site search results. Make blog posts, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and any other social media content available for users of site search so that site visitors can tap into the wealth of information within this content about your products and services.
Separate search results by type or category. Thanks to web search engines, site visitors are becoming used to results that are divided into helpful categories. For instance, if they search for a product, they may see results for online shops offering the product, videos about the product, and images. Offer your site visitors options to view their search results in similar ways.
Bring ratings and reviews into search results. We’ve talked about this before in the SLI newsletter and on our blog – and if you still haven’t added ratings and results into search, now’s the time to do it. Ideally you’ll allow site visitors to see reviews and ratings within results, and even refine results based on reviews (for instance, limiting results to products with a three-star or higher rating).
Adapt your site experience to mobile users. The mobile device market, which really took off last year, still has plenty of room for growth – and by this November, an even bigger percentage of your customers will be using these devices to search for holiday gifts. If you’ve already launched a mobile version of your website, monitor how your customers navigate the mobile site so you can quickly respond with improvements. (And if you haven’t yet launched a mobile site, here’s how to get started.)
Integrate the online and offline experience as much as possible. If you are a multi-channel retailer, visitors to your site may want to research products they plan to purchase in a physical store; and visitors to your store may also want access to information before they buy. Show “where to buy” options in search results so shoppers can find the nearest brick-and-mortar store, and include in-store kiosks where people can look up user reviews or conduct comparison shopping online before they make an in-store purchase. If you want some ideas on these topics, contact us – we’d be happy to help.
The companies that succeed in online commerce this year will be the ones that continually innovate, and find new ways to get the right offers in front of the right users at the right time. It’s a challenge that may require you to team up with specialists who can help you keep up with the pace of change. Contact SLI if you want to know how we can help you get your site into shape for 2011 and beyond.