What’s On the Radar for 2012: Social, Tablets, Personalization, and Video
We’ve noticed several trends percolating over the past several months, which we believe will become more mainstream in the coming year. There are lots of ways to create compelling marketing strategies around these popular trends, and you don’t want to overlook site search and navigation as an important way to connect with your customers. Each article below offers insights and tips to help you do just that.
Shoppers are turning to their social networks to get ideas for products to buy, and they’re looking to online retailers to add social information into search results. One way to capitalize on this trend is to add a search box to your Facebook page, which will allow shoppers to look for products without leaving their Facebook friends. Make Me Heal has done this, adding a search application its Facebook page, which has helped drive traffic from Facebook to its site. Also, you can add the number of Facebook “likes” (or Google “+1s”) a product has received to site search results, and allow visitors to rank results by which items have received the most.
Another great idea is to bring social media content into search results, like Artbeads.com does, adding in user-generated content like videos and blog posts into search results. A “Community” tab within search results direct shoppers to this content.
Tablets gain steam in e-commerce
One of the biggest trends in the mobile space is the growing popularity of tablets. The good news is that tablet shoppers are showing a willingness to use these devices for online shopping. According to IBM Benchmark, 2011 holiday sales from smartphones and tablets accounted for 11% of total online sales, up from just 5.5% in December 2010. Data also points to tablet shoppers converting at a similar rate as traditional e-commerce shoppers, and spending more on average per visit. The challenge for online retailers is to take tablets’ advantages and disadvantages into account when figuring out how to display search results and navigation elements.
For example, you need to configure lists of refinements so that choices are not too close together, since finger-tap navigation might mean that users select the wrong choice. You also need to make sure that the shopping experience across channels – including tablets, smartphones, PCs and print catalogs – remains consistent.
Personalizing the shopping experience
Site visitors increasingly expect a more personalized, engaging experience – and site search is a great way to do that, since you can deliver search results tailored to their needs based on what they’ve searched for before, where they’re located, and what products they prefer. Consider adding a “Recent Searches” or “Search History” list to your site search results, which will help shoppers remember names and types of products they looked for previously. You can see how this works on FTD.com’s website – in the example here, the “Recent Searches” box shows “chrysanthemums” and “yellow roses” as previous searches.
It’s also easy to add a feature like Personal Preference Memory, which stores a shopper’s product preferences and then delivers search results and navigation options based on these preferences (see how motorcycle products site Cruiser Customizing does this). Localization can also help feed shoppers’ need for personalized search results – for example, you can ask for a visitor’s zip code as soon as they land on your website, like Tractor Supply does, and deliver product availability and pricing information based on location. Multichannel retailers can also include information about the closest store for in-store pick-up.
Video brings products to life
In 2012, shoppers will continue to show greater appetite for videos, especially ones that make it easier to understand a complex product or process. Videos not only encourage purchases, but they can also boost your SEO rankings when you include videos on product pages.
Make sure to highlight the availability of your videos within site search results. For example, you can place video icons on site search results pages next to items with related video content, as you can see on the Etrailer.com website. Also, make the most of your videos by using them for merchandising. When visitors search for popular products that have an accompanying video, push these video-related results up higher; in addition, you can display banners highlighting video content when visitors search using specific keywords.