As 2012 comes to a close, we’ve seen an increase in adoption of new features and general trends among online retailers, including growth in the development of mobile sites, improved merchandising, augmented site search functionality like Auto Complete and Rich Auto Complete, and deeper integration with social media pages. We also saw innovative customer-driven features, such as Merchandising Banners for Organic Search and floating search bars, which we implemented with great success.
In the New Year we’re sure to see a continuation of some of the same trends and a few new ones. From our work with clients and our recent survey of more than 450 online retailers, here are some of the areas we think will see more growth in the coming year.
Site Search and SEO are top priorities
Enhancements to site search and SEO top retailers’ list of priorities in 2013, beyond improving their eCommerce platform strategy. We believe that site search and SEO are two of the most important considerations when building or improving your eCommerce site. If customers can’t find your site, or can’t find a product on your site, you’ve just lost out on a potential sale. It’s important to make sure that your site search is returning the best results and SEO referral traffic is as high as it can possibly be, otherwise all the other bells and whistles you’re adding are essentially irrelevant.
If there was anything that this holiday shopping season proved, it’s that more shoppers than ever before are using mobile devices to search for and purchase goods. We expect there will be continued momentum from retailers in building out their mobile sites. Our survey showed that more than 40 percent will be investing in a mobile strategy next year. But mobile isn’t limited to smartphones, and we expect that retailers will not only look at building dedicated mobile sites or mobile apps, but also creating sites built with responsive design templates, which allow webpages to be resized based on the screen of the device on which it’s being viewed. This provides more flexibility in viewing pages on tablets and smartphones of all sizes.
Accountability through analytics
As the online retail industry matures, better tools are needed to improve decision making and accountability. A/B testing, analytics and reporting are features we believe eCommerce sites will focus on as better understanding of ROI becomes the norm. These metrics can prove the success or failure of merchandising, campaigns, and the overall user experience and give retailers more than just clues to improve poorly-performing areas. Additionally, accessing these data in real time gives merchandisers more information quickly, allowing for increased agility and accountability.
Merchandising and navigation for easier browsing (and buying!)
Our survey also showed that retailers are interested in creating more appealing and easily-navigable sites for their customers by improving their merchandising and refinements. More than 39 percent of online retailers said they’d add merchandising to their site next year. Features such as how-to information, videos and blogs comprise just a few of additions. Other “sticky” elements like floating search boxes, which remain in view of the customer, may also be interesting additions to eCommerce pages that help ease the customer search experience and drive conversions.
Greater differentiation between companies, not based solely on price
Previously, retailers drove product sales by offering the best price available. However, price alone isn’t driving traffic to sites – or encouraging repeat purchases – anymore. Building a great customer journey through a site, implementing strong merchandising features and offering great customer service are some of the ways we’ve seen some retailers work to differentiate themselves from competitors. We expect to see more of the same in the New Year as online retailers become more savvy about meeting their customers’ needs.
We at SLI Systems will always work with you to build customized solutions that fit your company’s needs. Our core belief is that the best customer experience is one that is intuitive and that takes users to their destination as easily as possible. Highly-relevant site search, navigation, merchandising, analytics and SEO referrals are the core of our business and we continue to create new features to make the shopping journey that much easier. We have a variety of enhancements slated for the New Year that we’re looking forward to introducing you to, and would love to hear from you about what improvements you’ll be making. We’d like to wish you the best of luck in the New Year!