A website's search function isn't just for finding specific products anymore. A growing number of e-tailers are using it for "searchandising," a hybrid of search and merchandising that lets them tailor results to cross-sell and upsell merchandise based on specific keywords input by customers.
Matt Roche, CEO of software provider Offermatica, reportedly coined the term. "It's no secret that e-commerce search and online merchandising have a magnetic attraction," says John Lovett, an e-commerce research analyst for Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks company. "These applications morphed into the e-commerce lexicon as searchandising, enabling merchants who integrate search and merchandising to realize higher levels of customer satisfaction and returns."
E-tailers employing searchandising solutions can list results from related searches as well as related products, including those purchased by other shoppers; derive customer analytics data from site search activity; and personalize search results based on the purchase histories of unique customers or customer segments.
Faceted navigation, which segments products into manageable categories, is also worth exploring. "Faceted navigation is a searchandising mentality that plays on a shopper's inclination to start with a vague idea of what they're looking for and browse until they stumble on relevant products," Lovett explains.
Celebros, Mercado Software and SLI Systems offer searchandising solutions for entrepreneurs. Each takes a slightly different approach, and costs vary--SLI's product, for example, is about $10,000 annually, while Mercado's runs about $3,500 per month.
Achieving optimal results from a searchandising program means:
1. Planning ahead. "Search and navigation are inextricably tied," Lovett says. "To have an efficient search system, you [need] an effective navigation scheme. In short, if your site is unorganized, it makes information discovery difficult."
2. Feeding search data into merchandising strategies. "From my research, 68 percent of best-in-class companies use consumer-generated search data in their merchandising tactics to influence results," Lovett says.
3. Measuring conversions resulting from search. This "is key to understanding which search results lead to sales and which tactics fail," says Lovett. "Fifty-five percent of best-in-class retailers actively monitor conversion rates achieved from search optimization tactics and continually fine-tune results as a corrective measure."
Melissa Campanelli, author of Open an Online Business in 10 Days (entrepreneurpress.com), is a marketing and technology writer in New York City.