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      E-Commerce Site Search and Merchandising

      Make the Case for Product Search

      By Kait Spong

      Jul 05, 2022

      17 min read

      E-Commerce Site Search and Merchandising

      Make the Case for Product Search

      Search is a journey for every company, but businesses should strive to get to the same destination: presenting relevant, personalized, and meaningful search results that entice their customers or buyers to act. This is completely possible with the right search technology.

      While there are dozens of ways to allocate your e-commerce budget, grow revenue, and develop continuous cash flow to support additional investments, site search should be at the top of your list. The reason? Site search converts at a rate 3x higher than browsing when done right — meaning that the 15% of your site visitors using the search bar today should account for 45% of your revenue.

      But how can you communicate value beyond revenue to get the CMO, CDO, CFO or CTO on board with site search as your next e-commerce initiative? Here’s where to start:

      How to Make The Case to Your CMO/CDO/CFO

      First, identify the KPIs that matter to your CMO/CDO/CFO:

      Then, consider the arguments you'll likely hear from them:

      Customer queries are too complex to use search technology for our products or services. No machine could possibly understand all the nuances of human communication, right? Your CDO or CMO might worry that customer queries are too complicated for a search tool to optimize, resulting in a frustrating shopping experience.

      The optimization piece is too manual or automated for our tastes. When it comes to automation, there’s typically a “Goldilocks” scenario that occurs. Your CMO or CDO could argue that the search tool(s) under evaluation are either too manual (require extra labor) or too automated (disregard human intervention) and lack the flexibility and agility you need to meet your KPIs.

      The implementation timeline will be too strenuous. The last thing the C-suite wants to do is put extra demand on a historically overburdened department like Engineering. This team — in addition to the Marketing department — might be stretched especially thin these days because of recent hiring challenges or labor cuts.

      There’s no need to add another point solution to the mix right now. Along with the CMO and CDO, the CFO might be concerned about licensing and recurring costs, as well as the labor output, that come with implementing a search solution (i.e., how long does it take, and how many hours go into maintaining it?).  

      We don’t see how return on investment (ROI) is related to a search tool. Many e-commerce professionals don’t typically link a successful site search strategy to good ROI. They see a search bar more as a functional feature of the UX/UI strategy, as opposed to a powerful tool that promotes product discovery — one of the most important stages of the shopping or buying experience. 

      Next, prepare for these roadblocks with arguments that make the case:

      There are search tools that demonstrate top-notch search relevance. Artificial intelligence (AI) will allow your search bar to understand your products on a deeper level and present them in ways that make sense to your customer. Smart search bars with extensive dictionaries and multilingual capabilities can identify words and separate product types from attributes, like colors, sizes, cut type, or coating/finish. This combination of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) is referred to as “semantic understanding.” Even if you start with bad product data, the AI fills in the voids as it learns over time and becomes highly knowledgeable about your catalog.

      You can keep it as automated or manual as you’d like. Merchandisers should use AI and automation to save time managing the day-to-day issues in search, addressing long-tail searches, and fixing synonyms. It’s up to your merchandisers’ discretion to tweak algorithms to fit their business goals — just consult best practices first! Whatever approach you choose, a worthwhile solution can lead to 80% less time spent tuning sites.

      Implementation times are relatively low for an integration-agnostic search tool. A good search tool is API-based and can easily plug in with your current tech stack and play nicely with other software solutions. Because of this flexibility, clients can be up and running in as little as six weeks and see results within four weeks after the initial onboarding. If you start today, you could be ready just in time for peak season. Talk about fast results! 

      Don’t think of it as a point solution — it’s a part of your composable commerce strategy. A composable commerce approach enables companies to piece together best-in-class technology solutions from different vendors instead of relying on one platform. If you’re not in the position to implement a full customer data platform (CDP) and digital experience platform (DXP) all at once, start with product search and build on your investment as you go.

      A search tool provides a fantastic return on investment. Pricing models for search allow your company to pay for what you use, instead of committing to a one-size-fits-all contract. By sharpening the pencil on your investment, your team will spend 30 to 50% fewer hours finding insights, diagnosing problems, and personalizing experiences, resulting in increases in conversion rates and decreases in search exits. Remember, it’s all about focusing on investments that add value to the consumer experience and are built to scale.

      Finally, prep for your meeting and ask yourself the following:

      • What are some of the most common use cases for search technology?
      • Will it allow us to make manual exceptions, like boosting and burying?
      • Can we adjust the tool for seasonality or promos and sales?
      • Can our company expect to see ROI on search right away? How?
      • How does investing in search support our future e-commerce initiatives?

      How To Make The Case To Your CTO

      First, identify the KPIs that matter to your CTO:

      Then, consider the arguments you'll likely hear from the CTO:

      Development has limited resources. Teams might be stretched thin because of recent hiring challenges or labor cuts, and the CTO may not believe their department has the time to consider a new implementation with a lot of commitment that could potentially result in needing extra manpower.

      The implementation timeline seems impossible. Going hand-in-hand with the above argument, the CTO could be concerned about the implementation timeline if their department is already stretched thin. Since they typically oversee technical initiatives from the implementation to the management phase, the CTO might be worried about adding an extra project to the mix.

      They’re focused on UI/UX right now. The CTO might prefer to focus on e-commerce initiatives that firmly (and perhaps, more obviously) align with their department’s KPIs, including a stellar UX/UI strategy, which will improve site performance by eliminating navigation issues, increasing load times, and enhancing customer experiences (CX) overall.

      It doesn’t seem like the right tool for scalability, or We already have a search tool. CTOs might be concerned about the scalability of a search tool, especially when thinking of one from an Enterprise standpoint. You might even have a search tool already. But what is your plan as your company continues to scale its catalog? Could your current tool (or no solution) support an influx of all those SKUs? Like you, C-suite members have a growth mindset and want to make sure that your next investment supports future success.

      Search technology is expensive! Enough said! A worthy search tool with deeply intuitive AI comes at a cost. CTOs are just as concerned with return on investment (ROI), as much as your Chief Financial Officer (CFO). They might not initially see the short- and long-term benefits of search in comparison with other e-commerce initiatives on their to-do list, and may feel burdened by justifying such an investment and ensuring ROI.

      Next, prepare for these roadblocks with arguments that make the case:

      Search actually makes teams more efficient. A worthwhile search tool will release the pressure valve on a historically overburdened department in most companies — Engineering. Also, your company will reduce the need for internal support from engineers and allow them to focus on the projects that help move the needle on your business by putting the power back in the hands of merchandisers. In fact, it only takes teams using search technology 30 seconds to find and fix search query problems.

      The technology is easy to implement with an experienced search vendor. A good search tool is integration agnostic. This means it’s API-based and can easily plug in with your current tech stack and play nicely with other software solutions. Clients can be up and running in as little as six weeks on agnostic search tech, seeing results within four weeks after the initial onboarding.

      Search is the ultimate UX/UI opportunity. Site search can contribute to “good” and “bad” digital experiences. For example, we all make typos while searching for products or services online, but your search bar needs to be intuitive enough to recognize misspellings (or synonyms). Great search tools allow e-commerce companies to avoid null results and experience a 5 to 10% lift in revenue per visitor (RPV)!

      Scalability is even more achievable with search. If your company is using a search solution that is built or customized from the ground up,  then it’s a huge pain to scale that infrastructure as your catalog continues to grow. By outsourcing search to an experienced technology vendor, your team will save an unbelievable amount of time, which can be used on other valuable e-commerce initiatives.

      Search is worth every penny and results in serious revenue. Pricing models for search allow your company to pay for what you use, instead of committing to a one-size-fits-all contract. By sharpening the pencil on your investment, your team will experience 30 to 50% fewer hours spent finding insights, diagnosing problems, and personalizing experiences with increases in conversion rate, decreases in search exits, and more.

      Finally, prep for your meeting and ask yourself the following:

      • What is the Total Cost of Ownership?
      • Who is owning implementation and maintenance of the search tool?
      • Is the search tool we're currently evaluating integration agnostic?
      • Can we expect to see ROI on search right away? How?
      • Prepare the following equation(s) below:

      If you find that a large percentage of your consumers are leveraging search — yet your search conversion rate isn't 2-4X that of your category conversion rate — you’re leaving money on the table. Here’s to find out where you stand:

      Shake up your search strategy and see results with a powerful, AI-backed search tool like Bloomreach Discovery. Make the case to your entire C-Suite, and you can start today.

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      Kait Spong

      Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach

      Kait is a Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach and has a passion for delving into the tech solutions B2B should deliver to their customers. Kait comes from an arts background, which is not unusual considering they call New Orleans home. Once earning their BA and MA in English, the seasoned writer delved into the world of content marketing, digital branding, search engine optimization, and social media marketing and has helped numerous businesses across all industries with their content and thought leadership strategies.

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