If your site isn’t listed in the various shopping search engines online, it may be time to give them some extra consideration for your search strategy.
Our publisher, Rich Ord, delivered his notes on an afternoon session covering shopping search tactics at SES Chicago. The gist: learn how content from your ecommerce or merchant site can -- and -- should! -- be included in shopping search engines.
Laura Thieme, CEO for BizResearch discussed online shopping habits, and noted that Mondays and Tuesdays are popular days for shoppers. Noon to 3 pm are the busiest times of day. While December 12th has been the busiest online shopping day historically, the 19th is the last peak day to shop online.
Shopping search engines benefit users in a lot of ways. It’s easy to shop multiple vendors, and see how others have rated them on quality and service. These engines have up front pricing and shipping calculations available to users.
Online retailers should not be scared off by comparison shopping. During the holidays, Theime claimed conversion rates jump to 50 percent. She made a few recommendations on taking advantage of shopping engines:
Use quality pictures and accurate titles;
Leave out fluff in descriptions;
Monitor search term relevancy, competitive pricing, and customer reviews;
Provide rapid fulfillment of orders.
ToolBarn CTO Brian Mark gave some reasons to use shopping search engines. His firm found that there was poor visibility for them on organic terms in general search engines. Mark recommended only placing products with the highest ROI out there on a per-engine basis; different products don’t perform the same way on all shopping engines because the audiences for them vary greatly.
Shopping engines can help drive traffic and lower reliance on advertising in general search engines like Google. Mark said sites need to have proper sales support staff in place to take advantage of that traffic and make sure orders get filled and customers receive the service they need.
Marchex EVP Craig Snyder spoke on behalf of TrafficLeader.com and said they see 20 percent ecommerce growth from year to year, excluding travel and online banking. Even with that growth, the numbers only come out to less that 3 percent of overall retail sales.
Several factors drive ecommerce for shoppers: consumer satisfaction, control of the experience, and better customer service online. Reaching that audience has led to phenomenal increases in ad spending online.
Shopping engines haven’t done as well as they could. Snyder blamed poor product descriptions or feeds, product pricing, and bad merchandising as culprits. To succeed with shopping engines, sites need to start with high margin/ROI items, as ToolBarn’s Mark suggested.
Sites need to actively manage their advertising across campaigns, categories, and products, Snyder said. Performance can’t be determined until returns, chargebacks, and incentives have been factored.
Ecommerce retailers will have to compete on price unless their brand is strong enough to command a premium. Snyder cited the importance of a large number of favorable ratings and testimonials to sites.
But most important is the category that generates the most consumer complaints: fulfillment. Customers need to know items are available, and need to receive them on time as promised.
Snyder made a couple of observations about the future online. He sees service providers, like plumbers and builders, becoming more of a presence. Also, he claimed many of his clients have been diverting money from keyword bidding in search engines to shopping engines and getting a better ROI.
Stephanie Leffler, CEO of MonsterCommerce.com, related a story of how CafePress.com changed its Buy Now button to read Add To Cart and sales dropped. They quickly changed it back.
She also stressed sites need to know their conversion rates, whether or not customers come from general or shopping search engines. Leffler said most sites convert less than 3 percent of visitors to sales, but feels many can move that to five or six percent.
Free shipping will be the most successful incentive online retailers can offer, and Leffler recommends sites that can afford to offer it do so. If not, don’t separate handling charges from shipping charges; combine them together instead.
A basic rule of design, keeping buy and submit buttons above the fold, should help improve conversion. And slow loading sites hurt conversions. Speed things up and optimize search functions wherever possible.
Also, Leffler noted how security online has become a big consideration for shoppers. It’s a factor in their moving to big brand names online to buy things. She recommends using a company like MonsterCommerce to manage online payment security and build trust with users.