Chiasso's New Search Tool Finds Web Customers

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Since launching a customized search tool in November, contemporary home decor catalog and Internet retailer Chiasso has found more Web sales.


The brand has been around since the 1980s under several incarnations and has been owned by Chris Segal, son of Crate & Barrel founder Gordon Segal, since April 2003. While it was originally a boutique retailer, direct sales have been the focus since Segal acquired it, though he plans to open the first store in several years in Chicago in May.


The search function was given little thought during a top-to-bottom overhaul last year of the company's Web site, chiasso.com, Chiasso chief operating officer Greg Kadens said. That is, until the new site went live in October and the site's standard search tool failed to impress.


Search "is a critical component of giving customers a good shopping experience," Kadens said, adding that the company knew from Web analytics that a lot of traffic goes through its Web site's search function. However, the search tool didn't provide an intuitive experience or the number of results for which Chiasso had hoped.


Chiasso wanted to "get shoppers to the product that they're searching for faster and present them with options," Kadens said. The latter is critical because Chiasso lacks a retail store, so customers aren't surrounded by product, he said.


The company checked out a few firms that provide enhanced search abilities and chose SLI Systems, Cupertino, CA. Now online customers can search for products in several ways, including by term, item number and a combination of words. There also is a clearly defined way for customers to see more product details after they've searched for something. Also, results can be sorted by popularity and price in either descending or ascending order.


"It's almost like shopping a store aisle, the way we're showing them different items based on a search term," Kadens said.


This year Chiasso also wants to add a buy button to the search results.


The company "felt that based on who we knew our customers are, these improvements were important," he said.


Chiasso is positioned as a contemporary home furnishings brand that is "a little bit more contemporary" than competitors such as Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel, Kadens said. The brand's customer is a Web-savvy female ages 25-45 who is highly educated, has a high income and probably lives in an urban or suburban environment. Sales are strongest on both coasts.


"California is probably our biggest state in terms of sales, followed closely by New York and Florida," he said.


Results from the new search tool have been "very positive" so far, Kadens said, and just as importantly, the company's Web sales continue to grow. Before Chiasso launched the new search function, the percentage of sales that came from its Web site was anywhere from the high 40s to the low 50s. Now it's in the high 50s, and the company anticipates reaching the 60s this year. Also, people stay on the site longer.


However, Kadens can't attribute these results exclusively to the new search function, because the site has many new features.


"But search has been a part of it," he said.


New features include the ability to see related products, recently viewed items, alternative views of each product and furniture in a room setting. There are rollover features on fabric swatches to make them bigger, new shipping options and an improved gift registry.


The company also mails catalogs 10 times a year with an annual circulation of 3.5 million.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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