Improved Search Process Bags More Customers
Faced with possible sales loss due to customers' dissatisfaction with finding products using a slow search engine, eBags wanted to retool its Web site to make it more accurate. With more than 6,000 items for online shoppers to choose from, it took numerous clicks to find what they wanted.
Val Agostino, Web applications manager at eBags, Denver, said the company realized a serious problem existed when the company's own reports showed items that users were searching for returned few or, in some cases, no results when products were actually available.
"We saw that there were some shortcomings," Agostino said of its previous search engine. "We knew right out of the gate it wasn't going to be ideal -- it's the nature of the business. Our list was frustrating for customers because they were spending more time online trying to find what they were looking for, or they would call our customer service team, which would take up more time as [customers] were being told where to find items."
In April, eBags contracted Mercado Software Inc., Palo Alto, CA, a provider of e-catalog search solutions, to implement its IntuiFind software, which works similarly to an electronic thesaurus. Mercado confirmed what eBags knew it had -- an antiquated system.
The new search solution, which eBags introduced in May, uses a broader terminology base to describe items. If a user does not know the exact name of a product, the search engine is able to find items that resemble the user's description.
Agostino would not say how much sales have increased since the new system was installed, nor would he reveal average consumer purchase prices.
"It's tough to quantify your changes because online traffic changes daily. When we went live in May, we instantaneously saw results. Our customer service team reported less volume calls regarding people unable to find certain items," Agostino said, adding that the company has improved the quickness and accuracy response at its Web site.
Yaron Dycian, director of product marketing at Mercado, said increasing the database of terms used to locate items took the guesswork out of customers' searches.
"Terminology description could be endless," Dycian said. "The first thing a company must do is bridge that linguistic gap and make it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for. It becomes a problem when customers have to guess what terminology an item falls under."
EBags could be guilty of not properly testing the site before launching it, according to Donn Seidholz, CEO of Net In Focus, a marketing research company for the Internet industry. If it had, the company would have realized its search engine was slow, produced little results and needed to be corrected, he said.
Because the problem wasn't resolved before its launch, the result often is a loss of customers who have seen a Web site that did not work correctly, Seidholz said. What's more, these disgruntled customers probably told friends about their frustrating experiences.
"Very few companies take the time and effort to do a usability research or a viability research before they take [the product] out to the public," Seidholz said. "Somehow Web-based businesses or e-commerce businesses feel it's OK to roll these products out without doing the proper research."