3 Effective Ways to Make E-Commerce More Engaging

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Crutchfield and Mobi have seen big gains from small Web changes
Crutchfield and Mobi have seen big gains from small Web changes

It can be relatively easy to engage customers on e-commerce websites when marketers know who those customers are or the nature of their purchase histories. But what about customers who don't sign in? Or first-time customers? The following are three ways companies are building engagement through incremental improvements to their e-commerce strategies:

Using location to optimize offers

Electronics retailer Crutchfield New Media may only have two physical locations in Virginia, but it has an e-commerce business across the United States—where customers on different coasts have different buying habits.

Crutchfield knew it needed to use customer location to push relevant deals and offers on its website. Yet, it also needed to do this seamlessly. “If you have to wait for someone to log a ZIP Code, you've lost a large percentage of your visitors,” says Zach Zimet, the company's senior director of marketing. While it's natural to ask for location information when a customer orders a product or signs up for a newsletter, it's jarring to do so simply when a customer enters the website. Two years ago the company began using an IP targeting solution from Digital Element. The benefits have been twofold: First, the solution tells local searchers about product in stock at nearby branches.

Second, the shipping banner on the Crutchfield page changes its offer based on the customer's location. “We're shipping 100% of product out of one warehouse in Virginia,” Zimet says. “So there's very relevant time and transit information depending on where you live.” It's important for customers to get this information before the checkout process, Zimet says. “If someone is in California, we can say there's free delivery but we can't crow about [fast] delivery,” he says.

Making searches more natural

As recently as last year, hardware retailer Tacoma Screw Products had nothing more than a static online catalog with poor navigational and search functionalities. “We heard it day in and day out,” says Eric McGregor, Tacoma Screw's e-commerce manager. Customers going to the website couldn't even find a product based on its part number. In November 2012 the company went live with an e-commerce website, powered by NetSuite.

But Tacoma Screw still wanted to optimize its search capabilities. “In our industry there are a lot of different terms,” McGregor explains. “Products can be listed multiple different ways. To have people type the way they speak and still return [relevant] results was huge for us.” The company added a solution from NetSuite's partner EasyAsk to provide natural language capabilities to its search function. Through this, the company has increased its search relevancy for more than 45,000 products—leading to improvements in conversion rates, average order values, and customer satisfaction.

Surfacing products

Many manufacturers sell through third-party retail websites, like Amazon or, in the case of juvenile products company Mobi Technologies Inc., Babies“R”Us. Mobi needed to generate customer engagement there—particularly tricky since its most popular products, baby monitors, are commoditized.

The answer was finding a way to optimize its organic search rankings. Partnering with a company called HookLogic, Mobi ensured that search variables included whether the product is actually in stock or whether the shopper's previous behavior indicates that the product is relevant. If these variables check out, the search algorithms surface and highlight Mobi's products on Babies“R”Us above such dominant competitors as Summer Infant.

“We're not just seeing an increase of sales from Babies“R”Us, we're seeing an increase of calls coming into Mobi and a huge increase in people going to our website to obtain more information,” says Andy Buckband, Mobi's national sales manager. “That's a plus for us. We're increasing sales across the board.”

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