Sales Soar for UK Sites With Better Search

British e-commerce sites and have boosted online conversion rates by improving searches on the two sites.

Otto Group, London, the large home shopping venture and parent company of Freemans and Kaleidoscope, installed an e-commerce search and navigation tool from Endeca, Cambridge, MA, last year. Freemans of London sells everything from men's and women's apparel to house and garden items and consumer electronics. Kaleidoscope sells mainly consumer apparel as well as home goods.

To prepare for the 2005 holiday shopping season, the two sites adopted “Guided Navigation” technology from Endeca, letting shoppers refine their searches by price range, size, brand, category and other factors. The aim was to make searches more concise and help visitors, including those coming from other sites and ad campaigns, receive only relevant results.

For example, a search for “coats” on returns more than 200 matching products, or 19 pages of results. Shoppers now can refine the search by selecting from options and terms such as “women's” coats or by brand, price range, color and other distinctions.

“We previously had provided very poor results. For every single keyword, we would have to create a link,” said John Veichmanis, head of e-commerce at Otto Group.

Within a month after installing the search technology, browser-to-buyer conversion rates climbed 130 percent. Conversion rates for visitors from pay-per-click marketing programs, including search engine marketing, banner ads and e-mail, have more than doubled.

Though Otto Group executives knew the search technology would improve sales, Veichmanis said, they “were genuinely surprised by the effect that these pages had on conversion rates for sessions originating from pay-per-click marketing programs.”

In addition to conversion success, customer satisfaction of visitors to the Freemans site rose 6 percent.

“There are significant improvements in customer perception of the overall Freemans brand after they are finished using the Web site,” Veichmanis said.

The search changes and other improvements to the two sites have raised overall Internet sales 50 percent from 2004 to 2005. Another useful tool Otto Group added recently is zoom technology from Scene 7, letting consumers view products more closely and “really get a feel for the product,” Veichmanis said.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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