Looking for some quick ideas to bolster your Web site or online holiday shopping initiatives? Jay Shaffer, vice president of marketing at home furnishings merchant DirectlyHome.com, offered several of them in a session at the recent Mid Market eTail conference in San Francisco.
• Cheap market research is just a coffeehouse away. “Every six weeks or so, I’ll go into a Starbucks and find a soccer mom who hasn’t had an adult conversation in a year and offer her a coffee gift card for 15 minutes of her time,” Shaffer said. He then shows her three pages on the DirectlyHome Web site: the home page, a category page and a product detail page, each for 15 seconds. Afterwards, he asks what she remembers seeing. Does she see text or images? If he has a special offer on couches, does she notice something else instead? Did she see the free shipping offer?
“This is cheap, but effective market research,” he noted. “Find where your customers are, go to them, and ask them questions about your site, your brand and your products.”
• Don’t show an empty page when site search doesn’t return results. “If we can’t meet the immediate search need, we’ll show the customer our top 10 holiday products, or the top 10 fastest shipping products,” Shaffer revealed. “We try to merchandise that space rather than give a blank page.”
• If you’ve dropped a catalog recently, make sure your site search allows a search for SKU numbers. Your customers will have them, so they’ll assume they can search for them, Shaffer pointed out.
• Be careful about buying search keywords that have multiple meanings. Shaffer recalled a situation that occurred when he worked for Wine.com a few years ago. Winemaker Robert Mondavi had just turned 80. “People were searching using Mondavi as a keyword, but they were interested in learning about the guy, not in buying Mondavi wine,” Shaffer said.
People clicked on Wine.com’s Mondavi paid search term looking for info on Robert Mondavi and drove keyword costs up considerably. “Make sure you aren’t spending more on search terms that aren’t drawing people interested in your products,” Shaffer cautioned. “It’s just going to suck your budget dry with no return.”