How Your Search Box Can Inform Marketing Strategy
Gaining insight into how your customers think and behave is essential for an effective marketing strategy. Yet customer research can be expensive and time consuming. Should you hire focus groups? Conduct customer surveys? Enlist help from a data analyst?
While each of those methods can be useful, the starting point to gathering customer intelligence should be easy and inexpensive for online retailers, who already have a window into customer intent and behaviors through the search function on their website. Site search data reflects what visitors actually do on your website — the search keywords they use, which products they click on in response to search results, and whether they buy the products for which they've searched. This is real data direct from consumer fingertips, not some educated guesses.
Missed Opportunities for Marketers
According to SLI Systems’ latest e-commerce survey, the majority of online retailers aren't taking advantage of the opportunity to tap into site search data for real-time information on what consumers want. In the survey of 160 global retail organizations, 57 percent said they don't use site search reports and information to improve marketing programs. Half of the respondents said they don't use site search data to enhance any business programs or processes.
One thing the survey does show is that retailers consider site search to be an important component of their online storefronts. Respondents said that site search is one of their top three priorities for 2014. However, not many businesses go the extra step to use search insights to improve how they communicate with customers. Only 25 percent said they integrate site search data into emails to create custom campaigns, and just 27 percent said they create search engine-optimized landing pages populated with search results.
This is clearly a missed opportunity. Weekly or even daily reports on top search phrases can guide your decisions on what products to focus on for merchandising. Reports on "no results" pages can uncover products people want that you may not have, but could start offering in response to demand. For example, U.K. retailer Lovehoney became the exclusive distributor for a line of "50 Shades of Grey" merchandise due to a high number of searches for products that matched items in the popular book before it became a mainstream hit. Search data is also useful for knowing keywords to add to press releases and web pages for maximum SEO. The following are examples of retailers who are using site search data to make an impact on their marketing and merchandising efforts.