According to a recent global survey conducted by The Nielsen Company about trends in online shopping, over 85 percent of the world’s online population has used the Internet to make a purchase.
Finding or not finding products and services on e-commerce sites is key to success regardless of what language an online shop operates in. The conversion rate of a search; i.e. the rate of how many products will actually be bought through searches, is one of the central measures of how successful an e-commerce site is.
The end-user expects an interface that is intuitive and easy to use as well as a navigation and search that directs him or her to relevant products and services. How the user’s search terms are actually associated with the “right” search results is of no interest to the online shopper, but is a complex issue that all e-commerce sites and online shops have to deal with.
Having worked with many e-commerce customers in Europe, I have come across a lot of the complexities that optimizing the search capabilities of a site can bring and that an end-user will literally only see the tip of the ice-berg of.
From content, controlled vocabularies, search metrics and process questions that need to be addressed, having the right tools to optimize a search is probably the simplest but no less important question.
Often, search engines focus on what they are made for: Searching. Managing vocabularies for search improvement is usually not one of the areas that vendors specialize in or focus on. The most relevant features we encounter that are often not covered by search engines are:
- Central management of vocabularies (products, services, colours, materials, and other filters) to ensure that there is one version in place from which extensions can be built if needed
- Allow for different users to contribute to a controlled vocabulary through different levels of access rights, so for example working directly with content editors to share input
- The possibility to add comments to terms (why has x been introduced as a synonym to y)
- Being able to monitor the progress and changes that have been made
- Being able to retrieve historical information
- Creating Audience Centric Views
- just to name but a few.
Next to many other aspects, being able to manage controlled vocabularies in an efficient and effective way is one of the prerequisites to optimize the search capabilities of an e-commerce site. Not only will it help drive online sales, because users will find the most relevant products and services, but it will also contribute to a positive shopping experience so that new shoppers will return.