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5 Last-Minute Ways To Optimize Online Holiday Shopping

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By Thierry Costa, Vice President of Marketing, SLI Systems

Thierry_CostaHoliday shopping starts earlier and earlier every year — as The New York Times recently reported, Black Friday sales, which traditionally launch after Thanksgiving, are now being trotted out by retailers in late October and early November. However, if you haven’t already gotten your online storefront ready for holiday shoppers, it isn’t too late: Here are several ideas you can put into place between now and the height of the holiday shopping frenzy.

1. Make it easy to find gifts: When shoppers have several gifts to buy, they need a way to sort through your offerings for many people on their list. This is where a gift finder comes in handy: It’s a search tool that lets shoppers sort through your products based on common requirements, such as gifts for kids or co-workers, or at different price levels. To see an example of a gift finder, check out the “Gift Planner” on the homepage of the Harry and David web site.

2. Expand your vocabulary: Your customers might not describe your products the same way you do, which can lead to a confusing or unfulfilling search experience.

You don’t want them to receive few or no results to a search when you actually have many suitable products in stock.

For that reason, examine site search data to uncover how your customers spell or refer to certain products. For instance, shoppers might call a “color-printer-scanner” an “all-in-one printer,” so be sure to configure your site search to account for alternate terms.

3. Help shoppers define their terms: Shorten the time it takes for shoppers to enter search terms by finishing their thoughts for them — that is, set up site search to offer suggestions for partially completed keyword terms so that shoppers can spend more time shopping and less time typing. This auto-complete feature is very helpful when product or brand names are commonly misspelled, or simply hard to describe — you’ll prevent shoppers from receiving a “no results” respond to their search request. Even better is a feature called Rich Auto Complete, in which product pictures pop up along with the suggested search terms, providing shoppers with an additional visual cue.

4. Put social media to work: If you’re promoting holiday discounts and sales on your blog, Facebook page, and Twitter, then you should bring them to the attention of shoppers via site search. Add this content to your site search so that shoppers can make the most of specials like coupons or shipping discounts, or find more educational information about products from your blog posts. Shoppers that are better informed about the products they are researching will make quicker buying decisions — and likely purchase more. The site search results from America’s Yarn Store show a good example of this functionality in action.

5. Add tools for mobile shoppers: If you have a mobile version of your web site (and if you don’t, you should start thinking about creating one), make sure it offers features that streamline the searching and buying process for shoppers on the go, who can be constrained by mobile devices’ small screen size, limited typing functionality, and variable data speeds. For instance, keep product images small to facilitate fast browsing, and offer the ability to narrow down and refine searches so that shoppers don’t need to scroll through extra pages of search results.


As VP of marketing, Thierry Costa is responsible for SLI Systems’ global marketing efforts as well as driving growth of SLI’s search technology and services in the e-commerce and publishing industries. He is an experienced marketing veteran with strong marketing, product marketing and product management experience, and has served in senior marketing positions for several leading technology companies, including InQuira, a provider of natural language search and knowledge management software, and e-commerce platform provider BroadVision. Before joining SLI, Thierry was VP of marketing for Exaprotect, a security software company, and VP of marketing for Reportive. He started his career at Hewlett-Packard, where he was responsible for bringing to market HP’s security products and Data Warehousing solutions.