Most brick and mortar retail organization are spending a lot of money on social media, mobile apps, search engine optimization (SEO), one-to-one marketing to drive potential customers to the web site and in through the doors. Web site design is pondered, piloted, tested and still many are wasting a lot of money and frustrating customers. The problem is that many companies are not thinking like customers, not focusing on data, and are impeding potential customers once they land on the retail website. I know that if you are in retail, you're sick of hearing this, but Amazon and Google have wrecked it for your company by setting customer expectations very high with the brilliant use of data, tags, metadata and algorithms. What can you do?

Step One: Stop Losing Customers to Bad Data!

It happens every day; here is a real world example of how bad data ruins the customer's experience.

I'm running out of contact lens solution, I'm busy, but I can last two days. The choice is Amazon or my local branch of a national chain pharmacy which is 10 minutes away. Like most people, I would prefer not to have to go out of my way for one item, I'm cost conscious, and look for convenience. So I go to my pharmacy's web site and search for "Lens solution".

Simple two word search

Two products?? This is a national pharmacy chain, I have been in that store and I know they carry more than two products. What's wrong with my search? So I try another search "Lens Care".

Second try at two word search

Still two products??? Am I going nuts? The results are so perplexing that it makes me visit a competitors site and search for "Lens Solution", now remember this is a pharmacy, not a camera store, optician, or telescope shop. The results are equally annoying.

Two word that make a mess

3,372 products? Impossible, and in fact the results are so bad that on the first page they display items that contain fragments of the search string. Do this test; walk into your local pharmacy and ask the associate for "lens solution", being a human and understanding the context that you are both in, a pharmacy, with 99% certainty the associate will direct you to the eye care aisle. Now if I was a regular customer and not a technologist, I would have placed my order with Amazon after the second search result failure, and not give it a second thought. But at CapTech one of our core values is curiosity, so I go back to my local pharmacies web site to figure out what I should be typing to find lens solution. Once I click on one of the two products in the search result, I see the bread crumbs and realize that I should have searched for "Contact Lens Care" to get the appropriate results.

Bread crumbs show us how web design is structured

But I typed "lens care" why didn't the search engine correctly identify the taxonomy of my search? Search is only as good as the data that you put behind the engine, the examples that I have shown you illustrates what happens when you put the "too little" contextual data around your product data store.

Step Two: Allow Customers to Find Things Faster!

As web site design has evolved and more retail segments and service offerings are being crowded onto the home page, search is becoming a far more important aspect of customer user experience because users are being conditioned to search instead of click. Now the search vs. navigation debate rages amongst usability experts, we have studies in 2010 that claim that less than 5% use search, a 2012 study stated that between 11% and 21% of users start with search and 50% start with search for densely packed retail sites. By 2013 we see data supporting that users are becoming more search dominant and today users have an overall 74% success rate using search first. What does this mean? Data and taxonomies are becoming more important to retail because bad searches lead to abandonment or even worse diverting physical traffic to your competitors.

The Web is evolving customer, are you evolving with the web?

As an example, let's shop for some black tee-shirts at Americas largest bargain retailer and a famous national ultra-luxury retailer's web site. At the bargain retailer's web site I have to find the Apparel section, and then I'm presented with 36 items I have to read through to find "Men's". In "Men's" I have to find T-shirt from a list of 19 choices and it gives me 500 results, but now I want to filter by black so I scroll down and select black and get 127 items. At the luxury retailer's web site, I need to find "The Man's Store" where I'm presented with a dizzying list of 54 items to read. I have a problem in that two categories exist that may fit my shopping needs "Polo's & Tee's" and "Underwear & Socks" which contains "T-Shirts". What frustrates a user in this case is the use of "Tee's" and "T-Shirts" but in both case further filtering needs to be done and the color selected. In this case the search "Men's black T-shirt" yields results that cross the segments.

One of the issues faced by customers is that Brick and Mortar retailers are combining store inventory with "on-line only" items on the web site, creating a greater site density. Additionally, when a customer is physically in the store a different cognitive and intellectual process is happening, compared to the web experience. Our eyes are more adept at navigating us through a physical store using "retail category landmarks" versus the need to read the words in navigation links. "Men's black T-shirt" is easier for the focused shopper who isn't a site regular and with the appropriate data structure and search engine ambiguous search can drive meaningful category pages to help guide the customer and deliver an experience that yields a sale.

Tip for retail

If you have questions about this blog or want more information on how CapTech can help you create compelling customer experiences contact us today!