Searchandising. The term itself has been in and out of fashion since internet retailers first recognised the significance of search in ecommerce all those years ago. Yet the industry-coined lexicon continues to highlight one key question. Have we really taken search and merchandising functionality as far as it can go?

As the ecommerce industry gears up for flagship internet retailing conference IRX2012, Locayta is preparing to launch our own take on searchandising by demonstrating the scope of genuinely integrated search, merchandising and recommendation technology within a single Software as a Service platform.

The searchandising debate

The growth of online shopping has seen more than 50% of consumers switching their shopping to cyberspace, with a third purchasing on their mobile and a whopping 90% responding to recommendations as a key influencer. Yet none of us would deny that most crucial of statistics: even with the rise of searchandising only 2-5% of searches actually end in purchase.

Retail Gazette recently addressed the ongoing challenges of ecommerce retailing in their article Searchandising—Ending Search Engine Dominance? Author Roger Mitchell laments the continued separation of ecommerce functionality, pointing out that “business users are presented with multiple tools, which makes it more difficult to manage products and make effective merchandising decisions”. It seems that as a sector we have yet to find an answer to the conundrum of achieving totally integrated searchandising without resorting to sky-high budgets and clunky manual processes.

Integrated searchandising: The Prezzybox experience

With more than 2,000 online orders every day and annual revenue growth of 34%, you might assume that multiple award winning brand Prezzybox have always had slick searchandising wrapped up. Not so, according to Founder and CEO Zak Edwards. “Until recently we couldn’t find a solution to updating products manually across hundreds of categories” he explains. “We lost hundreds if not thousands of man hours to the task. We were constantly aware of the margin for error in a business where conversions are key.”

That was then – but now Prezzybox are amongst a growing band of internet retailers discovering a new chapter in the searchandising story. Locayta Freestyle Merchandising has been developed to provide the truly integrated solution that has eluded the industry so far. The big news lies in Freestyle Merchandising’s ability to control search, merchandising and product recommendations in a single platform, enhanced with numerous bespoke developments that respond intelligently to the consumer whilst streamlining operations for the merchant.

Liberated ecommerce retailing for increased conversion rates

André Brown, CEO of Locayta, explains the Freestyle Merchandising philosophy. “It’s about creating powerful, personal user journeys that inspire shoppers to buy. That demands a multi-dimensional approach that responds instantly to a myriad of internal and external variables.” This isn’t just a question of functionality, but of complete flexibility across every searchandising element.

Edwards, for example, celebrates the ability to automate merchandising rules and user responsive algorithms across hundreds of categories as “a revelation”. Meanwhile Boohoo’s Ecommerce Manager Catherine Turner values the ability to opt in manually “when we need to respond quickly to breaking fashion news”. Flexibility of input is further complemented by uniquely programmed technology that enhances strategic power for internet retailers.

Ecommerce retailing with bespoke functionality

Unlike black box engines with their limitations and frustrations, Freestyle Merchandising integrates a portfolio of ecommerce retailing tools that drive the user journey in partnership with the internet retailer’s strategy. A key example is Balance Factor, exclusively developed by Locayta to influence search and recommendation results by assigning chosen metrics – including popularity, price, profitability, newness and stock levels. A weight is then assigned to each metric, defining the percentage by which Balance Factor skews results towards that criteria.

Edwards recognises Balance Factor as crucial in Prezzybox’s ecommerce retailing success. “We use it to influence search and category results, meaning that as well as responding to user behaviour we can incorporate our own stock control and promotional strategies. We can create filter criteria to match seasonal promotions, gift categories and internal variables. Because these decisions can be applied automatically across limitless categories we’ve eliminated any margin for error and ensured that our customers enjoy an accurate search experience. It’s no exaggeration to say that we saw conversion rates increase overnight when we started using Locayta.”

Other enhancing features include SEO page builder, which analyses search patterns and presents them to engines for indexing, and Locayta Search Mobile, an iOS engine that enables developers to incorporate intelligent search into their apps. Internet retailers can control brand adjacency, deal with synonym search terms, and eliminate failed searches via edit-distance and trigram analysis algorithms that free spell correction from the limitations of dictionary databases.

Over the past decade, Locayta has built a considerable following of key online players including Tesco Clothing, The British Museum Company and urban fashion brand Superdry. We believe Freestyle Merchandising offers integrated searchandising that cannot be found elsewhere. Ecommerce retailers can meet us at IRX2012 on stand A13, or visit the Locayta website for an online demo and to contact our team.

Further reading:

Searchandising and recommendation (Internet Retailing November 2012)

Searchandising—Ending Search Engine Dominance? (Retail Weekly, February 2012)

Secrets to searchandising success (Website magazine, June 2011)

Global Consumer Shopping Habits Survey 2011