Jason Hull is a principal at OpenSource Connections, a Solr search engine consultancy that works with clients across all three layers of the search experience to improve the search user experience in a cost-effective and revenue-driving way. Jason leads client engagements with marketing functions, helping them to think about the business case behind search. Jason holds a BSc from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business. Prior to founding OpenSource Connections, Jason led an analytics team at Capital One responsible for call center demand forecasting and managed their internal call center IT infrastructure investment budget. Jason is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 14 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Using the 3 Rs of Site Search to Improve Search ROI

07.13.2011
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Oftentimes, we see e-commerce marketers who spend a lot of time on the design of their website, make it look pretty, have rounded corners, and follow all of the latest Web 2.0 standards only to add in a search box with no forethought, as if it was a waste of precious online real estate. What marketers fail to realize is that site search is not a cost center, but, rather a potential profit center. Just as thought, revisions, time, and testing go into website design and functionality, so, too should the same effort be put into making site search a prime feature of an e-commerce website to increase its ROI. They fail to adhere to what we call the 3 Rs of site search: results, relevancy, and revenue.

Results: When a user types in a term in a search box, they are looking for something that the information scent within the native navigation of the website has not provided. However, for many terms, the user may have done something simple such as misspell the word or put in a synonym, and when the site returns a web page informing the user that there are zero results, the user leaves, and the opportunity to make a sale has departed with the user. Solr provides an easily managed method of dealing with misspellings and synonyms, although this is only the first step of many to take.

Zero Results Search Page from Recreation.gov

Here is an example of a zero result search. Instead of having misspellings of Sherando, Recreation.gov provides zero results, leading to a probable abandon.

Relevancy: The flip side of zero results is far too many results with little to no relevancy for what the user seeks. By failing to provide relevant results to the user, the e-commerce marketer has grown the size of the haystack that the user must sift through to find the needle. In an age where Google taught the user about the search box and Solr and Lucene have gone a long way in commoditizing search, the user is not going to spend time going through pages and pages of results to find a specific one. The right result has to be in the top three or you risk losing that customer.

Poor search relevancy from fbo.gov

Here is a search for social networking on FedBizOpps, www.fbo.gov. It's very unclear how IT equipment and ER safe rooms relate to the search term social networking.

Revenue: Because the typical e-commerce marketer doesn’t view search as a profit center, he or she is not measuring the revenue which comes from the channel. Tracking user behavior and history through the buying funnel can yield a great deal of insight about the expected value of a user along each stage of the funnel as well as the expected value of search phrases within each stage of the funnel. Measuring the expected value can also provide a rich testing agenda for testing alternative scoring and boosting models – Solr can be tuned to boost certain results within a profitability scoring model – as well as cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Once the first two Rs have been accounted for, which is the basic blocking and tackling of well-implemented search, then the aggressive and creative marketer can dramatically improve the return on investment of site search.

If you don’t know where to start, talk to us about how we can leverage our analytical tools and Solr and Lucene expertise to make your e-commerce site search a profit center and increase the ROI of search for your company.

References
Published at DZone with permission of Jason Hull, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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