Product Marketing Manager
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You’ve heard of search. You’ve heard of merchandising. Allow us to introduce you to a term that you may not have heard of yet: searchandising.
As we’ve shared on the Algolia blog before, searchandising is a practice that allows businesses to combine the benefits of bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce. When done well, it can guide customers through an engaging journey on your site. It can also increase conversion and revenue for you and relevance for your customers. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; let’s be really clear about what searchandising actually is before we dive in further.
As you could probably guess from the name, searchandising (also known as searchandizing or search merchandising) is a mix of two things: search and merchandising. So let’s define those two terms first.
Let’s start with search. The most narrow one in the context of ecommerce is a customer typing a query into a search bar as opposed to browsing. But while there used to be a distinction between search and browsing, we’ve learned over the years that these two activities aren’t entirely distinct from one another.
In fact, more than 50% of search activities happen outside of the search bar, like clicking on a specific category in an online store. Functionally, that action still has a query behind it; you clicked that category because you were looking for something. More technically, it’s now the search engine, and the product data it accesses, that drives the browsing experience.
Now let’s consider the definition of merchandising. This happens when business users, marketing people, and site owners promote their business as users search and browse. With merchandising rules provided by the search engine, businesses can re-rank results, display banners, promote items on sale, and highlight new releases. Good merchandising makes sure customers are consuming the right pieces of content that serve both the customer and the retailer well.
When we widen the definition of what search can be, this is where the term searchandising emerges. It uses elements of both search and merchandising to curate search results in a way that produces more results that drive certain metrics.
As we noted on the aforementioned blog:
Searchandising allows product owners, marketers, merchandisers and site owners to promote products, organize search results in ways that align with business goals, and even track how people are interacting with the offerings. Searchandising is an iterative and ongoing process that can be continuously improved to ultimately drive more sales.
So, what can searchandising enable you to do exactly? Let’s explore that!
There are a few ways to understand the benefits of searchandising. Let’s look at it from the business perspective first.
For ecommerce practitioners, searchandising can help you increase revenue and conversion. Without searchandising, i.e., when your search function is strictly rules-based, you can end up surfacing products that hurt your business, like out-of-stock or low-stock items (or even an item that fits the search criteria really well, but is poorly reviewed).
With searchandising, you can prioritize an item that has more inventory or a higher customer satisfaction rate than what’s currently ranked first. Even though, from a strictly rules-based perspective, some search results may be more textually relevant, searchandising gives you the opportunity to apply some control so that better items can be ranked higher.
In other words, the benefit for the business is that searchandising allows you to add your own expertise into the mix, building out your own fully customizable and extensible search experience.
Searchandising is a win-win, as it benefits the customer, as well. Let’s look at an example to illustrate how. Consider the way seasonality might impact an online clothing retailer: someone visiting the site in April might type “jacket” into the search bar and be served a number of discounted winter jackets, when what they were actually looking for was a light spring jacket. Suddenly, results that were relevant a few months ago are more or less obsolete. Searchandising allows you to rewrite the rules to account for these anomalies, which ultimately leads to a better customer experience.
Here’s another use case: with some search queries, data shows over time that people aren’t clicking the top result. Maybe they’re consistently clicking the 10th or 11th result instead. In this scenario, there’s a gap between what the customer is searching for and what they’re being shown. Sometimes, the reasoning for this isn’t clear, but by using searchandising, you can push results that are more likely to be clicked-on closer to the top of the results. Again, the customer is served results that are more relevant for them in the larger context of their online shopping experience.
We could talk all day about the different applications of searchandising and why it benefits both businesses and customers. But how do you actually do it? This is where things can get more complicated, depending on which search platform you’re engaging with.
Traditionally, search engines were always built by and for engineers. Their algorithms were transparent in the same way as looking at someone’s math homework is transparent: it’s all right there in front of you, but unless you understand the core language, it’s hard to know what you’re looking at—let alone try to make any changes to it.
In the last 5-10 years, however, there’s been a surge in solutions that are more out-of-the-box and purpose-built. With Algolia, for example, marketers and ecommerce practitioners can actually open up the hood and make changes without mucking up the algorithm or the merchandising.
When you have a platform with the right level of transparency and usability, you have more agency over how search operates on your website. Tools like ours put the control into the hands of the people who can come up with the most effective solutions for their business.
When EyeBuyDirect relaunched its website in 2015, it was poised to become a major player in the eyewear retail industry. As the site gained more traffic, however, their front-end developers realized that they didn’t have the flexibility to create a more relevant search experience for their customers.
Yet with Algolia, EyeBuyDirect was able to introduce searchandising in order to optimize that search and discovery experience for their customers. Using A/B testing and catalog personalization, the team was able to provide a truly custom experience for each customer, serving relevant, intelligently-ranked content.
In EyeBuyDirect’s case, the results really do speak for themselves. Within two weeks of implementing Algolia personalization, the site saw a 4% total revenue uplift, including a 2.5% lift in conversion rates and a 1% increase in average order value (AOV).
GymShark, the UK-based fashion brand, was having big problems with its search and discovery functionality. Poor search results were burying best selling items at the bottom of the page, and out-of-stock items were being displayed at the top. Of course, this led to poor conversion and frustration for the business and customers, alike.
Yet again, with Algolia, the GymShark team was able to turn things around dramatically. Today, their search experience is tailored by need, audience, and catalog. The team has also added criteria to their ranking so that out-of-stock items would stop showing up first.
They also used AI to tweak relevance for certain search terms. For example, US customers searching for “sweatpants” were not getting any results, because those products were listed on the site as “joggers”. By detecting this error, they were able to correct it and show customers what they were actually looking for, no matter their location.
GymShark considers their searchandising quest a success. Assessing the results after one year, they saw their search conversion rates went from 6.2% up to over 10%. Additionally, while search once played a part in less than 10% of orders, on Black Friday 2020, it was used in more than 30% of orders. Finally, revenue from search users rose by more than 400% year over year.
The case for searchandising is an easy one to make. When you can create a better, more relevant, and more curated experience for your customers, so too will your business benefit. And the best news is, the tools already exist for you to start your searchandising journey today.
Director of Sales