Sr. Staff Writer
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The ecommerce industry has experienced tremendous growth in the past year and a half, comparable with 10 years of growth in just 3 months. Digital experience has become the centerpiece of a brand’s connection to shoppers. Search and navigation ranks as the most important online shopping aspect, after price and value of the products.
For sports & goods retailers, designing a highly engaging online shopping experience is the key to leveraging this once in a lifetime opportunity.
According to McKinsey research,
“With online penetration expected to stabilize at around 25 percent in 2021, six times higher than before the pandemic, brands and retailers need to adjust their business models fast. Brands need to put digital commerce at the center and accelerate direct to consumer, and retailers need to deliver seamless and integrated omnichannel experiences.”
Using the correct ecommerce tools, leading sports & goods retailers are able to establish a long term online presence, increase their revenues and conversions, and maintain stellar customer loyalty levels by continuously iterating and optimizing user experience on their ecommerce websites. Conversely, last year Nike hit its ecommerce goal 3 years early, due to the robust investment in ecommerce tools and platforms. Sporting goods industry leaders, like Nike, are seeing their online stores as more than just a sales support, but as a tool to integrate themselves into customers’ lifestyles (Fortune, September 2020). Adidas is projecting to double its ecommerce revenues through 2025, by investing more than one billion euros in digital technology, such as 3D design, and hiring more than 1000 “tech and digital talents” in 2021 alone (Bloomberg, March 2021).
Today’s users have high expectations for the search experience and are simultaneously short on the time they are willing to spend searching and browsing the website. Autocomplete functionality offers users query suggestions with every keystroke they enter on a search bar. This kind of search-as-you-type experience is driving retention and conversions for retailers. Sporting goods are a type of product that often requires a dynamic visual representation in order to catch shoppers’ attention. Autocomplete can be complemented with a dynamic visualization of the search results in sync with a user’s query entry.
For example, ecommerce sporting-goods supply store Decathlon Singapore has dynamic autocomplete search functionality that limits visual noise: it lets users preview items on the search results page as they type their queries.
Decathlon’s success indicators:
For sports & goods shoppers, customer service is an important part of their purchase journey. Beyond the returns and refunds policy, and shipping and size guides, customers are also interested in materials specifications, product care, and product manuals. A live customer service call center is a costly option, and not the most convenient choice for a modern online shopper. Users are expecting to find all the support center information by simply asking their support related questions in the search bar.
Having a dedicated support center page is a good idea and a useful resource for an online shopper, but making this information searchable from the main website search bar takes the online customer service one step further. When customers on Arc’teryx’s sporting goods website enter a query related to customer service and support, they are directed to a dedicated support page, eliminating the need to spend time browsing the website. Arc’teryx’s shoppers are then able to find answers to any support related questions they might have at their fingertips, surfaced at a blasting fast speed.
A “no results page” disrupts the user search experience flow and causes frustration. Up to 12% of users leave the site after an unsuccessful search. Several reasons lead users to a no results page, such as insufficient relevancy or search for items not currently featured in the catalog. There are multiple ways to avoid a no results page and, in fact, leverage it as an opportunity to navigate customers to discover something new.
Less than optimal relevance is a main cause for running into a no results page. This issue can be addressed by configuring the engine’s typo tolerance, defining synonyms, and offering users query suggestions.
Another reason is that relevant results matching the user query do not exist in the catalog. This is a great opportunity to identify unfulfilled needs and perhaps add items in high demand to the store’s catalog. Alternatively, similar products or popular products can be recommended to the user to offer an opportunity to discover new products that might be of interest.
Culture Kings uses search result merchandising to prevent a bad user experience. Instead of an empty “no results” page, users see promoted products and collections to help them explore.
Instead of showing an empty “no results” page, Lacoste guides users by showing related products. For example, when users search for “glassware”, they are shown sunglasses.
Lacoste’s website uses automatic filtering based on keywords to increase relevance.
Lacoste’s success indicators:
Search and Browse are different but complimentary activities on the website. Search enables users to look for specific products, while browse lets them discover more of the product catalog, going beyond their original intent. Users who are looking to find products usually choose Search, while users who want to explore prefer Browse. The ultimate goal of the shopper who chooses Browse is to discover and be inspired by the products the retailer’s catalog has to offer. This is especially true for fashion and sporting goods retailers. Customers are interested to get a “feel” of the products, to imagine themselves using them and visually try them on. When users browse on the website, they are usually more patient than those who search and have more time to explore. Hence, the navigation user experience becomes a central part in attracting these shoppers. Navigation includes filters and facets, category pages, and product carousels.
To improve category browsing experience and relevance, it’s good practice for retailers to let online shoppers predefine filter attributes such as price range, color, and clothing sizes.
Sports fashion retailer Mammut offers shoppers a Pinterest-like convenient and highly intuitive browsing experience, with an emphasis on the visual category presentation. Employing filter and sort features, Mammut provides website visitors with a dynamic and exceptionally creative, Algolia-powered category page.
Website search and navigation are the most critical parts for the sports & goods ecommerce retail industry. In a highly competitive and rapidly evolving market, such as this, companies have to rapidly adapt and constantly improve their customers’ online experience. With well-selected and configured tools, sporting goods retailers will be able to achieve improved search relevance, decreased bounce rate, increased revenues, sales, click-through-rate, and conversion rates.