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Dynamic search overhauls company’s merchandising strategy, dramatically boosts conversions

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Ergo in Demand, a distributor of ergonomic office furniture, wanted to makes sure its online prospects could find its site through the major search engines, and so its Web site was heavily optimized for search.

But that left one big problem: the Web site was static, not dynamic. Historically, static sites have received better SEO rankings than dynamic ones.

“Search engines used to treat dynamic product pages differently and not rank them as high as static pages,” said Chad Goldsmith, manager, e-commerce marketing at Ergo in Demand. But with static pages, it was harder to point customers in the precise direction they needed to go, and Ergo also had limited control over how to display its merchandise to customers online with the rudimentary internal search solution (Google Mini) it was using.

“There were limited opportunities for dynamic marketing like cross-selling and upselling products, and [it was difficult to] move the order of the products a particular customer saw,” Goldsmith said. Moreover, a potential customer who found the site through a search engine could easily get lost on the static Web site, vainly searching for a product.

The problem was compounded by the fact that Ergo offers an enormous line of office furniture products: It has, for example, more than 500 LCD monitor stands.

“What was needed was a merchandising search tool that would give Ergo the ability to offer a clear navigation path to the product the customer wanted,” Goldsmith said, adding that he and his team wanted to be able to anticipate customer needs—in order to upsell them.

“If someone is looking at desks, I want to make them aware we have lamps and chairs,” he said. “We couldn’t do that before without diluting our search engine optimization. If I did do it, it’d be totally manual. I had to create a product link and then put it onto the static product page.”

Goldsmith turned to Mercado, a Web-based e-commerce solution provider with a focus on merchandising strategy, to “take them somewhere with more user-friendly navigation and a better marketing environment.”

The solution involved the creation of search landing pages. “We wanted to be able to run the search on our site. They [customers] would type the search term on the static page and it would bring them to a new environment, a page on our site built by Mercado,” Goldsmith said.

The fact that Mercado is a software as a service (SaaS) solution, whereby the application is leased rather than purchased, also appealed to Goldsmith. “It’s better for us with new technologies to keep the costs spread out over a longer period,” he said.

The first phase of the project involved getting the internal search implemented by developing and designing how it would look to the customer, then moving from the Google Mini search solution to Mercado’s.

Once this was completed, Ergo implemented the Mercado merchandising portion by feeding Mercado all the SKUs, descriptions, images and other product attributes for its inventory of products. There was no need to manually build new pages for the site, however, since the Mercado solution uses a search template.

“The biggest thing we didn’t have that we needed with our products was the refinement options,” Goldsmith said. “If you typed in ‘monitor stand’ with our old solution, you just got a single column list of monitor stands based on description.”

Mercado allows a more refined search that gets into all of the products attributes so that a customer can, for example, select a specific color or price.

“That was huge missing component of our search,” Goldsmith said. “Most people were using more general search terms. Based on the fact that people were using more general terms in their search, it made sense. We have over 500 monitor stands, so you can see how the refinement is necessary.”

With the new solution, customers searching for monitor stands are presented with top-selling monitor stands first and then the most relevant monitor stands below that and the ability to further refine those options by attributes such as price, number of monitors to mount and mounting location.

The results were dramatic. Ergo saw a conversion rate for people using the new search function that was 15 times higher than with the old search method.

Goldsmith added that once he saw the higher conversation rates, he looked at ways to get more people to use search. “We’d already started a site redesign, and we ended up taking search from the left hand navigation to the top navigation and gave it more prominent positioning and also added it to the footer,” he said.

“With the redesign of the header, we went from 1% to 3.5% of people using search.”

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