A STRANGE TITLE YOU MIGHT THINK FOR AN ARTICLE, BUT IT’LL BECOME CLEAR LATER…
Many households during the last few months have seen an increase in the amount of home baking going on and ours has been no different. The shouts of “Can I do some baking?” have been coming regularly from my kids, and thankfully a local bakery has been able to keep us well supplied with flour, and a local pub has supplied us with yeast. The fresh bread and cakes have been a welcome addition to the tea breaks, but a recent broken electric whisk has limited some of the recipes unfortunately, and my search for a new one has in in turn led me to write this piece….
So, in the quest for a new “Electric Whisk” as I call it, I searched online at a few well known department stores for an “electric whisk” and was surprised at the variety of results that came back. I was presented with electric toothbrushes, electric blankets, kettles, headphones and in some cases to much relief some electric whisks! Given that many of the retailers sell the same products, you might think that the results would be similar, definitely not the case.
By far the most bizarre result was when my search entry of “Electric Whisk” was automatically adjusted to “Electric White” and the results shown to me were a white strip light, a desk fan, headphones and an extension lead…..despite me finding a whisk on the site via the navigation menu. Somethings not right there surely!
Now whether you call it an electric whisk, an electric mixer, a hand mixer or a hand whisk shouldn’t really matter, since in nearly all cases I saw the “electric whisk” had some mention of “electric”, “whisk”, “hand“ or “mixer” somewhere in its title, description or attribute data. Nowhere did I see mention of “whisking teeth” or “mixing gums”, or vice versa.
Many retailers have the challenge of creating good product data to enable a good basis for search results, and it was at least good get some expected results from some retailers, or if the results were unexpected it seems some of the retailer recognize that their search might need some support from product recommendations by showing recommendations of “People who searched for “Electric Whisk” also viewed or bought…” and electric whisks were being shown. That is indeed helpful but better if those product were actually within the results.
The latter point highlights how valuable the behavioral data of customers can be in search results. I might be wrong in assuming that a search for “Electric Whisk” that show “Electric Toothbrushes” in the first row of results is a poor search experience, but if the search and personalization technology work together then retailers are able to use the data from what their customers subsequently view and buy after experiencing poor search results to influence the future search results for the better.
By far my favorite search results whilst going about my search for a new mixer was when I performed a search for an “electric mixer” and was shown two electric showers. A sigh of disbelief and some confusion for a second or two before I thought that’s actually ok….however given that I’d been looking in the kitchen handheld appliances category a few clicks before I’d have expected to see a few electric kitchen mixers in the results too since I’d indicated my intentions.
There is no doubt that onsite search is difficult, a lack of consistent data across brands and manufacturers’, and differing customers expectations from the same input, however one of the most powerful sources of data to improve this has to be the data that is generated by your customers….for free in many respects. When retailers can combine this behavioral data with the knowledge and skills of merchandisers then there search will be heading in the right direction to enhance their customers experience.
I’ve not yet purchased my electric mixer, I’m the type of shopper that likes to see, shake, squeeze, tap and inspect a product before purchasing so as long as my chosen retailer is connecting my online activity with my instore purchases then hopefully I will be giving them a little bit of useful data, as well as my cash.
So, although this is only a very small example of an onsite search experience, it’s an example of how the onsite search experience that many retailers are giving their customers is a long way from the actual experience that the customers and retailers desire.