Practical Ecommerce

The PeC Review: SLI Offers Superior Search

Research indicates that as many as 60 percent of online shoppers use a merchant’s search feature to navigate the website. With so many potential customers typing keywords rather than using a site’s navigation hierarchy, advanced search features are not just nice to have. They are a competitive advantage as powerful as customer reviews, cross-selling, and email marketing.

SLI Systems offers a hosted, learning-based search and navigation solution that can supercharge an online merchant’s site search, improving sales and increasing the likelihood that a merchant’s shop will show up on search engine results pages (SEPRPs). Add to the solution SLI’s reputation for extraordinary customer service and you can understand why I am awarding SLI five out of a possible five stars in this “The PeC Review.”

“The PeC Review” is my weekly column created to introduce you to the products and services I believe can improve your ecommerce business. This week, I’ll point out some of the many features that make SLI an ecommerce must-have.

Video: Learning Search Equals Intelligent Business

Smart Search is Better

Many ecommerce platforms (shopping carts) come equipped with a search feature. Good platforms even include some advanced search features. But as good as these may be, they just cannot compete with SLI’s learning search which intelligently reorders search results based on user behavior, allows for direct control over misspellings and synonyms, and includes search-based layered and faceted navigation, which is one of my personal favorites.

To see learning-search in action, take a look at one of SLI’s customers, Spirit Halloween of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey (which is part of Spencer’s Gifts). Use the site search to look for “Spiderman” and you’ll quickly see a results page with a number of Spiderman costumes. When I ran the search I found 24 costumes.

Now, in your browser address bar, append “&op=1” to the end of the URL so that you have something like this:

<code>http://halloween-costumes.spirithalloween.com/search?view=grid&amp;w=spiderman&amp;op=1
</code>

five star graphic

You have just accessed one of SLI’s user controls and should see some red-colored text under each product listing on the page. This text tells you what an item’s original position was before the SLI search algorithms adjusted the results based on actual customer behavior. When I conducted the search, the new top three listings had moved up from positions 6, 16, and 13 respectively. Now, thanks to SLI’s search solutions, Spirit Halloween customers are more likely to find exactly what they are looking for right at the top of the search results page.

Site Champion For Search

Another of SLI’s outstanding features is Site Champion which automatically creates keyword-specific landing pages that don’t otherwise exist on a merchant’s site.

Continuing with the Spirit Halloween example, try searching for “Bert and Ernie Costumes” in Bing. When I ran the search, Spirit Halloween had the very first position on the search results page. But it was not a landing page from the Spirit Halloween site hierarchy that had earned the top spot. Rather, it was a keyword-based landing page that Site Champion created for Spirit Halloween based on customer behavior. You can tell the page is from SLI by the subdomain, which is actually aimed at SLI’s servers.

Great Customer Service

Although I have only scratched the surface of SLI’s search feature offerings, I want to say something about the company itself. To me one of the most telling things about SLI is that each time it has rolled out a new feature, like guided search, product reviews in search results, video in search results, or color palettes in faceted navigation, it has offered that feature to its customers for free. No additional fee to get a steady stream of new advanced search features.

The company also assigns a particular customer service representative to each customer, so that you know just who to call if you have a question or challenge.

Summing Up

I believe that SLI’s search solution constitutes one of the best products I’ve ever reviewed, but they are not for everyone. Unfortunately, price, which varies by traffic, bandwidth, and other factors, will mean that the solution is too expensive for some small online merchants. But I would encourage every online seller to at least contact SLI. In many cases the company will even provide a free month-long trial, which is no small thing since the solution is semi-custom.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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