The ability for consumers to search the Internet for products and services is critical for the success of many smaller online businesses. Increasingly, the ability for those same consumers to search a specific site for products and services is just as important. A robust site search can increase sales, profits and conversions. To help us understand all of this, we interviewed Sanjay Arora. the CEO and founder of Nextopia, a site search provider that powers over 500 ecommerce sites.
PeC: Tell us how a robust site search can help ecommerce merchants?
Arora: Most importantly, a robust site search that yields relevant results or results that are metrics-driven and of quality are going to yield higher conversions. A robust site search yields analytics is valuable to merchants and overall greater customer satisfaction.
PeC: Give us a specific example how a specific search result can yield a higher conversion.
Arora: Let’s say I type in “running shoes” to the keyword box and I’m presented with 35 results. A search powered by Nextopia would be able to give the user options to refine by brand, by color, by price; and typically we rank the product results in the order of bestsellers, best rated, sales velocity, meaning products that are selling fast. These are key metrics that are proven to yield higher conversion ratios for site search.
PeC: If an ecommerce platform already comes with a built in site search function, why should a merchant consider adding Nextopia site search?
Arora: Invariably, site search that’s built into an ecommerce platform is very basic. It does not handle spell correction, it does not handle fuzzy matching, even something as basic as plural matching, (such as) when you search for shoes versus shoe. Even the cutting-edge things like metrics-driven ranking, there’s not a platform out there that really has all that stuff together.
PeC: What is fuzzy matching?
Arora: Fuzzy matching means error forgiveness and allowing for some variation of a typo in terms. Say I type in shoes with two S’s. It will fuzzy match shoes and won’t bring back new message saying, “No match is found. Sorry.”
PeC: What are some other common errors that you see in other site search functions?
Arora: Not offering spell suggestions, spell corrections and not being able to refine by facets like price, by color, by brand, by category or subcategory.
PeC: What happens if someone types “tan blouse,” and it’s really called a “sandstone shirt?”
Arora: Well, a good site search would perform what’s called color normalization on the product database. They convert these non-standard, fancy colors that a lot of manufacturers typically use to describe their products to standardize colors like brown, black, tan, etc., etc. Our search does that.
PeC: Is Nextopia a hosted solution?
Arora: It can be set up as a hosted solution or a direct integration into the platform.
PeC: By Practical eCommerce’s count, there are over 300 hosted and licensed shopping carts. Will your solution integrate with all of them, including hosted carts?
Arora: Definitely. We integrate already with, say, the top 25. For the others there is an integration path that’s quite easy and works seamlessly. The nature of all this is the carts are similar and that integration is no problem.
PeC: Can your solution be used as a site search for a Yahoo! store?
Arora: For sure. We actually have a pretty powerful plug-in that directly plugs in on top of the Yahoo! search.
PeC: Can you help merchants implement your solution into their store?
Arora: For sure.
PeC: Tell us a little more about your company, Nextopia.
Arora: Nextopia was founded in 1999 by myself. I’m actually the CEO and founder. For many years we were in the document site search business, searching intranets and local websites. About three years ago or so, we set aside a new market opening up for ecommerce retailers and we jumped on that. We’ve since grown to power over 500 stores.
PeC: How much does your solution cost?
Arora: The Nextopia ecommerce solution costs $1000 per year. There are different pricing tiers depending on how busy your site is and how many products that your site contains, but for the most part, it’s been tailored for the small and medium size Internet retailer and pricing is extremely affordable.
A robust site search is an absolute vital component to the success of an ecommerce retailer, especially moving forward. What we’re seeing in 2009 is site search evolving to even site navigation.