Is shopping on your site like trying to find a needle in a haystack?

In their latest annual report, ASOS acknowledged that by offering one of the largest product collections, shopping on their website could now feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.

“ASOS is the online fashion destination with one of the largest collections of products and content anywhere in the world. It’s why we’re growing so quickly. But having everything any customer could want is a challenge – how do we make sure that, among the tens of thousands of items available, our customers can find just the right ones for them? Go onto our site and search for, say, ‘black dress’. You’ll get close to 3,000 results. Who can find the needle in the haystack of 300 dresses, let alone 3,000? “

This really struck a chord with me and it’s not just ASOS that are creating haystacks. In my role as chief operating officer at FoundIt!, a ground-breaking journey optimisation platform, we see it happening industry wide with many well-known ecommerce brands actively expanding range and moving into new product areas.

I can imagine those conflicting boardroom discussions now:

We have a key strength in that we have significantly expanded our range of products, and now have huge choice to offer our customers.”

“We also have a key weakness in … that we have significantly expanded our range of products, and now have huge choice to offer our customers.”

And this is the crux of this issue.  By adding more and more product lines to ecommerce sites we are, in effect, creating a journey for many customers that is like finding a needle in a haystack.

There is a significant -ve correlation with the time and effort taken to find products and CVR

All that clicking, searching and filtering. Then there’s the sorting, the scrolling, and all that ‘click here for page 2’. Urgh!

It’s no wonder that customers not being able to find what they want is one of the biggest sources of customer frustration, low conversion and lost sales opportunities.

This is a major headache for CRO and UX practitioners alike. As the title of this article suggests we’ve created Haystacks and, by and large, we don’t help the customer with finding those needles.
Search and Navigation should be our friend here, but quite often its unintuitive, not relevant and crucially not human!

Take this page:

If we stop and think about it, do we honestly think our customer’s most likely next step is to filter by ‘Price’? or £5 to £10 for that matter.
We could check our page analytics, but that would be swayed by a self-fulfilling prophecy and is also after the event.

Better still we can talk to our search marketing colleagues and gauge what the wider market thinks by looking at keywords and customer intent around a category. In this particular example it’s all about ‘Brand’ and ‘Storage Capacity’ and in fact when digging deeper the lion’s share of the demand is in just two brands “Seagate” and “WD” (or is it “Western Digital”)? It’s both of course. This issue could be further exacerbated for our customer if this was A to Z sort as well, effectively burying “Seagate” and “WD”, their most likely next steps even further down the page.  The problem here is we do not surface this language front and centre to help our customers navigate and filter to the products they are most likely to want.

By understanding what customers want before they land on a website, we can present more personalised and intuitive customer experiences. Many ecommerce marketers are looking beyond the out-of-the-box ecommerce platform capabilities and facet navigation engines to solve this problem. As I point out above, inherently those solutions offer a one-size fits all approach, which no longer fits our customers ever changing needs.

In order to have any chance of needle finding in an ever increasing haystack-world, ecommerce marketers are going to need to really understand their customers continually changing intent, at every level of their website navigation and have the ability to instantly surface those ‘best of the best’ navigational options, at scale, front and centre in an always switched on environment. To do this, retailers need to invest in technology that utilises customer data to create more relevant journeys. ASOS,  a digital-first business and leader in the respective field has built its own systems to help surface the right content/product, at the right time, using an array of customer data and machine learning algorithms to make sure they hold their customers hand each step of the way However, if you’re not an ASOS and don’t have the budget or resource to create your own systems, journey optimisation technology has been developed that can quickly be added to your site and start improving the customer experience, and your conversion rates, in weeks.


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