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Why Site Search and Navigation Matter

Posted on May 30, 2014 by Search Spring

Why Driving Traffic to Your E-Commerce Site is Only The First Step in Conversion

A lot of online retailers, and large businesses alike, think that by driving more traffic to their site, they are guaranteed to increase conversion. And while that might have once been the case, shoppers have more options than ever online and just by getting them TO your site, you are not garaunteed they will complete the purchase ON your site. To be successful in e-commerce you need to give the user a complete experience - one that includes simple navigation and search options throughout your site.

In this blog our partner, SearchSpring, dives deep into the numbers behind driving traffic to your site, and explains how you might be looking at those numbers all wrong.

Why Site Search and Navigation Matter

In recent months, the e-commerce industry has seen mobile technology creep into a double-digit market share for online sales. Consumers that are purchasing goods online via tablet and smartphones have now eclipsed 12% of yearly-spent revenue. In recent years, online sales have grown abundantly into a $1.2 trillion-dollar market. Since 2008, the U.S. e-commerce industry has more than DOUBLED from $31 billion up to $71.2 billion in Q1 of this year.

Amazingly, with the amount of spending online and its continual growth, e-tailers are still meandering through social media, SEO and other online marketing trends to improve the bottom line. Don’t get me wrong; these channels can be used to build strong brands and sales funnels. It’s the “getting more traffic” focus of the marketers that’s confusing.

Why focus on such a broad unruly metric? Sure, bigger traffic numbers mean more sales, but any business can do that. More traffic is not a differentiator.

It’s great that more traffic improves revenue, but what about all of the steps in between engagement and conversion? Many online marketers look at the entire pool of opportunity, then correlate that back to their conversion rate and say, “We’re going to make ‘X’ more if we can get ‘Y’ more traffic." Well, that’s fabulous. Let’s stop wasting time and put all our apples in the traffic generation bucket. We’re guaranteed to win, right?

Wrong! It’s harmful to the business in many ways. The customer has been forgotten in this decision.

Let’s Do Some Math!

If a fashion retailer wanted to grow into new markets and they were tallying 1,000,000 visits a month, a 50% website bounce rate, converting 2% of visitors and recording monthly revenue of $100,000, this breaks down to (on average):

(1,000,000 visits x 0.50) * (0.02) = 10,000 purchases with $100k in sales
- Traffic: Per-visit Value = $0.10

- Conversion: Rate = 2%

- Conversion: Average Order Value = $10
- Opportunity Lost: Bounce rate = 50%

Using the increased traffic model, we can predict if we double the traffic, we double the revenue. Excellent, right? Just dial up those pay-per-click ads, get the blog posts rolling, and printing money is just around the corner. Let’s open the floodgates…

The problem with this model is its inability to see an opportunity in the sales funnel, unless it’s directly correlated to a “visit” or a “conversion.” The model uses the biggest spread of possible traffic at the top of the funnel, and forecasts revenue based on the bottom of the funnel conversion rate, totally missing out on mid-funnel KPI’s that improve business performance alongside customer satisfaction and loyalty.

For the sake of numbers, let’s say the fashion retailer spends $10k a month on marketing for the traffic they generate now. So, they’re getting a million visits to the website for ten thousand dollars. We’ve already established the revenue model, so let’s go ahead and double it.

(2,000,000 visits x 0.50) * (0.02) = 20,000 purchases with $200k in sales
- Traffic: Per-visit Value = $0.10

- Conversion: Rate = 2%

- Conversion: Average Order Value = $10 

- Opportunity Lost: Bounce rate = 50%
- Costs (per month) 

Total Traffic Generation = $20,000

Looks pretty good, but notice how the investment into traffic never changed the per-visit value, average order value, or bounce rates on the website. The only two performance metrics used for gauging success are the numbers representing traffic and revenue (top and bottom). It is a great design if you’re an advertising company, or don’t give a crap about your customers. Also, this is a prime case for quantity over quality in e-commerce. 

Let’s do More Math! 

Now, again for simplicity, let’s say the fashion retailer is using a reputable shopping cart with no additional technology. They’re just using a shopping cart, with an attractive design and well-displayed product images. They’ve identified their opportunity and conversion rate, but this time, rather than use more traffic they leverage technology for better optimization. 

Using the same conversion numbers as before, after implementing site search technology, the retailer identified areas of improvement in the shopping experience and updated the website to reflect the customer needs. This example is totally fictitious, but let’s use a cost of five thousand dollars a month for technology (50% of the additional PPC budget to prove my point). Using site search, the conversion rate onsite jumped a few tenths of a percent, also marginally lowering bounces.

(1,000,000 visits x 0.48) * (0.025) = 13,000 purchases with $130k in sales
- Traffic: Per-visit Value = $0.13

- Conversion: Rate = 2.5%

- Conversion: Average Order Value = $10 

- Opportunity Lost: Bounce rate = 48%
- Costs (per month)

Total Traffic Generation: $10,000
Total Search Technology: $5,000

So, just by adding better site search to the website, revenue jumped 30%, bounces dipped, and conversions bumped up, due to the ease-of-use within the website. Simply by making products more findable, the retailer improved sales dramatically. Not too bad, eh? 
Before we get too excited, There’s more: We only added better site search. Now, let’s add faceted navigation as well, to improve the experience for non-searchers who prefer to browse before purchase.

(1,000,000 visits x 0.47) * (0.029) = 15,370 purchases with $153.7k in sales
- Traffic: Per-visit Value = $0.15

- Conversion: Rate = 2.9%

- Conversion: Average Order Value = $10 

- Opportunity Lost: Bounce rate = 47%

Costs (per month)

Total Traffic Generation:$10,000
Total Search Technology: $5,000 

Notice how bettering the experience for shoppers maximizes revenue, without the need to flood more traffic through products. Shoppers have been enabled to spend more money without additional influence. Simply put, they’re finding what they’re looking for, and buying. 

So How Does Site Search Stack-up? 

We’ve boosted revenue by 50% with half the investment, lowered our bounce rates and elevated our conversion rates. Looking at the bottom line, we discovered that we have generated half the traffic for half the cost, resulting in a tossup between more traffic and better optimization. Seems like a no-brainer for the PPC team, right? Right now, “more is better” for traffic stats. 
Does optimization lose? No, not really.

Here Comes the Math Again!

Okay, now I’m pumped. Before I get too deep though, I’d like to mention the additional e-commerce solutions outside of the advanced site search, and faceted navigation that my company offers. These solutions provide many additional ways to drive revenue through on-site optimization, social merchandising and m-commerce. We have tons to offer!

Additionally, I’d like to mention our merchandising really quick. Combine our merchandising solutions with our learning search, and navigation improves average order values by as much as 250%, with typical averages around 30% of additional per-purchase revenue.

Which changes the equation to:

(1,000,000 visits x 0.47) * (0.029) = 15,370 purchases with $199.8k in sales
- Traffic: Per-visit Value = $0.15

- Conversion: Rate = 2.9%

- Conversion: Average Order Value = $13 

- Opportunity Lost: Bounce rate = 47%

Costs (per month)

Traffic Generation: $10,000
Search Technology: $5,000 

Reducing the bounce rate and increasing the AOV and CR is a continuous challenge, but with intelligent, automatable technology like SearchSpring, the value is clear. 

Huzzah! Back to the Math! 

Going back to the data, we need to think in economics of scale in regard to revenue and cost analysis. Yes, the initial model provides great returns, but comes at a continually elevating cost with lots of opportunity for wasted capital. Pumping visits across a website with a high bounce rate throws a lot of money into the fire. 
When an online business grows so does waste. Eliminating areas of wastefulness will save exponential amounts of revenue-generated capital. Let’s look at both models again: the traffic method in a five-times forecast, and the optimized funnel design in a three-times forecast. 
Additional Traffic Method x5

(5,000,000 visits x 0.50) * (0.02) = 50,000 purchases with $500k in sales
- Traffic: Per-visit Value = $0.10
- Conversion: Rate = 2%

- Conversion: Average Order Value = $10
- Opportunity Lost: Bounce rate = 50%

Initial cost of acquisition for these leads: $50,000 per month, or 10% of revenue

Optimized Funnel Method x3
(3,000,000 visits x 0.47) * (0.029) = 46,110 purchases w/ $599.4k in sales
- Traffic: Per-visit Value = $0.15

- Conversion: Rate = 2.9%

- Conversion: Average Order Value = $13 

- Opportunity Lost: Bounce rate = 47%

Costs (per month)

Traffic Generation: $30,000
Search Technology: $5,000 

Initial cost of acquisition for these leads: $35,000 per month, or 5.8% of revenue 

I hope these examples show a real value in onsite e-commerce optimization using site search and category navigation. Consumers rely on customer service to make purchases. Website technology that hinders them is, essentially, bad customer service. It’s important to look for ways to improve service and reduce costs where applicable. Don’t leave shoppers hanging with a bad experience. Instead, help them find your products and make a frictionless purchase. Who knows? Maybe they’ll keep coming back!

About SearchSpring

SearchSpring® boosts sales by unleashing findability with advanced site search and navigation for your e-commerce store. Providing faceted navigation, smart search results and IntelliSuggest® technology to lift conversions and increase speed, scalability, and intelligence. SearchSpring propels merchants to new levels of e-commerce performance by turning your website into a fire breathing, high conversion monster!

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Aloha.com: The Future of E-commerce

Posted on January 24, 2014 by Partner Post - Railsdog

Partner Post: Railsdog on the Launch of Aloha.com

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of watching a project finally take flight. After months of hard work, collaboration, discussions and yes, coffee, one of our most recent clients Aloha launched last month using the Spree Commerce Platform. We worked side by side with our integration partner Railsdog to implement the solution. Aloha’s online experience presented some unique challenges and we wanted to share some of the solutions we came up with along the way.

Telling Your Story

E-commerce has quickly become an essential component of many companies. Web savvy customers these days expect companies of all stripes and sizes to have a way to purchase their products online, but just adding a buy now button is no longer sufficient. Given the proliferation of e-commerce, I think we’re beginning to see the next generation of e-commerce, and Aloha.com is a prime example of treating an online store much more as an experience, not just a transaction.

Show and Tell

In the growing world of online retail there is more and more competition for your customer’s eyes (and their wallet), so finding ways to set your company apart is essential to developing a robust e-commerce solution. Aloha’s approach to e-commerce is part of a new emerging trend of combining great storytelling, a highly curated brand image and top shelf products into a complete online experience. They didn’t want just the traditional product detail page (PDP) with a couple images and some text. They needed to tell the Aloha story, to fully engage and educate the visitor. They wanted a PDP page not only with product details and an ‘add to cart’ button but also with rich images, video, expert testimonials, even detailed ingredient lists with images for each ingredient.

In other words, they wanted to tell the Aloha story even on the PDP. We needed to find a way to give them complete control over their product’s presentation.


Building an Experience

The Railsdog solution to a highly curated product page was to tightly integrate a CMS with the Spree Commerce Platform. That allowed us to retain all the e-commerce functionality, but give Aloha the ability to highly customize each product experience. They can update and add new elements to each product, including images, videos, ingredient lists and product experts. And it goes without saying that the rest of the site, from the home page marque to the FAQ is all driven by the CMS.

End to End

Of course integrating a CMS isn’t the only unique feature of Aloha’s site. Customers can also subscribe to the Aloha supplements and receive a monthly shipment so they never have to worry about re-ordering. And the entire product fulfillment process is seamlessly handled through the new Spree Commerce Hub, so the Aloha team can focus on telling their story and providing a great customer experience.

Thanks again for stopping by! If you would like to learn more about the CMS implementation on the Spree Commerce Platform, be sure to come to SpreeConf 2014 in New York City and speak to us about the launch of Aloha.com or how we can help your business.

About our partner: Railsdog


Railsdog is a software development shop focusing on web applications and e-commerce. Railsdog provides an engaged, collaborative process while working with innovative open-source technologies. Their goal is help you design and execute clear, coherent IT and software strategies with ease.

New spree_social extension

Posted on February 15, 2011 by Brian Quinn

Spree’s social integration has taken a great leap forward recently with the release of the spree_social extension. Development has been underway since late last year and was carried out primarily by one of the more recent Rails Dog pack members John Brien.

Current Features

The current release focuses on integrating Spree’s authenication system with major social networks and community sites, it provides the basis for several new social features to follow in the coming months. When configured users can auto-login to a Spree store using their Facebook, Twitter or GitHub accounts, with Google/GMail, LinkedIn and Yahoo! support to come soon.

Core Changes

spree_social necessitated several major core improvements including a migration to Devise (and the retirement of authlogic), which was previously released as part of Spree 0.40.0. This has given Spree a more open and extendable authenication platform that developers can now use to extend Spree in new and exciting ways.


Installation is very straightforward and well documented in the extensions README. Each authentication source can be configured via the administration system (see Configuration > Social Network Providers), and is flexible to support several combinations of providers in development and production modes.

spree_social is already in-the-wild and has been deployed in several production Spree stores, for more visit: https://github.com/spree/spree_social. You will also see it in the new and improved Spree demo which will be launching soon.

Announcing the Core Team

Posted on May 18, 2009 by Sean Schofield

I am pleased to announce the formation of an official Spree “Core Team.” The core team will be responsible for the continued maintenance and development of the Spree project, as well as assisting with our community building effort. The concept of a core team is not new - most open source projects have one (including Ruby on Rails.) The new core team members are: Brian Quinn (bdq), Paul Callaghan (paulcc) and Dale Hofkens (zzip/inifinitize).

There is also an important change to the Spree project in GitHub. The project can now be found at railsdog/spree instead of schof/spree. This shouldn’t impact too many people, since I just renamed my personal account and all of the forks and watchers should be intact. Your GitHub forks will continue to work properly but going forward you will want to clone/pull from the new repository location: git://github.com/railsdog/spree.git If you are tracking the old schof/master repository in GitHub you wil probably need to update your remote references.

For example inside of .git/config if you have a remote reference to
schof you would want to change it as follows:

<p>[remote “schof”]<br />
        url = git://github.com/schof/spree.git<br />
        fetch = +refs/heads/<strong>:refs/remotes/schof/</strong></p>

should be changed to the following

<p>[remote “railsdog”]<br />
        url = git://github.com/railsdog/spree.git<br />
        fetch = +refs/heads/<strong>:refs/remotes/railsdog/</strong></p>

Please feel free to drop us a line on the Spree mailing list if you have any troubles with the move.

You may be wondering what has prompted this change. In the past several months we have seen an explosion of interest in (and contributions to) the Spree project. We are now in the enviable position of having more contributions then can be handled by a single person. Its important that these contributions be reviewed for code quality and possible implications for the Spree community as a whole. Instead of getting bogged down with delays I’ve decided to enlist the help of these three individuals who are going to help with code review and general project leadership. Each of the new core team members has shown an excellent ability to work together as a member of a team - something that is just as important as a person’s programming ability.

You may also be curious as to what this means for my involvement in the project. I personally plan to remain very active and involved in the Spree e-commerce project. I will still be coding and I’m going to continue answer emails and IRC questions when possible. Most importantly, I will continue to provide oversight of the project and making sure that we are not straying too far from the original vision. I’m personally very excited about this step, as it allows me to offload some of the project maintenance and the entire community reaps the benefit of a faster development and release cycle. We’ve already demonstrated that we can build a pretty sweet commerce platform without a bunch of venture capital. The core team now gives us a solid foundation as we take things to the next level.