Live from ETail 2002: Talbots finds success with searches

Boston–Apparel cataloger/retailer Talbots came relatively late to the online game, not launching until November 1999. But the company has made up for lost time in part by using its search engine functionality to improve several major Web metrics. Jan Linert, Talbots’s manager of online, discussed the marketer’s strategy during a Aug. 6 session here at ETail 2002.

Off the bat, Talbots was able to double the number of customers using the search function simply by placing the search button on its home page. The company wanted the search function to act as a virtual sales associate, Linert said–to be as accessible and helpful as a sales associate in a store or on the phone.

With the goal of increasing the time customers spend on the site, increasing the average order size, promoting sale items, and boosting retention, Talbots outsourced its search functionality to online search provider EasyAsk in March. The enhanced search feature, Linert said, now allows customers to drill down to the correct item or items in fewer steps—often in just one step.

Since March, Linert said, the number of searches on the Talbots site has soared 267%; the conversion rate increased 34%, and the average order value rose 18%.

Linert gave some words of advice to i.merchants who want to enhance their online search functions: Put the search button in the same location on every page; create an error page with concise instructions to assist customers and prevent them from abandoning problematic searches; and analyze online traffic records to better understand how visitors use your search function.