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Engaging Your Customers Through Content Discovery and Exploration
By Rob Swint

The expectations of your online visitors are becoming more sophisticated each day. Your customers visit your site for a wide range of reasons. Some come to find general information. Some have a specific goal in mind. Others are less sure and are looking for a recommendation or just want to browse around for something that fits their situation or needs. In their search they demand a variety of content – video, blogs, articles, reviews, product information, etc. – and expect it to be tailored to their specific interests. But if these visitors lose interest quickly they will just open a new window and proceed quickly to any of the dozens of competing websites born each day, each vying for that visitor’s attention (e.g. media websites) or wallet (retail websites). 

Clearly the new metric for online success in this environment is audience engagement.   The challenge is to showcase just the right information in the moment your customer is searching for it – or to help them discover it among the wide range of rapidly changing information. And you want the experience to be robust but also easy to understand and interactive so when your customers find content they want — and perhaps even discover new information they didn’t know existed – they become more engaged in their online experience and, in turn, transition from site visitors into loyal customers.

Currently, traditional search engines don’t give users the ability to search for information in an intuitive way. Within content-rich sites, this is problematic as there is often relevant, engaging material that most visitors never find. Best-in-class capabilities such as Guided Navigation (also known as faceted search), tag clouds, customer reviews, and content spotlighting help meet this challenge so that customers can explore and discover content throughout a site.

The user experience created by technology solutions such as Endeca’s help the discovery process by revealing relationships between pieces of content, and ensuring the content displayed is always relevant to the visitor’s interests. The result is a more targeted and satisfying user experience, which leads to increased site traffic and conversion rates.  For example, a visitor to Kiddicare.com can interchangeably browse products by attribute, rating, or consumer sentiment, because technology can identify the relationships between these various sources of information to help a user narrow the content.  As a shopper browses the site for an item, such as “carriers,” the available options are flanked by both traditional product refinement criteria (price range, brand, and color) as well as refinements related to customer reviews.

Customer reviews are becoming increasingly popular, as they are one of the best ways to engage visitors and convert them into customers. Kiddicare.com’s reviews use ratings and descriptive terms created by fellow shoppers to classify items and then present new shoppers with options for refinement. This is effective in driving conversion because shoppers who aren’t sure which product to purchase can gain confidence by seeing “what did others like me purchase?”  When visitors click on the product refinements, the terms in the tag cloud and 5-star rating dynamically update to reflect reviews for those specific products.  The visitor’s search is now refined down to a manageable list of desirable options, and they will be more likely to complete their purchase and become a return customer.

Another way to encourage deeper discovery and exploration within a site is a technique called dynamic landing pages.  By building in some basic rules into the search page, a business user (i.e. non-techie) can automatically generate customized landing pages that are triggered  by search terms and present targeted content, such as photo galleries, articles, banner images, videos, and topical search results. This technique also provides opportunities for your partners to supply content, such as paid advertising, that is more targeted to the visitor’s specific search.

As you can see, each of the above suggestions is enhanced by relevant content. Oftentimes, online businesses have much more data that could be added to their site, were it not for integration issues. But with a search application such as Endeca’s, this is easily handled.  With Endeca, you can use content from any source, internal or external, to add a robust, deep quality of content to a site.

Robert Swint is the Director of Product Marketing at Endeca Technologies, a search applications company. Endeca delivers software that helps people make better daily decisions from large volumes of diverse and changing information, which in retail means it helps customers find what they are looking for faster and make better buying choices.

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