Saturday, 23 June 2012

Fix cross-functional before you try do cross-channel

Having singled-out River Island rather unfairly in the last post, another interesting site issue in which they appear to be in rather elite company.

Their home page featured a rather nice promotion "after dark":

Maybe I'm just not your typical customer, but I did an obvious thing and typed "after dark" into the search box.:

and there it is... no search results. Sloppy, but is this just River Island, who to be fair are hardly a top 10 internet retailer? Let's take a look at a few who are.

Marks and Spencer, for example. Here it is, big banner for an event named "shwopping":

But apparently the M&S search doesn't believe in this nonsense. Instead it thinks I've mistyped the word "shopping" and, better still, helpfully offers to sell me a dictionary to help my spelling:

Maybe this is connected with having their site running on Amazon's system. I'm going to spare you the screenshots, but Amazon is currently running a "summer of sport" promo on my version of its homepage; entering "summer of sport" in their search just offers me some obscure Kindle-only book with this name, followed by a digital camera.

Debenhams goes one better, or rather worse, by apparently not believing in the existence of its own sale event. Here's the home page...

and here are the search results for "half price sale":

"Did you mean halo price sale?" Well no I didn't actually. And I certainly don't want to see a pathetic 2 items, both on discounted promo but neither at half price.

The point of all this is that these sites just don't seem to have their internal teams working together. In most retailers online merchandising and marketing, search, and product data admin are owned by separate functional areas. A typical set up would be to have these three tasks owned by web-merchandising, IT and category management respectively, although it varies in each retailer I've ever worked with. And quite clearly in River Island, Debenhams and M&S, they aren't speaking to each other.

By contrast lets look at a couple who get it right, in two different ways. First of all John Lewis's clearance event. Homepage banner:

And search results for "clearance":

Very simple and effective: the search just drops you straight onto the clearance page. Minimum  site maintenance effort, maximum customer journey coherence.

Finally, Tesco Direct, which goes the whole hog. Again first the banner:

and now the search results for "summer of sport":

Someone has gone to the effort of tagging every one of these 73 products in their product master data with "summer of sport", their search algorithm has been adjusted to prioritise the phrase, and the whole thing coordinated with site merchandising. Full marks for both effort and results, for getting the basics right, and evidently for having a proper cross-functional team managing (and testing!) it all.

Full marks also for recognising that site & search admin is a time consuming, labour intensive task and managing it. It's analogous to refilling the shelves and sweeping the floors in your brick-and-mortar stores: difficult to automate, human-intensive, but an essential success factor.

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