Web­site vis­i­tors who use site search to find what they’re look­ing for rep­re­sent a golden oppor­tu­nity for dig­i­tal marketers—no other type of activ­ity directly tells you as much about a visitor’s inter­ests. To cap­i­tal­ize on the power of per­son­al­ized search, mar­keters need an enterprise-class site search solu­tion that’s designed for busi­ness peo­ple to use. Be wary of solu­tions that are lim­ited to just improv­ing site search with no way to per­form mer­chan­dis­ing or pro­mo­tions. Most mar­keters will also want to steer clear of offer­ings that require exten­sive on-premises deploy­ments and IT involvement.

Here are five char­ac­ter­is­tics to look for in an enterprise-class site search and mer­chan­dis­ing solution:

1. Rapid and reli­able imple­men­ta­tion. It’s much eas­ier to imple­ment a cloud solu­tion than an on-premises solu­tion, because there’s no need to pur­chase and main­tain hard­ware. Cloud-based site search solu­tions offer faster setup and a sim­pli­fied learn­ing curve, so you won’t get mired in an IT project. Reg­u­lar fea­ture releases and upgrades are accom­plished behind-the-scenes with no IT involve­ment, increas­ing reli­a­bil­ity. When eval­u­at­ing cloud solu­tions, how­ever, be sure to select one that offers enterprise-class secu­rity and reliability.

2. Sim­ple, cost-effective scal­a­bil­ity. Cloud solu­tions are also eas­ier to scale, and usu­ally offer higher avail­abil­ity than an on-premises deploy­ment (unless expen­sive clus­ter­ing solu­tions are involved in the lat­ter, which quickly drive up costs). Keep in mind that your con­tent and index­ing needs will grow—with a cloud-based solu­tion, you can sim­ply increase your desired capac­ity, instead of deploy­ing new hard­ware. Dis­trib­uted orga­ni­za­tions with mul­ti­ple offices and global cus­tomers should seri­ously con­sider a cloud solu­tion to avoid latency issues and keep CAPEX and OPEX costs under control.

3. A sin­gle, straight­for­ward inter­face. Hav­ing a sin­gle inter­face for busi­ness users and admin­is­tra­tors sim­pli­fies both use and man­age­ment. A built-in stag­ing envi­ron­ment is also handy, allow­ing dig­i­tal mar­keters to eas­ily test and pre­view opti­miza­tion changes with­out requir­ing addi­tional setup and IT resources. Look for built-in fea­tures such as search-as-you-type func­tion­al­ity; they’re not offered as stan­dard in all solutions.

4. Supe­rior mar­keter con­trol. Mar­keters need the abil­ity to acti­vate and sus­pend busi­ness rules, adjust rule weights and rank­ing rel­e­vance, and apply results-based trig­gers. They need to be able to mod­ify ban­ner mes­sages and images based on search results. Many site search prod­ucts offer only lim­ited mar­keter con­trol, effec­tively tying your hands and keep­ing you from get­ting the most rev­enue from site searches.

5. Inte­gra­tion with other cloud-based mar­ket­ing tools. In pre­vi­ous blogs, we’ve empha­sized that “opti­miza­tion doesn’t hap­pen in iso­la­tion.” Site search solu­tions that inte­grate with other data sources (Face­book likes, page views, pro­file infor­ma­tion) and ana­lyt­ics engines allow deeper insight into user behav­ior and seg­ments. With some site search prod­ucts, inte­gra­tion requires addi­tional devel­op­ment and cost, and even then func­tion­al­ity can be lim­ited. The site search/merchandising capa­bil­ity within Adobe Tar­get inte­grates with the rest of Adobe Mar­ket­ing Cloud, giv­ing mar­keters full access to web­site met­rics to opti­mize rules and increase rel­e­vancy in search results. Increased rel­e­vance and per­son­al­iza­tion leads to higher con­ver­sions, the name of the game.

No other site search/merchandising solu­tion is able to address all five of these require­ments the way Adobe Tar­get can. We’ve taken into con­sid­er­a­tion these best prac­tices to develop a truly enterprise-class, cloud-based site search and opti­miza­tion tool that inte­grates with many of our other prod­ucts to give mar­keters what they need to drive the most rev­enue from site search.

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