AI-powered relevance and automated product exposure shaped by business goals delivers significant annualised sales increase and promises more to come.
Although Studio Retail (Formerly Express Gifts) migrated its two e-commerce brands - studio.co.uk and ace.co.uk - to a new commerce platform in 2016 it still faced a series of challenges.
Craig Elwell, Head of Digital Transformation at Studio Retail, explains what an AI-powered search and merchandising solution has done for their business.
Limitations of Search
Accounting for 70% of all navigational traffic and a big chunk of sales – due to the scale of the product offering - search was unwieldy and delivering a patchy customer experience.
The search we had in place simply couldn’t cope with our 50,000 product, multi-category catalogue, explained Craig Elwell, Head of Digital Transformation.
The manual nature of the solution, which relied on rules to govern everything, was simply not scalable or showing the right product at the right time and limited our ability to provide the best customer experience and react to trends.
Move to Mobile Adds Urgency
Meanwhile, shoppers’ increasing tendency to use mobile devices meant finding a solution was becoming urgent.
Of the 70% of our customers who use search, 70% shop online using mobile devices Craig commented. In that context, it’s even more important for us to deliver a superior search experience. There’s less screen real estate to play with so relevance is very important. It’s vital in the limited screen space available to show shoppers the right products at the right time, every time.
We looked at a number of options but most only offered a temporary fix; we needed a solution capable of transforming search, not just fixing it.
The AI-driven Solution
Instead, Craig looked to the market for a search solution able to address all these issues.
We looked at a number of possibilities, but most were rules-based. They offered a solution of sorts, but not the step-change we really wanted, Craig explained.
The option that stood out was Apptus eSales. It offered powerful AI and intelligent automation across everything from search to category listing and faceted navigation.
On top of that, the built-in options to apply the same automated AI driven product exposure capabilities across everything from recommendations and navigation to ads, coupled with automation of strategies to optimise product exposure for business goals like conversion and profit, Apptus eSales puts Studio Retail several steps ahead of its competitors.
The team at Apptus were supremely confident that eSales would transform our search and deliver conversion gains immediately, Craig said. AI-powered automation guided by high level business goals would mean no more rules to manage, greater trend sensitivity and the opportunity to redeploy resource to more strategically valuable tasks. The business case was compelling.
The promise of a fully-supported, painless transition was the final deciding factor, and Studio Retail started using Apptus eSales for search from April 2018.
Although it’s early days yet, the results have been positive. As a result, customers now get a far better experience, all driven by AI in real time, and it shows in the numbers.
Apptus has absolutely smashed the projected uplift target, Craig explained. Search conversion improvement is well above the 5% projected and expected to drive significant annualised sales increases.
Trend Sensitive. Highly Efficient
The benefits do not end with pure, day to day search performance and listing relevance. Apptus eSales reacts to trends in real time, using big data analysis and customer context to instantly adapt search result sort order - boosting trending products to the top of search rankings. What’s more, it has made good on its promise to end resource hungry manual intervention.
“Thanks to eSales, our sites react to trends in real time, without any manual intervention. Overall, that delivers more sales, lowers costs and delivers a better customer experience. All of those things are vital in this tough trading environment where putting the customer at the heart of what we do is key and providing them with the best shopping experience. Apptus eSales facilitates this and puts Studio Retail in a strong trading position,” Craig pointed out.
The Heart of the Customer Experience
I’ve been blown away by the impact of Apptus eSales, Craig said. It has performed far beyond expectations and provides a strong competitive advantage. It is clear that AI has a place at the heart of the focus on customer experience, not just at the periphery.