Water Filters Direct sells water filters for refrigerators, water softeners and reverse osmosis systems directly to businesses and consumers over the Internet at WaterFilters.net. Jamin Arvig, director of business development, tells how the company, started in 2002 in Zumbrota, Minn., increased the conversion rate for sales to online customers by 11 percent by deploying a custom search engine.
Elizabeth Wasserman: Why did you decide to use custom search?
Jamin Arvig: The search tools we had used in the past. .were okay during the stage we were in. We used tools that just did have limitations. They didn’t have customizable features for one. And, for two, they tended to get bogged down as our site grew. As we had more and more pages and we wanted to have more and more capabilities in the search, it became necessary to move to Google Custom Business Search Engine. I think it was cheaper too. It’s $100 a year. It provides great functionality some of which we haven’t gotten into yet. It gets more into the custom features and refinement capability with the search and Ajax and XML programming abilities. For now, we’ve taken advantage of their basic set, which is much better than anything else out here. Their basic set includes a search of a number of sites. So we can actually tie together our blog, forum and our main website, or other peripheral sites or even any other water filter resources on the Web. We can tie all of that together and if someone searches on our site, it shows search results from any of those pages. That’s very useful. It shows up as a very professional list of results.
Wasserman: What does it help your customers do?
Arvig: We have a very large number of products. We have thousands of products. We try to maintain a very organized site as it is, for those who are browsing. So if they are looking for a refrigerator water filter, we have an easy way that they can find it while browsing. But when you have that many products, it’s really nice to have a search option. People like to search. I don’t have the exact stats, but I believe it’s over 50 percent who choose to use the search box rather than go through the traditional browsing method. If you have a good search results format, they can very quickly find what they are looking for. At the size our website is now, we didn’t have a choice. We need a search.
Wasserman: Were people having a hard time finding what they wanted in the past?
Arvig: Yeah. We’ve always had some search so we did try different search engines. At first, when we didn’t have it, people had a lot of trouble and it just wasn’t practical. But even when we had a search engine that wasn’t a very good one, people were having trouble. We were overloading our last search engine, the results were not correct. Even employees were having trouble finding the right water filters.
Wasserman: How did you set it up?
Arvig: The set up didn’t require programming or CIO work. The way the set up is is very simple. Google lays it out so a monkey can do it. It’s got a step-by-step process. You need some technical background. It’s not like you need to know programming. It probably took a couple of hours – not a big investment.
Wasserman: What have the results been?
Arvig: We do use Google Analytics, which is a nice tool for monitoring results. We noticed there was a decrease of our bounce rate — when someone comes to your site and leaves right away that’s a bounce. Obviously we want to decrease that as much as possible. We credit a 4 percent bounce rate decrease from this custom search. Another thing we look for on Google Analytics for our website is the conversion rate. The conversion rate is, say 10,000 people come to WaterFiltes.net per day and we have a conversation rate of 10 percent, we would have 1,000 sales. Our conversation rate increased so that’s great. We credit the increase at 11 percent during that period following starting the custom search. It really does facilitate user friendliness, which is what we were going for. Our slogan is “Water filters made easy,” and we have to stand by that so we want to use the best tools possible.