Jam selectionsAll channels considered, email and search are the two most widely ones used on the web. They are also two of the most heavily spammed. And for many retailers, some of the most misunderstood. (See our most recent cartoon: Email Offer)  As you may know, over the holidays we conducted a shopping survey* to find out how customers felt about the online shopping experience. Here are a few best practices to incorporate into your customer channels.

1. Provide a customized search engine that works

According to our survey, retailers have a lot of room to improve when it comes to helping shoppers find the products they are looking for. The number one concern for consumers* was that when searching for a product on a retailer’s search engine they are shown too many different products to choose from. This lack of personalization results in a busy array of content, confused buyers and high bounce rates.

2. Avoid generic landing pages

After clicking on a scarf your customer is interested in purchasing, they’re directed to a landing page of all the accessories you offer. We think this all too common scenario a little backwards and your customers will agree. Over the holidays, 34% of consumers ended up on generic home pages instead of the specific product page they were looking for through search. Make sure to connect the products themselves with the appropriate landing pages, respectively. For more practice advice on how to create landing pages that drive sales, check out our article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

3. Personalize the customer experience

Once the customer is on your page, it’s key that you keep them there. How do you keep them from searching yourcompetitor.com? Provide relevant and recommended content to what they are searching for in the first place. 22% of those surveyed found that not only were the search box results poor but it was difficult to find content they liked. By understanding buyer intent, and offering products your buyer may be interested in, you are optimizing the customer experience and increasing the chances that the consumer will find what they are looking for (and possibly a pair of matching socks).

4. Send emails that relate to things the customer might actually want to buy

As our cartoon demonstrates, sometimes emails offer you things you were interested in 10 years ago or that only your old aunt Betty would consider buying at a high discount. This can lead to disinterested readers and high unsubscription rates. On the other hand, if customer emails are personalized enough to provide content that fits the individual’s preferences, your email engagement and conversion rates will increase. And, proven conversion? Well, that’s just an email marketer’s dream.

*The Baynote Annual survey included 1,032 completed surveys and was conducted between cyber Monday and Christmas Eve.