How PacSun gets shoppers to spend more time on its site

February 1, 2016 06:30 AM


Pacific Sunwear is helping shoppers more easily find what they want on and keeping them on site longer since improving its site search function and adding personalization features, the retailer says.

The chain retailer of youth apparel also achieved a double-digit percentage increase in organic search traffic within the first three months of deploying BloomReach Corp.’s personalization platform, PacSun says. That platform has several components and aims to boost personalized site search, navigation and product results while improving how a retailer shows up in organic results on search engines. PacSun declined to say how much longer shoppers are staying on since it deployed the technology.

PacSun, No. 338 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, upgraded its site search and site personalization capabilities that anticipate a shopper’s query as she types it. “We have thousands of products and 2 million pages on the PacSun website, and it can be a challenge for shoppers to find exactly what they want,” says Nathan Liu, vice president of e-commerce for PacSun.

“Before this upgrade, we didn’t have the predictive capability—similar to a Google search—to offer predictive suggestions when a shopper started typing,” Liu says. “Now, when a shopper types 'dresses' into the search field, the BloomReach software produces the most-relevant terms, like mini dresses, maxi dresses or black dresses, personalized to shoppers. It leads consumers down a path that identifies the shopper’s intent.”

For example, when a shopper arrives on a landing page that contains 12 products, the software detects patterns in how the shopper navigates around the site—clicking from product to product—learning her preferences and intent, says BloomReach chief marketing officer Joelle Kaufman. From there, the software analyzes product attributes to personalize what the site displays to each shopper. 

“If the shopper clicked on a man’s denim jacket after searching for jackets, it tells the machine to elevate other men’s denim jackets to show to that shopper, rather than a woman’s motorcycle jacket,” Kaufman says.

PacSun is among 171 online retailers that use BloomReach software. They include competitors Forever 21 (No. 306), and American Eagle (No. 75) as well as others like Wayfair (No. 33), Williams-Sonoma Inc. (No. 20) and Neiman Marcus (No. 43). While some customers use part of the BloomReach platform, PacSun uses all three of the vendor's products on its personalization platform: BloomReach Commerce Organic Search, Commerce Search and Compass Site Merchandising.

Although PacSun says it continuously optimized its site for search engines, BloomReach's organic search application helped identify more opportunities, such as creating high-quality subcategory pages, to get PacSun’s site and products to rank higher in searches.

“Organic search is one of our biggest channels to acquire new customers, and it’s a meaningful part of our business, so we were certainly pleased with the result,” Liu says.

In a controlled test over 90 days, PacSun measured the organic traffic and organic revenue generated from pages on the retailer’s website using BloomReach’s software and compared them with pages not using the software. The pages targeted by BloomReach’s organic search materially outperformed the control group pages that didn’t use the targeting software in both traffic and revenue, Kaufman says. BloomReach does not publicly disclose such results, she says.

BloomReach’s is a software-as-a-service technology provider, meaning it hosts the software that clients access via the web, rather than hosting in their own data centers. The company says it uses more than 29 algorithms that analyze shopping behavior from 75 million consumers a month across its clients' web, tablet and mobile sites.  The technology plugs into PacSun's e-commerce platform, provided by Demandware inc.


The platform’s ability to understand a shopper’s preferences is especially important for PacSun because its shoppers tend to change trends and brands quickly, Liu says. “Their past behavior often doesn’t match their current intent. We need to know their most recent purchase intent.”











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