Case Profile: Costume Collection’s Site Search Overhaul

By Sam Gopal | 19 May 2015

Costume Collection’s search had a tendency to return very poor results, causing customers to believe they didn’t carry the products they were looking for. CIO Ming Malaykham tells Power Retail how the company rectified the issue.

Search optimisation is integral when it comes to increasing conversions and maximising stickiness on your e-commerce site, whether you’re a start-up or establshed online player. Yet it’s an area often overlooked, relegated to a lower priority despite its potential to dramatically alter an online retailer’s bottom line.

Understanding exactly what’s going on behind the site search box is a key means of competitive advantage in the Australian online retail space, as it helps drive a deeper understanding of how to leverage ‘searchandising’ and other vital strategic tools to improve conversion rates. So continuous improvement in refining this area is crucial.

Making site search a top line priority became a core focus for online retailer Costume Collection, whose bottom line was being badly effected by poor search results and high bounce rates of around 80 percent. By implementing new technology, it hoped to keep potential customers on its site and, in turn, increase sales.

CIO of Costume Collection Ming Malaykham chatted to Power Retail on how enhancing an e-commerce store’s search function can keep customers on site and convert them into buyers, and how the benefits can be realised on the bottom line.

Can you provide a little background on Costume Collection?

Based out of Sydney, Costume Collection is a pureplay retailer of costumes and fancy dresses focusing on the Australian market. With one of the largest online collection of costumes online, Costume Collection prides itself on positive customer feedback rated by over 20,000 customer responses.

How has the business developed since launching?

Since launching in 2009 our business has grown into one of the most successful online costume retailers and has moved from being an eBay operation to primarily selling on’ve also moved from only selling women’s fancy dresses to selling a massive range of men’s costumes, women’s costumes, kids’ costumes and accessories.

Can you describe your business model?

Our business model is focused on providing higher quality unique costumes with more sizing options than our competitors, supplied from our Australian base.

What are you doing in the m-commerce space?

As Australia has the highest smartphone penetration in the world, we realised quickly that having a optimised mobile shopping experience was essential. We’ve had an adaptive mobile website for almost two years and are currently working on an even better mobile experience. Watch this space!

How do you market your offering?

We focus on search, shopping comparison and social networks.

Who takes care of your technological needs, and how have you managed to turn things around when it comes to your site search functionality?

Development and marketing is done in house to allow our company to be more responsive and efficient. However, we do work closely with our essential technology providers such as Nextopia (search), Zopim (chat) and Magento (e-commerce platform).

Poor search results were causing us extraordinary bounce rates and has been an issue we’ve had to work closely with Nextopia on in order to enhance the customer experience and improve the site’s tendency to return poor results. The backend reporting also gives us invaluable insight into our customers’ behaviour and what our customers are searching for.

By implementing site search technology, we’ve experienced a drastic drop in our bounce rate, from 80 percent to 20 percent. With customers now able to find exactly what they’re looking for, we’ve also boosted our other key metrics – our overall revenue increased by 20 percent, our sales and conversions both increased by 15 percent, our average order value increased by 10 percent, our customer time-on-site increased by 10 percent, our search-to-exit rate decreased by 25 percent and our daily searches performed increased by a whopping 400 percent!

Needless to say, implementing the technology provided tremendous return on investment, all while increasing customer satisfaction, with our customer service team receiving less questions about whether we have a particular product (when we do) as the search is producing good results.

What challenges does selling online present?

Online retail is an extremely competitive space and you are exposed to a worldwide market. It is more important than ever to give customers a reason why they should buy from a trusted established Australian online retailer with local operations over foreign online retailers and fly-by-night drop shipping operations.

What lies ahead for Costume Collection?

We are currently working hard on improving the shopping experience on our website, in particular mobile and having smarter adaptive merchandising. Mobile internet traffic in Australia already accounts for 40 percent of visits and we see this moving even higher. Do people even use a desktop anymore?

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