Searching Beyond the Paid

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Organizing Information, Retail-Style

I just finished reading a short yet profound post on Seth Godin's blog entitled Reorganizing for profit. He asks why retail stores are organized the way they are: by brand, then type, then style, then size. Seth says this is "dumb." Why? "It's dumb because it makes it easier for the clerk, not for the customer. And dumb because it plays to the label's ego, not to ours. Does anyone say, 'okay, even though my son wears size large boxers, these striped ones are really nice, I'll buy the small instead.' Of course not."

Why do I love this post? Well, unlike many women, I hate to shop in department stores. I haven't the time nor the money to just browse for hours, so when I do go to a store, it's because I need a particular item (or type of item, at a minimum). Nine times out of ten, I walk away empty-handed and frustrated, because either I couldn't find what I wanted at all; or I found it, but not in my size (like Seth's striped boxer example).

However, I love to shop for clothes online. Lands' End is my favorite, but there are lots of great online clothing stores out there. In a few minutes' time, it's easy to find what I want, check to see if they have it in my size, and click "buy." It's quick and easy because any good e-commerce site has navigation that makes it easy for you to find what you're looking for. Really good sites even have a "shop by size" function. If you still can't find it, you can use site search.

But there's a down side, of course: You can't try things on online. You have to order and hope for the best, and if the item doesn't fit or doesn't look good, you have to pay to send it back. And if you need something quickly, you're out of luck; or you pay through the nose for overnight delivery.

This is why I've developed a love affair with my local second-hand store. Yes, I admit it - I buy second-hand clothes. But I'm not talking Goodwill here (nothing against Goodwill, by the way) - this place has high-quality, in-style stuff, much of which is brand new with the original store tags still attached. But that's not why I love it. I love it because the entire store is set up by size. Yes, they have departments for women, men, and children; and they do have sections for each item (pants, tops, skirts, etc.); but within each section, everything is organized by size. So if I need a new dress for a party, I go to the dress area of the women's department, and then go right to the rack for my size. No disappointment in finding the perfect dress, only to discover they don't have my size in stock.

Granted, I've gotten huge deals at this store, but my love for it goes beyond bargain-shopping. Until today, I couldn't put my finger on why. I now realize it's because it's so quick and easy for me to shop there. The navigation is ideal. The information is organized and accessible.

How does this relate to search marketing? Well, one of the key reasons search marketing works is because, when done properly, it gives people what they're looking for. Creating good ad copy, along with targeted landing pages and site navigation, makes it quick and easy for the online shopper. Google has formed an entire business with the mission of "organizing the world's information, and making it easily accessible and useful." Some can argue that they've strayed from this mission recently, but the fact remains that Google's success is due to their making it easy for people to find what they want.

Traditional retailers can (and should) take a lesson from this.



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