E-commerce Expert Ryan Finley: Why Collaboration and Good Product Data are Key to Robust Site Search

Ryan Finley on search and findability

In today’s digital age, the success of e-commerce platforms hinges not only on whether it has an intuitive interface but also on the robust search functionalities that can direct consumers to relevant results with minimum fuss and high accuracy. Ryan Finley is the Senior Manager of E-commerce Search and Findability at Ferguson Enterprises.

In a recent episode of The E-commerce Toolbox: Expert Perspectives, Ryan spoke with Kailin Noivo and shared his wealth of experience and insights into optimizing e-commerce search, emphasizing the role of collaboration. He also delved into the limitations of AI in enhancing search functionalities. Roles focused on Search are fascinating ones that require lots of collaboration, and a big part of the position is about educating colleagues and bringing people up to speed on really what search involves.

The Importance of Collaboration in Search

Ryan begins by highlighting the pivotal role of collaboration in driving successful search operations within e-commerce. And though he has worked with many different departments and done so successfully throughout his career, for Ryan, it is the synergy that can exist between search and merchandising departments that is most important to nurture and get right.

As far as Ryan is concerned, if you work on search and findability in a silo, separated from the goals of merchandising or the rest of the company, you are setting yourself up to lose.

If you can successfully align search objectives with merchandising goals, it ensures that search results will meet customer expectations while supporting those all-important business objectives.

Ryan also has a word of warning for situations where search is entirely embedded within merchandising. In these situations he stresses a need to be aware of the danger that search goals are swallowed and overwhelmed by the promotional goals of the merchandising department.

As Ryan explains, if a customer searches for Women’s Dresses, you better show them Women’s Dresses right there at the top of the search and not Women’s Jeans just because that’s what the company is looking to push at that particular moment.

When to Create a Specialized Search Department

As e-commerce businesses scale, the question of when to establish a dedicated search team will start to rear its head, and getting that decision right is extremely important. Ryan shared his thoughts on when to do this on this episode. He emphasizes that although the amount of SKUs your company is important, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. “It’s not necessarily just about volume or how many SKUs you have” he explains.

Ryan Finley on creating a specialized search department

Although, of course, if you have more SKUs it will be very useful to have a dedicated search department. But this becomes irrelevant if you don’t have the people power or the relevant skills in your company to actually execute the set-up of this new department. Ryan’s experience underscores that business must evaluate their operational capacity to effectively manage a specialized Search team.

Look at your numbers, and make a decision – can you and they meet the demands of your e-commerce platform, or will you and they be overstretched?

Limitations of AI in E-Commerce Search

Artificial Intelligence holds a lot of promise for transforming e-commerce search through automation and enhanced personalization. It’s clear that there’s so much excitement and the possibilities are being discussed all the time.

Ryan provides an interesting counterpoint and a valuable reality check when it comes to search. His slightly alternative perspective is that there are still too many limitations currently with AI for it to be of much use to people in his position.

“AI needs more time to cook” he suggests. He points out that while AI can automate tasks like product recommendations, it often fails to grasp the nuanced preferences of consumers.

People, that is to say, human professionals know that when people search for products online, browsing options are at least part of the experience. AI may overlook the customers’ preference for taking a look at multiple options before selecting a product.

With this in mind, Ryan advocates for a cautious approach to AI adoption in e-commerce search, highlighting the importance of human oversight in interpreting customer intent accurately.

Ryan Finley on limitations of AI

Ryan Finley’s expertise offers valuable insights into navigating the complexities of e-commerce search. From the importance of collaborative efforts across departments to the strategic considerations of establishing specialized search teams, and the evolving role of AI, Ryan’s perspective provides a comprehensive view of optimizing search functionalities in e-commerce. Whether you’re a seasoned e-commerce professional or exploring ways to enhance your platform’s search capabilities, this episode provides actionable insights to drive meaningful improvements.

Listen to the Full Episode Below!

Listen to this episode of The E-commerce Toolbox: Expert Perspectives with Ryan Finley and Kailin Noivo to discover just what a career in search looks like and the challenges that go along with it:

👉 Apple: https://apple.co/3z6X4fb

👉 Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3zaXPEc

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