In a recent article on the BBC news website, online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe claimed that spelling mistakes are costing UK etailers millions of pounds a year in lost revenues. Credibility is everything when it comes to converting visitors to customers in your online shop, and bad spelling does little to convince the public that you are a trustworthy and professional organisation. Mathias Duda, head of UK opperations at FACT-Finder, explains why the problem may be worse than predicted…
“When you sell or communicate on the internet, 99% of the time it is done by the written word,” says Duncombe. And with around six seconds to make an impression with your ecommerce site, this means that any spelling errors can have a very damaging effect on this.
However, the problem goes much further than this and the frightening reality is that Duncombe’s estimates may only be the tip of the iceberg. Incorrect spelling not only affects people’s opinion of your site, but it also affects their ability to find the products that they are looking for. And this is only likely to become worse as brands spread their global footprint and open their sites up to cross-border trading, and, therefore, people searching in languages, which are not their mother tongue.
It also goes to highlight the need for etailers to incorporate error tolerant searching into their site functionality. At present, too many online stores do not have search functions that can cope with even the most common product misspelling such as “fischer-price” instead of “fisher-price”, or “chocolat” instead of “chocolate”.
Indeed, our research among the 1,000-plus European retailers we work with at FACT-Finder has shown that 30-40% of search queries are spelled differently to the product listings. In one week, for example, we found over 80 different misspellings of the word Birkenstock – for a retailer selling shoes, this is powerful information.
The lack of any “longtail” functionality, where provided a misspelling is similar enough to the entries in the database the search will still return the correct product, could already be resulting in billions of pounds in lost revenue a year for online retailers. And this is only set to rise as cross border trading increases.
With a range of search products now available as out of the box solutions or as software as a service (SaaS), this type of search functionality is not reserved for the Amazons and Tescos of this world, and is well within the reach of even small online shops. So businesses can at least solve part of the problem. Fixing the nation’s issues with basic literacy is of far greater concern and will take considerably more effort.
By Mathias Duda
Head of UK Operations