There is famous quote in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that goes, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose . . . By any other name would smell as sweet.”
It has become a common way to convey that what something is called is much less important than what it actually is. And this is perhaps true, unless you’re shopping on the internet.
With the increase of shopping via e-commerce the last several years, a trend that has dramatically accelerated in the age of COVID-19, what something is called and how well that aligns with how consumers look for it can mean the difference success or failure, between major sales or major closeouts.
This is particularly true in the accent business where products are often designed to offer multiple functions and enable consumers to use them in myriad places throughout the home.
Take for example an entertainment console. In the bygone era of large tube TVs, “entertainment centers” were massive, deep and configured to handle cord management, and both television and stereo components (remember those?). There was no mistaking their function and it was all but impossible to use them for anything but their intended purpose.
The streaming age has eliminated most, if not all componentry and wires, allowing music to be delivered wirelessly by devices no bigger than a coffee can and TVs to deliver any conceivable form of entertainment with the necessary hardware and software most often contained within the slim profile of the television itself.
While that effectively eliminated an entire sub-category of furniture, it’s allowed consumers to explore wide ranges of decorative alternatives when incorporating a television into various rooms throughout their home. As a result, a consumer looking for something a little more stylish than the standard “TV stand” (1.8 billion results) or “Entertainment Console” (374 million results) might search “chest” (1.1 billion results); “accent chest” (57.2 million results); “console” (928 million results); or “hutch” (561 million results).
As you can see, the wording can have a dramatic impact just in a Google search. Try the same on Amazon, Wayfair, Overstock or even your favorite furniture site and what gets served —particularly on the all-important first page of results — can vary dramatically. In fact, a consumer’s best chance of getting a wide variety is likely to occur on one of the major e-com sites which offer far more intuitive and broad interpretation of intent.
Search is far more restrictive on the average furniture site and the wrong wording can so narrow the options that consumers may think there is virtually nothing to shop in the category and depart, without ever realizing they used a term the retailer did not anticipate.
In a store environment the ability to visually browse across myriad departments and scan the floor for something that stands out makes naming conventions far less important. But in an environment where a shopping quest often begins with a search query, product names and the wording used in descriptions play a critical role in whether or not something is presented to a shopper or not.
As the shift to e-commerce accelerates the ability to better align naming conventions with consumer perceptions will take on increased importance. In the coming e-com age a rose by any other name would simply never be found.