Case Study

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How Acuity Brands Turned Their Website Into a Growth Engine

“We took a search-first approach and transformed our website in just 5 months.”
- Andrew Crowder, VP of Enterprise Architecture



Acuity Brands provides lighting and building management solutions for commercial, institutional, industrial, infrastructure, and residential applications, employing over 13,000 associates across North America, Europe, and Asia. They’re the largest manufacturer of lighting and lighting control systems in North America. With 5,000+ product offerings across 8 different categories, 32 brands, and 14 independent brand websites, it’s safe to say that their catalog is complex.

The challenge? Going to market through distributors and independent agents in an increasingly digital world, Acuity knew their website was critical to growth. “We needed a website that really spoke to our status as a leader in the industry,” said Andrew Crowder, VP of Enterprise Architecture. “Our website experience needs to reflect that.”

Shedding light on what visitors need

Acuity Brands’ customers include agents, distributors, architects, designers, and contract electricians. When visiting each of Acuity’s 14 brand websites, their goal is typically to find products that meet a project’s needs or to get inspiration for a design they’ll be presenting. “A visitor downloading a spec sheet is just as critical as putting an item into a cart,” explains Katherine Wendorf, Senior Manager, Integrated Content.

Yet the website experience was letting customers down. Visitors weren’t finding the right products and information due to inefficient static search and navigation. The most relevant content was often buried, not turning up in search results. And, visitors weren’t able to easily use content to build submittal packages or inform their designs.

“Search is how our customers interact with our website. Our website experience needs to reflect that."Andrew Crowder

To top it off, internal research demonstrated that search was the most popular site function for Acuity Brands’ visitors – as well as the biggest indicator of a visitor’s intent to purchase from distributors. However, search and content teams weren’t getting the insights they needed to understand where search journeys were dropping off, which queries were performing well, and where there were content gaps. Bad data was the root cause of their issue, in addition to being on an outdated platform with no metrics to provide insights. They also needed help from developers to implement any changes.

New possibilities, minus the complexity

The team set out to rebuild their websites with a search-first approach, keeping Sitecore as their CMS, but upgrading to the most current version. With Coveo’s pre-integrated Sitecore solution, Acuity Brands used AI to enhance their website search experience.

“Those technologies allowed us to build a new experience for our users that makes their whole journey better and easier.” Andrew Crowder

With one search index acting as a single source of truth and one codebase across all of their 14 different sites, they were able to tailor the content and experience without compromising consistency. Leveraging the Coveo Cloud Admin Console also enabled their search and content teams to easily make changes and improvements without the assistance of developers. Historically, working with developers meant waiting 2-4 weeks in sprint cycles for those changes to take effect.

Now, flash-forward a few months after the new site goes live and the Acuity Brands team uncovers some important insights from Coveo Search Analytics. Leveraging these and thinking strategically, the team rolls out 2 additional initiatives to further optimize the search experience, dubbed Cross-Brand Search and Double Zero Search.

Wendorf explains, “We observed that customers searching for specific products on one of our many branded sites were sometimes ending up with zero results, even though we carried those products within the wider Acuity Brands family of products. So, we put our heads together and realized the issue was easily solved since we managed a single index that was parsed out for each brand site. Now, when a customer searches and no matching product is found within the current site, the application automatically does a second search against the entire catalog index and returns any product matches found across the portfolio.” That’s Cross-Brand Search.

“Our site is set up like a B2C site although we’re B2B. Our customers are consumers. They’re on the internet all day long, so we want to make sure that we give that same experience, even though they’re searching our site for their jobs.”Kathryn Wendorf, Senior Manager, Integrated Content

The second initiative, Double Zero Search, was then used to address the issue of a customer’s search not finding any corresponding products from either the current brand site or the rest of the Acuity Brands catalog. “We wanted to avoid returning no results,” states Wendorf, “because that means we may lose an opportunity with the customer. Instead of simply returning a no results page, we present them with a pictorial journey of product categories to get them back on track and engage with our product content.”

Both of these initiatives combined yielded great results for the team and they’ve been able to convert an additional 40% of the previously missed queries.

Creating a tool professionals love to use

Despite the complexity of Acuity Brands’ multiple categories and extensive product options, Coveo’s AI-powered search was implemented in a brand new Sitecore build and launched within an ambitious 5-month timeframe.

New responsive result pages make it easy to scroll through on any device. And with AI powering its search, and their creative way of solving for content gaps, Acuity Brands saw a combined drop in queries with no results – from 15% to less than 4% – meaning fewer dead-ends and more satisfied search users.

Visitors to their website can now quickly download a spec sheet, compare products, or choose Quick View directly from the results page, without accessing product pages. For the architect, designer, or distributor who knows what they need, this no-friction experience makes Acuity Brands a much more invaluable supplier and partner.

For visitors in need of design inspiration and wanting to explore loads of products, Acuity Brands’ new search results page offers relevant facets, allowing visitors to narrow down the type of product they’re looking for and zero in on the right one.

In terms of experience intelligence, it’s just the beginning for this manufacturer. Now equipped with a search-first website and enriched analytics about its visitors, Acuity Brands is shifting its focus. The next step is extending that experience to post-sales service. “We want to be able to service the entire customer," says Wendorf, “so being able to say to that pre-sale customer ‘What is it that you're looking for? How can I get this information to you quickly?’ and to that post-sale customer ‘How can we support and assist you with your purchase?’”

This strategy is particularly important for manufacturers like Acuity Brands, where many site visitors are actually returning customers. Building that relationship and satisfaction is key to creating loyalty to the brand. Wendorf adds, “We know that we have a good partner in Coveo as we head down this path of creating a unified search experience across purchase to support.”

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