May 21, 2014
The article titled Kidrobot Turns to SLI Systems to Boost E-Commerce Sales and Strengthen Brand Visibility on EConsultancy LLC discusses the changes implemented on the Kidrobot website. Immediately visible on the website is the suggestion to “Try our NEW Search”, suggestive of the excitement at Kidrobot over the improvements, which have yielded an 87% increase in users finding what they are looking for (within the first five results to appear) since November 2013. The article quotes a Kidrobot employee as follows,
“From the capabilities of their technology to the helpfulness of their support, the whole package of working with SLI is a huge improvement from what we had before,” said Kelsey Vendetti, e-commerce and digital marketing manager for Kidrobot. “Learning Search has created a better overall user experience, and when visitors use Rich Auto Complete, it opens their eyes to all that we have to offer – they’re three to four times more likely to click on a search suggestion.”
Kidrobot sells trendy pop art toys with unique names, making search tricky for users who weren’t certain of exactly what they were looking for. SLI’s Rich Auto Complete aids in this by actually learning from past experience what customers are most likely trying to find.
Chelsea Kerwin, May 21, 2014
April 26, 2014
I read “Make IBM’s Watson Your Personal Shopping Assistant.” IBM wants to leapfrog www.pricewatch.com, www.amazon.com, and the aging www.mysimon.com, among other shopping services.
Now quite a few people have embraced Amazon’s flawed, yet popular, recommendations service. I am trying to remember when I first noticed this somewhat annoying feature of the digital WalMart. I cannot recall. I am reminded of the weaknesses of the system each time I log in and see recommendations to my wife’s book selections. Undoubtedly she and I are not following Amazon’s best practices. My wife is pretty familiar with my user name and password, Amazon, and the ease with which she can order products (dog vitamins), novels (wonky mysteries infused with herring), and oddments I know won’t plug into my computer systems; for example, something for a faux soft drink machine.
My view is that for some folks, an Amazon habit is going (note the present progressive) difficult to modify. Even though Amazon is struggling to deliver profit joy, the Amazon online shopping thing has quite a following.
Well, just in the nick of time–is it years too late?—IBM says it will apply the billion dollar baby to meet my shopping needs. Oh, yeah. Here’s what I learned from the write up:
IBM is partnering with Fluid, a digital commerce company, to create a one-on-one experience with Watson’s capabilities. For example, let’s say you’re looking for the perfect gift for your significant other. Tell Watson about the likes and dislikes of your loved one and let the computer score through piles of data, and eventually pick out a product (or group of products) with those details in mind. Or let’s say you’re going on a hike in the Himalayas and need the right gear for your trip: once you tell Watson what you need, the computer does the research and picks out all the right equipment for you.
I suppose this means that Amazon’s reviews are about to be staring at Watson’s tail lights. The article doesn’t pay much attention to Amazon or lesser services that pepper Google results pages with offers of prices, reviews, and suggestions for the procrastinating Mother’s Day shopper.
IBM is working on an app for XPS that will work on desktops, tablets and smartphones. It will be able to ask the same sort of questions you’d expect from a salesperson in a physical store, but without the hard-sell techniques and with a lot more personalization.
I think my grade school teachers called this the present progressive. I translated this to “it may sound now but nothing is showing up right now.”
First, is IBM or a “partner” going to design, build, debug, deliver, and support this magic carpet shopping service? On one hand, it looks like Watson’s brain trust in Manhattan is on the job. Then it struck me that an outfit called Fluid will have to lift that barrel and tote that bale. My hunch is that IBM will watch from the veranda of the hotel overlooking the laborers unloading the good ship Watson.
Second, I keep reminding myself that IBM has yet to provide a demonstration of Watson that makes it possible for me to compare throughput, precision, and recall with the search systems to which I have access. Talk, it appears, is much easier than making and selling a product.
Third, what about that Amazon thing? The Bezos-A-Rama is busy creating yet another digital monopoly. In addition, that big store offers recommendations along with one click shopping, reviews, a so so search system, and fawning Wall Street believers.
To me it looks as if IBM, on the other hand, is doing what IBM does best: Working its public relations firms extra hard. I hear the faint sound of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing,
You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store
Mr. Ford’s backup singers are IBM’s sales and marketing team after a tough day of talking about what Watson will someday soon be. Hard work is moving 16 tons of marketing.
Stephen E Arnold, April 26, 2014
March 5, 2014
Here’s a free book anyone managing e-commerce should look into. SLI Systems’ blog, Site Search Today, suggests we “Create a Better Shopping Experience with Refinements.” Writer Kemberly Gong advises:
“If users encounter a large set of search results for a particular keyword, they can also feel overwhelmed. As an e-commerce merchant, you can help them tremendously by offering refinement options to narrow numerous product results to a manageable set. While site search is considered one of the most essential elements to an e-commerce site, refinements are just as crucial in guiding shoppers to the right product, and to a sale.
“Our new Big Book of Site Search Tips for 2014, available for free download, is filled with ideas for improving this vital part of your site search solution. Here are just a few of the suggestions from the Big Book – and you’ll also find more than 100 tips on everything from search box placement to merchandising in the Big Book.”
The tips Gong cites include: “make refinements intuitive”; “pick the right place for refinements”; “refinements for ratings and reviews”; and “allow users to navigate between refinements.” See the article for more on each of these points. Better yet, see here to download the free book.
More than 500 e-commerce sites use SLI Systems‘ services. The company, founded in 2001, prides itself on its customer service. SLI Systems maintains offices in San Jose, California; London; Melbourne; and Christchurch, New Zealand.
Cynthia Murrell, March 05, 2014
December 27, 2013
The article titled Metakinetic Teams Up with EasyAsk To Provide A New On-Site Search Solution To Andertons on the ecommerce agency Metakinetic’s website promotes the partnership formed in order to overhaul their top client’s site search. Andertons superstore for musicians is being upgraded, the article explains,
“The solution from EasyAsk has been rapidly deployed as a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution and empowers Andertons to take control of a single solution for their on-site search, navigation and merchandising functions. Using natural language processing, the solution allows Andertons to give its website visitors an easy and intuitive way to navigate the site, helping them to easily find the product for which they are searching.”
The natural language capability offered by EasyAsk taps into the unstructured data on the products and makes it searchable. Keywords from product descriptions will ensure that every relevant item appears, but the user also has the option of placing limits such as price minimums and maximums. A Director from Metakinetic named Darren Bull lauded the EasyAsk team for their professionalism and efficiency, and claimed perfect confidence in seeing an uplift in sales as a result of the changes made. Online customers have high expectations for the ease and ingeniousness of shopping websites, and the adjustments to the Andertons’ might have just brought them into the 21st century, just in time for Christmas.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 27, 2013
December 18, 2013
The article states:
“The Pronq portal currently offers HP’s Fortify on Demand security service, Agile Manager, Vertica, Performance Anywhere and Service Anywhere solutions. “Pronk” is an actual word that is defined as jumping up into the air or moving forward by leaps and bounds, Caroline Tsay, vice president of Web and eCommerce at HP’s Software division, told eWEEK. “It’s a metaphor for what we’re trying to do with Pronq, with the attributes of agility and ease of use,” Tsay said.”
The launching of this new business is meant to draw more attention to HP as a software provider. Often HP gains more attention as a PC and printer brand, and with Pronq the company is working to put their software in the limelight. Pronq is using Drupal, the content managing system, and a private cloud different from the HP public cloud OpenStack-based infrastructure. Careful to avoid the insinuation that by selling software directly through Pronq HP is trying to outmaneuver or work around their partners, Tsay claims the e-commerce business will actually “complement” the sales teams and “support” HP’s channel partners.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 18, 2013
December 13, 2013
EasyAsk Ranked Among Top Four Providers of E-Commerce Technology, an article on Virtual-Strategy Magazine, recognizes the achievements of EasyAsk, the natural language search company. EasyAsk was recently named one of the top 4 vendors (out of 1,000) in driving e-commerce sales by the E-Retailers Guide. Craig Bassin, CEO of EasyAsk, expressed no surprise at this, since reports show that 43% of visitors to a given website will head straight for the search box.
Bassin expanded on his company’s progress:
“”EasyAsk is poised to capture a significant share of the growing spend on e-commerce technology, said Bassin. “EasyAsk eCommerce Edition delivers amazing value to our clients. EasyAsk is embedded within Infor Storefront and has out-of-the-box integrations with the leading e-commerce platforms, such as IBM Websphere Commerce, Magento, Hybris and Netsuite. Our customers consistently tell us we help them turn shoppers into buyers.” Gartner Inc. estimates that retailers spent about $3 billion on e-commerce technology in 2012. “
Semantic search has become unavoidably important, with Google and Microsoft adopting their own offerings since in the last two years. But EasyAsk stands out as offering “natural language search for e-commerce enterprise, on-premise and cloud platforms.” Their work in raising online revenue by allowing users to search in plain English and receive specific and relevant results has made them a leader in the field.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 13, 2013
December 4, 2013
An article titled Bing Sunsets Shopping Search, Integrates Directly Into Web Results on Search Engine Watch offers some insights into Bing’s attempts to improve its shopping experience. Bing announced in August that they are working to improve shopping results and more recently that they are retiring the “dedicated shopping experience” in favor of a user intent model.
The article explains:
“Using Bing Snapshot technology, certain search queries will return snapshots of various products in the right side column. Clicking on these products will produce a different result set of vendor sites that sell that particular product. Those results will also contain a carousel of similar products or models directly under the search box. Reviews, product specs are also included as snapshot information in the sidebar, as are prices from various vendors who purchase Bing ads.”
Bing is working to gain on Amazon, the company to beat worldwide when it comes to online shopping. Bing’s user intent plan is shaped around logical connections between queries and product comparisons. Bing is trying to move away from keywords and toward understanding what the user really wants. The integration of shopping results into the main experience is meant to provide for an improved proficiency.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 04, 2013
November 7, 2013
Physical retail stores keep track of their customers with complex e-commerce systems from loyalty programs to surveys, but their digital counterparts have a much easier time of figuring out their customers’ shopping habits says “How Loyal Are Your e-Commerce Customers?” from Woopra. The article points out that it is much harder and more expensive to attract brand new customers than it is to retain older customers because they are experienced with the store and can often act as an advertising mouthpiece.
Retaining customer loyalty is not difficult for an e-commerce Web sites if the implement a few analytical features. Monitoring a basic retention report will show how long and often customers engage on a Web site. Another way to use the retention report is to track how long it takes customers to come back and make additional purchases after their initial one.
It is very important to understand which marketing campaigns attract the most loyal customers. This will allow online retailers to net the biggest profit:
“Many marketers find that customers sourced from different campaigns have varying degrees of engagement and loyalty. This is largely due to the nature of each channel and how customers engage with you through that channel. Oftentimes we rely on guesswork or assumptions to determine which channels will bring the highest quality leads. Yet sometimes the numbers tell a different story, or at least give you hard data to back up your estimations.”
The magical tool here is a retention report. Retention reports hold all the answers to retaining online customers. Why can it not be that simple for physical retailers? In a way it often seems too simple that a retention report holds all the answers. What about customer reviews of products and social media streams that discuss an e-commerce retailer? Can a retention report attract these?
Whitney Grace, November 07, 2013
August 31, 2013
What is the difference between an enhancement and an upgrade? An upgrade indicates a whole new system and solutions for bugs. An enhancement implies that the current piece of software works well, but it is only being made better. Exorbyte, a commerce search application, announced its “Enhancements and Optimizations In July 2013.” The enhancements and optimizations for Exorbyte come in the form of two new features. The first feature is face normalizations that allows users to map different spellings and variations under a single facet value. Another cool thing about this feature is that users can specify the number of times an individual facet value appears in a search. This can push rarer data into search results and limit alternate forms of a query.
Here is the neatest new feature for query-based ranking:
“It is now possible to influence the ranking based on the query itself, allowing for even higher result relevancy and hence conversions. In a global ranking rule search terms can be defined that trigger this ranking rule to come into effect. For example, you can specify that the ranking rule “boost the category toy” is only activated when the query contains the word “ball”. If the query term was not used as a restriction, the category “toys” would always be boosted. For example if the query term was “golf” toy golf products would be placed on top, although users might expect professional equipment, so that this rule should not apply. So the query-based ranking allows you to tune the relevancy in cases.”
Putting the intelligence in intelligent search. It also reminds me of using an auto-tuner to pick up the proper frequency. Features like these help normalize search and make the results useful to the user. Exorbyte asserts it can eliminate the need for facet normalization with its software.
Whitney Grace, August 31, 2013
August 28, 2013
The recent SLI Systems article, “In eCommerce Be, really, really redundant” makes the argument that, unlike most situations, in cloud computing redundancy can be quite beneficial. This is because it prevents downtime, a known cause of inefficiency. Therefore, redundancy is actually a competitive advantage.
The article explains:
“Downtime is especially detrimental in eCommerce; online buyers can be ruthless when they encounter it. Surveys by Akamai and Gomez.com show that among shoppers who have trouble with a web site’s performance, 79% will never return to buy from that site again. Plus, 44% say they would tell a friend about their poor experience. Even a few minutes of downtime can result in dozens of lost customers on an ordinary day. Imagine the effect of downtime during a peak shopping day like Cyber Monday!”
The article goes on to explain other situations where redundancy has been used to prevent both natural and technological disasters. While redundancy may be a plus for eCommerce businesses, how will it impact Google’s indexing?
Jasmine Ashton, August 28, 2013