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
July 3, 2013
SLI Systems is now listed on the New Zealand Exchange. CEO Shaun Ryan shares his thoughts on this and the enterprise search market in this Double Shot Interview that Interest.co.nz has posted to YouTube. In the 17-minute conversation with interviewer Andrew Patterson, Ryan is full of confidence as he shares his thoughts on the future of his company and his industry.
See the interview for more, but here are a few highlights. Ryan acknowledges that his company’s biggest competition is Endeca, who he says is the only company to surpass SLI. They actually found it helpful when Oracle bought Endeca, saying that move opened a “hole in the market.” Interesting.
Customer service is a priority for SLI. Since their business follows a SAS (software-as-a-service) model, customer retention is key, so taking good care of the best ones is “vital,” says Ryan. Besides, the company has gotten some of their best ideas from listening to customer suggestions.
SLI’s decision to go public comes after an average of 30 percent annual growth over last five years. The company considered going the private-venture-capital route, but the best options there would have required a move to the U.S. Though Ryan describes the process of becoming publically listed as difficult (and stresses the importance of a good CFO), he says it was worth it. Patterson asks, How big could the company grow? Ryan responds:
“We see there’s a lot of room for growth in ecommerce. Ecommerce is growing globally, in every country. The U.S. is the world’s largest ecommerce market, but it’s also growing in every country in the world. And you’ll find this, you’re shopping more online, your friends and family are shopping more and more online, that’s just a worldwide phenomenon, so we see there’s a lot of potential. And I’m sure, once you look at it, you’ll notice that search on a lot of websites is really poor, and you’ll sort of get a feel if you go and have a look at a few different websites, you’ll get a feel for how much of a need there is for our sort of services.”
We agree, there is no shortage of retail sites crying for improved search functionality. When asked what SLI hopes to achieve over the next five years, Ryan replies quite sensibly that they hope to continue to grow, pushing into more markets since “the whole world needs better search.” At the moment, SLI serves customers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. Next in their sites is Japan, but Ryan emphasizes that they get customer requests from a number of other countries.
The interview concludes with Ryan’s thoughts on cultivating New Zealand’s tech industry. His two suggestion: turn out more qualified computer science graduates (that sounds familiar), and celebrate the success of companies who have done well. That is a category in which SLI Systems is happy to claim membership, and they show no signs of slowing down now.
Cynthia Murrell, July 03, 2013
May 16, 2013
According to CRN, “Growth Concerns Dog Amazon” and it may affect its clients across the board. The company’s stock sank 6% in recent markets and it only reinforces concerns for the company’s continued expansion. In the United States, Amazon is the largest Internet retailer, has seen slower revenue this quarter and it is not taking off in other countries. Amazon looks all right in its long-term plans, however. It continues to expand its digital products as well as SaaS capabilities that project well.
Amazon continues to steal business from physical retailers, even though they have found ways to reclaim some of the market. Amazon stock is trading quite high, but third-party (3P) sellers are generating profit:
“First-quarter 3P unit growth was 33 percent, down from a 40 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2012, according to Ken Sena, an analyst at Evercare Partners…. In a 3P transaction, Amazon books commissions from third-party sales on its marketplace as revenue. That revenue is almost all profit, so as the 3P business has grown, Amazon’s gross profit margins have expanded.”
Amazon has spread itself thickly across many markets, so it might be seeing slow growth at the moment but it will pick up again. The company has stability, but in order to reclaim the lost profit they may look at raising fees. Tack on a few extra dollars, who will notice?
Whitney Grace, May 16, 2013