Baymard Institute Announces E-Commerce Search Issues, EasyAsk Standing Nearby with Solution

December 10, 2014

The article on Digital Journal titled Baymard Institute Study Finds Major Problems with Search on Leading E-Commerce Sites considers the study’s findings that “essential e-commerce search capabilities” are missing from many sites, creating an obstacle in their potential for online sales. Poor test results included low tolerance for misspellings, a lack of support for search based on certain produce features, and a lack of support for thematic searches. Reportedly the study broke down search into twelve categories and EasyAsk, the site search “solution” provider jumped into the ring with a white paper on how to improve search and raise sales. The article explains,

“[The] white paper, Improving E-Commerce Search to Meet the Needs of the Modern Shopper, identifies specific solutions for the problems identified in the Baymard Institute Study. [It] also shows examples of how EasyAsk customers such as The North Face, Oya Costumes, InkJet Superstore, and Travers Tools have delivered an engaging search experience as identified in the Baymard Institute report. “The inadequacies of traditional, outdated keyword search engines are prominently displayed in the Baymard Institute Benchmark Study,” said Craig Bassin, CEO of EasyAsk.”

The immediacy of their response and their collaboration in letting organizations freely download part of the study might raise some eyebrows. The article does not go into detail on who exactly sponsored the study, either.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 10, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Poor Search Equals Poor E-Sales

November 27, 2014

Logically this statement makes sense and if you have been paying attention to facts you already knew it:

“A recent study by the Baymard Institute, an independent web research institute with a focus on e-commerce usability and optimization, found that many of the top 50 U.S. e-commerce sites are lacking essential e-commerce search capabilities which is hindering current online sales.”

Please feel free to insert your favorite exasperation for pointing out the obvious. This is something that even an experienced online retail shopper could tell you. Digital Journal covers the story in “Baymard Institute Study Finds Major Problems With Search On Leading E-Commerce Sites.”

Baymard found that most users don’t like browsing through categories. The search function on these big e-retailers also found they don’t have a spell check feature, did not support thematic or product searches, and required specific jargon.

EasyAsk responded to the Baymard’s with a white paper detailing how e-commerce Web site can improve their search feature to improve sales. One way is supporting natural language search. The white paper is available for free download.

Whitney Grace, November 27, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google: More Details on Mobile Devices

November 24, 2014

I read “Google Adds Detailed Info to Shopping Search Results on Mobile Devices.” Google has plenty of information about products if any of the Ramanathan Guha data structures have been put in place. The write up says:

Starting this week, mobile users searching for products on Google will see detailed information, specs, store availability and customer reviews. In addition, select products on Google Shopping will also have 360-degree views for a closer look.

Are these listings ads? I know that when I use my mobile devices to log into Google I often have to fiddle around to get what I call the classic desktop presentation. Google seems to have some difficulty figuring out what to put in front of users.

More on a mobile device can be problematic. I was looking for the street on which I lived in Brazil using my eye pad. I could not find a way to get around the information shoehorned on a limited viewing space.

Mobile is creating some online ad revenue challenges for Google. If more information crowds out ads, I ask, “Maybe the more information is a paid listing?” The write up does not provide any information to help me answer my questions.

I long for the good old days of Froogle and the catalog service. Call me a dinosaur.

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2014

Amazon: Not Right for Some Authors

November 8, 2014

I wanted to call this write up Godforsaken ID. But you might plug in the letter “C” or you might not. I suggest you track down a dead tree edition of the still dog paddling New York Times. Check out the business section and look for the Google pleasing headline “Prominent Editor’s Exit a Setback for Amazon Publishing Unit.” I quite like the juxtaposition of prominent, setback, and everyone’s favorite online WalMart.” You may be able to view a version of the story at this link, but I make no promises in this money oriented era.)

The write up has a great quote or two.

  • “His [Ed Park, a literary luminary unknown to me] departure reflects the challenges that Amazon faces in a publishing ecosystem that largely views the online retailer as a rapacious competitor.”
  • “Some literary agents  say Amazon’s publishing operation seems to be retreating.”

In my view, I don’t want my work sold on the Amazon system. I have enough experience writing and selling monographs that appeal to maybe 300 people in the world. These folks are not reached via WalMart.

You views, like those of Dave Schubmehl and IDC, may differ from mine. As you know, without a written agreement, Mr. Schubmehl (an alleged expert in information retrieval) and his employer (the large mid tier consulting firm, IDC) reworked my research, put their names and brand on the material, and attempted to sell the result for $3,500 on Amazon.

Is that clueless? I don’t know. I am relatively confident that whatever executive decision lead to that move may suggest some management challenges. You can read about the “surfing on Arnold” play and the IDC hopes Amazon can move 10 pages for $3500 at these links:

Several observations:

First, Amazon obviously did not check with the authors on the IDC report that permissions were in place. What’s this say about Amazon?

Second, who at IDC perceived Amazon as a way to move 10 pages of my recycled content for $3,500?

Third, how desperate are companies like Amazon and IDC to earn monikers like rapacious and name surfer?

We live in interesting information centric times. As I reveal my research results about the new direction in content processing, how long will it take for this information to surface with the name of a person who did not do the nitty gritty work? I should emulate the NCAA basketball gambling craze start a pool for this digital publishing sport?

Oh, I like old fashioned bookstores too.

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2014

EasyAsk Adds Glitter to Oya Costumes

October 29, 2014

I learned that Oya Costumes has tapped EasyAsk to provide the search function for www.oyacostumes.com. You can read the news release here. I clicked around using drop downs and facets. I did run a query to locate a suitable Harrod’s Creek Halloween costume. I searched for Darth Vader. The results were mostly on point. There was one anomaly, an inflatable purple suit. Perhaps Darth has a side few know about.

Here’s the result page for my query:

image

Here’s a close up of the purple outfit mapped to the query “Darth Vader.”

image

I quite like the inflatable purple suit. I assume it is semantically related to Mr. Vader.

Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2014

SLI Systems: Stunning Factoid

October 21, 2014

SLI Systems reported its financial results in mid October 2014. The numbers were interesting. The company reported revenue of $22.1 million, which is good for search software. However, the company said that it lost $5.9 million. See “SLI Systems Poised for Continued Growth in Rapidly Expanding E-Commerce Industry.”

In the write up was a remarkable factoid; to wit:

More than 500 e-commerce businesses are using SLI’s solutions, which can service more than a billion queries in a single month,” said SLI CEO Shaun Ryan. “That’s ten percent of the volume that Google reportedly serves in North America in the same time frame. And with continued growth, we expect to continue adding scale to our high-margin business.”

From my point of view, this is an intriguing number. In order to break even, SLI Systems needed almost $30 million in 2013-2014. Based on the information I have gathered over the years, search vendors dependent on venture funding find themselves in an SLI Systems boat frequently.

Keep in mind that the cost of maintaining a search system is often higher than revenues can support; therefore, search vendors face red ink each time the accountant tallies up the numbers.

Why not get more customers? Well, that costs money.

Why not charge more? Well, savvy customers may look at open source options like Magento.

Well, why not come out with a killer product? Most search vendors believe they have killer products.

Convincing analysts and prospects is a different type of pizza. But if the factoid is correct, SLI Systems is generating hefty traffic when aggregated. Is it time for a revised business model?

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2014

Exorbyte: Yep, eCommerce Search

August 1, 2014

Despite the mid tier consulting firms trying valiantly to convince some that Exorbyte is an enterprise search company, there is some evidence to the contrary. I noticed a tweet from a Twitter fan billed as MarketLinks. The link points to a service with which I was not familiar, Vidyours. On that page, Exorbyte presents a number of videos:

image

A word of possible interest: This video distribution search wanted to install a suspicious video viewer on my system. I declined.

Net net: Exorbyte has a number of eCommerce video for what appears to be the purpose of selling licenses to companies looking for a eCommerce search system. Perhaps the enterprise search videos are out there, just not on the dicey Vidyours.com site? Is Exorbyte performing a search pivot or just stretching its system to generate more leads and revenue?

Stephen E Arnold, August 1, 2014

Improvements to Kidrobot Website Yield Positive Results

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Watson and Shopping: No Service, Just an Assertion

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.

I read:

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.”

Several observations:

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

Free Online Commerce Advice from SLI Systems

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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