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

EasyAsk Upgrades Musician Superstore Website Search

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

HP Leaps into E-Commerce Software Sales with HP Pronq

December 18, 2013

The article titled HP Launches Portal to Sell Its Software Online on eweek introduces the HP Pronq effort. No, that’s not a typo, but a new business that will sell HP software. Still confused?

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

E-Retailers Guide Ranks EasyAsk Semantic Search Leader in E-Commerce Technology

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Bing Continues Making Changes to Shopping Search Experience

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Measuring Customer Loyalty Is Easier On the Web

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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