November 15, 2012
SLI Systems has generated a conversion improvement, we learn from their press release, “Stanfords Creates 3.5X Improvement in Conversion Rate and 3X Higher Per-Visit Value with SLI Systems Site Search.” The write up tells us:
“Stanfords, the UK’s leading specialist retailer of maps, travel books, and travel accessories, is seeing a conversion rate for site search users that is 3.5 times the rate for non-site search users after implementing Learning Search from SLI Systems. In addition, per-visit value for visitors who use site search is three times higher than per-visit values for visitors who don’t use search. Stanfords chose SLI’s customizable refinements and learning-based approach to replace the site search built into its e-commerce platform from Exact Abacus.”
Interesting metric. Could there be something about users who don’t use site search that predisposes them to not buy?
Stanfords‘ e-commerce manager Joanna Lawton explained that the recent expansion into travel-related products prompted the move. She is happy with the increased relevance of her company’s results pages, as well as with the system’s intuitive user tools, she said.
SLI Systems supplies tools for site search, navigation, merchandising, and search engine optimization. They boast that their technology ‘learns’ from the behavior of visitors over time, resulting in more relevant results. The privately held company has offices in the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Cynthia Murrell, November 15, 2012
November 2, 2012
I have been forced to pay attention to online pricing in the last couple of weeks. Pricing is a marketing play today. Most of the vendors I monitor are in the services business. The idea is that the software or the upfront fee is a way to get the billing ball in play. Once the software or service is up and running, then the opportunity exists for various add ons, options, and specialized services flips green.
I read “New EC2 Second Generation Standard Instances and Price Reductions.” The main point is a “slice and dice” action. A new service is created by making some distinctions. But the real hook for me was the price reductions. Who does not respond to lower cost. I do.
My question concerns Amazon’s need to grow its top line revenue. With the recent loss, Amazon is going to be under the watchful eye of stakeholders. These individuals want Amazon to generate growth and a profit. Maybe price cutting and loss leader hardware will pay off. The company is getting more interesting as it morphs into an Apple-Google variant of a giant online store.
Stephen E Arnold, November 2, 2012
September 8, 2012
I have pointed out the problems I have encountered when using Amazon’s native search system. I read “Big Win for Microsoft: Bing Is the Default Search Engine on the Kindle Fire HD.” My hopes rose then fell. The search by Bing is for the new Kindle Fire’s Web search box. Amazon seems to be taking a baby step toward a more robust search solution but, if the story is accurate, not for those who have to cope with the native search system at Amazon.com.
One other thought: Amazon used Android to get rolling in the tablet sector. Then Amazon did its own app store and Android tablet users are only, sort of welcome. Now Amazon is embracing Microsoft Bing.
The dreams of some for a Google-zon seem to be out of reach now. The MBAs wanting the GOOG to buy Amazon to get a solution to the somewhat disappointing Google Shopping service may have to wait even longer.
Amazon seems to be willing to tangle with both Apple and Google. Who would have thought that ebook commerce would spawn a WalMart killer, a Netflix killer, and maybe an Apple and Google killer.
Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2012
Sponsored by Augmentext
August 31, 2012
I just read “WalMart Rolls out Semantic Search Engine, Sees Business Boost.” The semantic technology “not only helps users find items they want on its Web site, but also delivers results based on their interests and likely intent, the company said Thursday [August 30, 2012].”
Let’s begin with an essay question. What is semantic search? You have 15 minutes, describe how “semantic search works,” name three vendors with profitable semantic search businesses, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of semantic search, including costs and computational requirements.”
I assume you skipped the essay question. I know that Martin White and I struggled to craft a brief, reasonably accurate definition of “semantic search” in our Successful Enterprise Search Management, published by Galatea an eon ago. I think the book is still available at www.galatea.co.uk.
I had to define “semantic search” in my new monograph for Sue Feldman at IDC, and I think I recycled something from Wikipedia. The definition is okay, but I am not comfortable with that definition or any of the definitions I have written over the past few years.
The reason is that “semantic search”, like big data or analytics, is pretty much meaningless. Depending on whom you consult, the speaker trotting out the term, or the company touting its “semantic search” system—there are too many angles on the topic.
Find someone else to grade your exam, pilgrim. Or, better yet, just give yourself an “A” and move on. Easier and in today’s search environment, good enough.
I thought about semantic search when I worked through the flurry of “real” journalists’ and “real” pundits’ writings about Wal-Mart’s semantic search system. You know WalMart, the outfit that made Fairbanks Second Street into a ghost town overnight.
“Wal-Mart’s Homegrown Search Engine Already Paying Dividends” provides the insight which makes my beta blockers work overtime. The article reveals that WalMart has written its own search engine “from scratch.” In today’s world with the open source options readily available, I wonder what “from scratch” means. The story reveals that Endeca is being replaced with Polaris. Endeca, in case you are curious, is one of those late 1990 search engines which has been gobbled by a giant company. In an effort to pump up Endeca’s revenues and pay the estimated $1.1 billion acquisition price, some folks may be worrying about the total cost of ownership of Endeca. I am okay with Endeca but Oracle may not be happy with the pace of revenue growth. ( had heard that Wal-Mart had a brush with Google’s search appliance, but I don’t know if that technology delivered what Sam’s folks needed.)
WalMart offers fewer items, so, the article reports, WalMart had to figure out how to make search work better. The key point in the write up is in my opinion:
The new search engine technology has rolled out to both the Web site and mobile site in the U.S. Wal-Mart is now planning to roll out internationally to Brazil and other countries. @WalmartLabs was created in part by the $300 million acquisition of Kosmix, a data company based in Mountain View, Calif.
Kosmix had a search system, so I am curious about how “new” the technology is which WalMart is using. Kosmix was an interesting system and the company had, at one time, some interactions with Google. (For more information about Kosmix, see “Kosmix: YAGK (Yet Another Google Killer)” and “Kosmix and Its Positioning”.
Another outfit covering search is the estimable Technology Review. “Wal-Mart Dives Into Search Technology” is representative of similar stories in many blogs and trade news coverage. The main idea is that WalMart is aware that WalMart people are going online to buy the treasures from Wuhan which are available in the physical stores. The article makes this point, which strikes me as something quite a few people overlook:
All in all, focusing on search seems like a good move for Wal-Mart, but to fully see the benefits, the company will have to bring shoppers to its site in the first place, rather than competitors’ such as Amazon.
Do I have an opinion about Polaris? Well, owning a search engine sure looks more economical in the long run. Is it? Wal-Mart will know soon enough. And some of the people who are likely to use Wal-Mart’s Web site may just compare prices against Amazon’s and make a decision based on price. WalMart people without computer shopping in their DNA may just grab a cart and cruise a store. In Fairbanks, small towns run a bus to WalMart for shopping. No online connectivity in some places where WalMart has a store. We’re watching.
Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2012
Sponsored by Augmentext
August 8, 2012
Basho proclaims, “Riak 1.2 Is Official!” Riak is the powerful open source, distributed database behind many scalable, data-intensive Web, mobile, and e-commerce applications. The software’s newest version has creator Basho celebrating. There are several new features; the write up specifies:
“*More efficiently add multiple Riak nodes to your cluster
*Stage and review, then commit or abort cluster changes for easier operations; plus smoother handling of rolling upgrades
*Better visibility into active handoffs
*Repair Riak KV and Search partitions by attaching to the Riak Console and using a one-line command to recover from data corruption/loss
*More performant stats for Riak; the addition of stats to Riak Search
*2i and Search usage thru the Protocol Buffers API
*Official Support for Riak on FreeBSD
*In Riak Enterprise: SSL encryption, better balancing and more granular control of replication across multiple data centers, NAT support”
The write up details Riak’s latest innovations in areas like cluster management, partition rebuilding, and LevelDB performance improvements. I highly recommend checking out the article for more information.
Basho ends their post with a thank-you to their open source community, and, naturally, a petition for feedback on the newest version of Riak. The company was founded in 2008, and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Customers, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, use Riak to implement global session stores and to manage large amounts of structured and unstructured data.
Cynthia Murrell, August 08, 2012
July 29, 2012
Today’s internet savvy individuals are texting, tweeting and Facebooking from the driveway to the grocery store. Mobile electronics are winning the popularity contest according to Hostway’s article,“Tablets Account for 4 in 10 Mobile e-Commerce Searches.” Are the people starting to forget there was internet before the mobile device?
If what the British Retail Consortium (BRC), says is true, many a neglected desktop and laptop sit being blanketed in dust. The BRC released a study that reflected the use of mobile electronics, like tablets and smartphones was increasing in the home. Mobile devices are even being used while watching television.
The factoids from the new research show:
“Some 40 per cent of online shopping searches that take place on a mobile device are carried out using a tablet. Interestingly, the sector which is experiencing the biggest increase in mobile e-commerce searches is food and drink, which is up by 163 per cent year-on-year. Smart consumers are increasingly using new devices to price check before purchasing their groceries.”
Apparently, there is now an ‘M’ (mobile) generation, as today’s youth often texts away while walking, driving, watching a movie or eating. Phones and tablets are nice, but seriously… staring at those tiny buttons most the day cannot be good for the eyes.
Mobile devices are great, but at least dust off the desktop every now and then. Our beloved leader, the addled goose, is too old to type on an iPad.
Jennifer Shockley, July 29, 2012
July 23, 2012
CMS Wire recently reported on a new solution called Oracle Commerce in the article, “Oracle Combines ATG, Endeca Products Into Oracle Commerce.”
According to the article, this new solution is a combination of two of Oracle’s products, Oracle ATG Commerce and Oracle Endeca. This single solution, known as Commerce, uses a data integration model to centrally manage customer engagement strategies by providing a personalized user experience.
The article states:
“Oracle Commerce provides pre-built components for quick launches of websites via a site creation wizard, which allows for integration of channels. A cross-channel strategy can be centrally managed, and granular control is offered over guided navigation, search, merchandising, content-targeting and personalization. The company said that Commerce can utilize existing customer experience technology that a business might have, integrating such tools as analytics, CRM or a recommendations engine.”
Commerce brings the best of ATG and Endeca, including Oracle’s Web Commerce Customer Service, Live Help On Demand, and Recommendation on Demand. With all of these added features Commerce could very well be a game changer for online retail. Endeca has tried a number of business segments over the last decade. Perhaps this one will allow the firm to boost its revenues in a significant manner?
Jasmine Ashton, July 23, 2012
Sponsored by IKANOW
June 26, 2012
Every quarter, CPC Strategy magically determines the very “best” comparison shopping engine (CSE) available online.
This determination is based on traffic, revenue, conversion rate, and other factors deemed valuable to online shoppers and merchants. A recent article on Search Engine Watch titled, “The 10 Best Shopping Engines” tells us more about the shopping engines and details each of the top ten and how the CSEs help consumers find deals on products.
“Google Product Search, which is transitioning to become Google Shopping, is a free CSE which generates the most traffic and conversions. Merchants can manually upload feeds or use an FTP to upload in bulk. Google is consistently the best performing CSE. While Google Product Search is a free CSE as of this writing, it will transition to paid by October 15.”
Merchants use such data to tailor their marketing budget and gain more sales on specific sites. We are left to wonder, however, is it really possible to quantify what is “best” in the online shopping world? With so many varying factors and tailored searches and sites, the consumer may be better off to use their own discretion.
Andrea Hayden, June 26, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
June 21, 2012
Amazon is making leaps and bounds on the fast track and the article How Amazon Saves a Ton of Money, gives a glance at their running history. The ecommerce titan claims their evolving and the only certainty is the focus will remain on their customers.
How does one achieve 152 million active customers and enough warehouse space to completely fill 313 football fields? According to Amazon, you focus relentlessly on the customer. Happy consumers generate more traffic, which attracts more sellers. The more sellers the better product selection which enables lower cost structure and pricing. Since 2002 their customers remain happy enough to increase average sales volume by 5 billion per year.
With all their focus on the consumer, Amazon lacks in some areas:
“On a 102-degree day, 15 workers in an Amazon warehouse collapsed from the heat, six of whom needed to be rushed to the emergency room.”
“Despite a $5 billion cash reserve, Amazon donates nothing to charities — if an employee wants to deduct a donation from his or her paycheck, they have to pay an additional 6% fee.”
“Amazon buys books at up to 45% off the cover price causing small book publishers to lose over $3 per transaction.”
Facebook, Microsoft and EBay may have happier employees but when it comes to keeping customers happy, Amazon left them at the starting line. The sited article gave a binocular view of Amazon’s race towards success and some of the hurdles their leaping.
Jennifer Shockley, June 21, 2012
June 20, 2012
Any successful business tends to have a little corruption and Amazon is no exception. They try to balance out the good with the bad and recently Amazon offered an improvised service for their small business customers according to Amazon Web Services Blog: Amazon RDS MySQL Now Starting at Just $19 a Month. However, some pricing info sends very different signals.
The good…Amazon prioritizes customer service beyond all else. Amazon’s eCommerce makes locating, ordering or returning products simple. Contacting a live person at Amazon can be tricky according to How To Contact Amazon Customer Support, but the article provides 4 quick steps to ease the problems.
The bad… is how they treat some of their independent sellers. A fine example can be read in the article Amazon’s markup of digital delivery to indie authors is ~1/29,000% where the independent author pays 30% plus additional fee’s in order to sell their books.
According to the author:
“So for every $9.99 book I sell I, the author, pay 30% to Amazon for the right to sell on Amazon AND $2.58 for them to deliver the DIGITAL GOOD to your device. It is free for the reader, but the author, not amazon, pays for delivery. The file itself is under their suggested 50MB cap Amazon says to keep it under at 18.1MB. I’m confused. Amazon stores a ton of the Internet on S3/EC2; they should have the storage and delivery down.”
Amazon takes great care to see to their customer needs, but they could stand a little improvement with their independent sellers. Their fees are a little pricy in comparison to other providers. So there you have it, the good, the bad, the Amazon.
Jennifer Shockley, June 20, 2012