Do You See How Search Will Change?

September 5, 2017

Vocal-activated search is a convenient, hands-free way to quickly retrieve information.  A number of people who use some form of vocal search, either using a smart speaker or a digital assistant.  Scott Monty reports that the voice-activated speaker market has increased by 130% in the article, “Is The Future Of AI-Powered Search Oral Or Visual?”  Amazon controls 70% of the smart speaker market, while Google has 23%.

Voice activated search has its perks, but it does not always prove to be the most useful.  The problem with voice-activated search is that it does not allow a lot of options:

But here’s the current challenge with voice-activated systems: there’s no menu. There’s no dropdown of options. There’s no visual cue to help you give you a sense of what you can ask the system. Oh sure, you can ask what your query options are, but the voice will simply read back to you what your options are.

Monty points out that humans have been a visually-driven culture for thousands of years, ever since written language was invented.  Amazon and Google are already working on projects that combine visual aspects with voice-driven capabilities.  Amazon has the Echo Snow that has the same functionality as the regular Echos, except it has a screen.  Google is developing the Google Lens; think Google Glasses except not as obtrusive.  It can use visual search to augment reality.  The main differences between the two companies still leave a big gap between them: Amazon sells stuff, Google finds information.

But here’s the current challenge with voice-activated systems: there’s no menu. There’s no dropdown of options. There’s no visual cue to help you give you a sense of what you can ask the system. Oh sure, you can ask what your query options are, but the voice will simply read back to you what your options are.

Google still remains on top, but Amazon could develop an ecommerce version of the Google Lens.  Or would it be easier if the two somehow collaborated on a project to conquer shopping and search?

Whitney Grace, September 5, 2017

PayPal and eBay Used to Smuggle Funds, According to FBI

September 4, 2017

Online is an exciting place. Now, eBay and PayPal appear to have unwittingly hosted the transfer of terrorist funding, we learn from an article at The Next Web titled, “FBI Says ISIS Smuggled Funds to US Using eBay and PayPal.” Citing reporting by The Wall Street Journal, writer Rachel Kaser reveals:

An FBI affidavit alleges that the Islamic State used everyone’s favorite digital auction house to transfer cash to one of its US-based agents. The agent was disguising himself as a printer salesman — he’d pretend to sell a printer, only to receive payment from IS via eBay and PayPal. Supposedly, it was all part of a network operated by the late Siful Sujan, who was at one point a director of ISIS’s computer operations. The FBI document claims he’s just one of a network of agents stretching from the UK to Bangladesh. It doesn’t say whether they all used eBay to fund their schemes. The suspect in this case apparently used the money he received from the printer sales to buy a laptop, a cellphone, and a VPN.

An eBay spokesperson emphasized their company’s “zero tolerance” for criminal activity on their platform. The company is cooperating with authorities, and the alleged transferor of terrorist funds is awaiting trial.

Cynthia Murrell, September 4, 2017



Marketers Need to Have a Bot Strategy in Place

July 13, 2017

The future of eCommerce will depend largely on bots and how they are deployed across various channels. The marketers, however, need to be in place and be ready to tap into its full potential.

Martech Today in an article titled An Introduction to Conversational Commerce and Bots says:

Bots are sweeping the digital landscape, giving consumers even more ways to interact with their favorite brands. It’s high time for marketers to think about how to incorporate bots into their digital strategies.

With the advent of natural language processing and machine learning, it is becoming increasingly easy to deploy bots, chatbots and digital assistants across various devices and platforms. As more users embrace the technology, the majority of purchases will be influenced by these bots. Thus, marketers need to be ready with a strategy to capitalize it.

Domino’s is already reaping the benefits of bots that it has deployed across various channels. Big names are already competing for placing their digital assistants in everybody’s pockets and homes. The problem is like search engines and a plethora of cloud service providers; these bots will know too many personal details of users. Privacy concerns thus still need to be addressed.

Vishal Ingole, July 13, 2017


Amazon Alexa Enables Shopping Without Computer, Phone, or TV

July 4, 2017

Mail order catalogs, home shopping networks, and online shopping allowed consumers to buy products from the comfort of their own home.  Each of them had their heyday, but now they need to share the glory or roll into a grave, because Amazon Alexa is making one stop shopping a vocal action.  Tom’s Guide explains how this is possible in, “What Is Alexa Voice Shopping, And How Do You Use It?”

Ordering with Amazon Alexa is really simple.  All you do is summon Alexa, ask the digital assistant to order an item, and then you wait for the delivery.  The only stipulation is that you need to be an Amazon customer, preferably Amazon Prime.  Here is an example scenario:

Let’s just say you’ve been parched all day, and you’re drinking bottle after bottle of Fiji water. Suddenly, you realize you’re all out and you need some more. Rather than drive to the store in the scorching summer heat, you decide to order a case through Amazon and have it delivered to your house.  So, you say, “Alexa, order Fiji Natural Artesian Water.” Alexa will hear that and will respond by telling you that it’s found an option on Amazon for a certain price. Then, Alexa will ask you if it’s OK to order. If you’re happy with the product Alexa found, you can say “yes,” and your order will be placed.  Now, sit back, relax and wait for your water to arrive.

There are some drawbacks, such as you cannot order different multiple items in the same order, but you can order multiples of the same item.  Also if you are concerned about children buying all the toys from their favorite franchise, do not worry because you can set up a confirmation code option so the order will only be processed once the code is provided.

It is more than likely that Amazon will misinterpret orders, so relying on language services like Bitext might help sharpen Alexa’s selling skills.

Whitney Grace, July 4, 2017


Qwant Makes a Bold Prediction

June 29, 2017

Is there any platform that can rival Google at Internet search? Qwant believes it can, we learn from the article, “Qwant, a French Search Engine, Thinks it Can Take on Google—Here’s Why” at Search Engine Journal. Writer Matt Southern points to a Motherboard article to support his assertion, and relates:

Like search engine DuckDuckGo, Qwant’s competitive advantage is privacy. It protects users’ privacy by not tracking what they’re doing or searching for online. Qwant doesn’t use cookies, collect browsing data, or do any kind of data profiling.


So, other than privacy, what does Qwant do that sets itself apart from Google? Or even DuckDuckGo for that matter? For one, it currently has over 31 different search categories. In addition to the standard news, images, and video categories, Qwant offers categories such as: social media, music, jobs, cars, health, and more.


The company also has a unique philosophy that artificial intelligence and digital assistants can be educated without having to collect data on users. That’s a completely different philosophy than what is shared by Google, which collects every bit of information it can about users to fuel things like Google Home and Google Allo.

Naturally, Qwant needs to earn money, and it currently does so through click-throughs;  the company also has plans to work with TripAdvisor and eBay down the line. Currently, users can make Qwant their default search engine within Firefox, and they hope to expand that to other browsers. Qwant backs up its privacy commitment by providing its source code to third-party data protection agencies.  Launched in 2013, the company is based in Paris.

Cynthia Murrell, June 29, 2017

News or Speculation: Google and a Big Euro Fine?

June 7, 2017

I read “Google in Trouble? Company May Face $9 billion EU Fine over Its Shopping Service.” The headline surprised me. I had forgotten that Google failed with Froogle and never got its talons in the back of Amazon. But there you go. Google and shopping.

The write up grabs the weasel word “may” and goes to town. I learned from the write up:

In April 2015, the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager accused the company of cheating consumers and competitors by distorting internet search results to favor its own shopping service. The latest development comes after a seven-year investigation into Google following complaints raised by both US and European rivals.

The magic $9 billion comes from a news report from the always on the beam real news outfit Thomson Reuters. Here’s the passage I highlighted in True Blue:

If found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules, fines for companies can reach up to 10% of their global turnover. And, in case of Google, the fine could be about $9bn (£6.99bn) of its 2016 turnover, a Reuters report said. In addition to the fine, the Commission could also tell Google to stop its anti-competitive practices.

Bad Google.

Now about that shopping service. The service is number one with a bullet when I searched Google for “Google Shopping.” In case you have never looked at this service, you can navigate to the site by clicking on the image below:


What’s available to me in rural Kentucky? I ran a query for PCI eSATA RAID cards and here are the results:


That first result is not a card; it is a rack mounted one mu uninterruptable power supply. Not exactly a PCI card.

The other results were not too useful. None of the items was a PCI RAID card. (I know these exist because there is one in my server named Fred.)


From a practical point of view, Google Shopping does not seem to meet my needs. With the alleged $9 billion fine hanging over the GOOG, I wonder if any of the lawyers involved in this have checked out the service.

Google Shopping is, in my opinion, not going to lure me from sites which deliver on point results for the type of stuff I buy. Maybe Google makes oodles from one mu rack mounted UPS devices, but offering that product just drives me to

Your mileage may vary. It certainly does for the folks in Europe it seems. What about Amazon? Guess that service is less of an offender. Surprising.

Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2017

Google Shoots for Star Status in the Cloud Space

February 21, 2017

Competition continues in the realm of cloud technology. Amigo Bulls released an article, Can Google Cloud Really Catch Up With The Cloud Leaders?, that highlights how Google Cloud is behind Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. However, some recent wins for Google are also mentioned. One way Google is gaining steam is through new clients; they signed Spotify and even some of Apple’s iCloud services are moving to Google Cloud. The article summarizes the current state,

Alphabet Inc’s-C (NSDQ:GOOG) Google cloud has for a long time lived in relative obscurity. Google Cloud results do not even feature on the company’s quarterly earnings report the way AWS does for Amazon (NSDQ:AMZN) and Azure for Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT). This appears somewhat ironic considering that Google owns one of the largest computer and server networks on the planet to handle tasks such as Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail. Further, the Google Cloud Platform is actually cheaper than offerings by the two market leaders.

Enterprise accounts with legacy systems will likely go for Microsoft as a no-brainer given the familiarity factor and connectivity. Considering the enterprise sector will make up a large portion of cloud customers, Amazon is probably Google’s toughest competition. Spotify apparently moved to Google from Amazon because of the quality tools, including machine-learning, and excellence in customer service. We will continue following whether Google Cloud makes it as high in the sky as its peers.

Megan Feil, February 21, 2017

Creating a Product Taxonomy Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

February 16, 2017

The article on PRWeb titled WAND, Inc. Announces the Launch of the WAND eCommerce Taxonomy Portal discusses the breakthrough in classification technology from WAND. WAND Inc. is a Denver-based company that has been around since 1938 and holds a tight grip on industry vertical taxonomies, business taxonomies, and specialty domain taxonomies.

Users of the WAND eCommerce Taxonomy Portal can select from a content library of more than 44,000 hierarchical categories, 70,000 attributes, and over 260,000 attribute values to jump-start a taxonomy. Tools to customize the category hierarchy and attribute templates are simple to use and the pre-defined content can be augmented with new categories and attributes to efficiently build a custom taxonomy. The resulting custom product taxonomy can be exported into any common data format for import into product information management software or ecommerce platforms.

Perfect for retail, ecommerce, procurement, MDM, and manufacturing companies, the eCommerce Taxonomy Portal provides a foundation to build on, and averts the painstaking process of building classifications up from scratch. Mark Leher, WAND’s COO, is quoted in the article defining the web-based applications place in the master data management arena. He explains that it can be used to speed up taxonomy projects by empowering users to simply edit, rather than start from the very beginning.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 16, 2017

Improve Your B2B Search with Klevu

January 6, 2017

Ecommerce sites rely on a strong search tool to bring potential customers to their online stores and to find specific products without a hassle.  B2B based companies have the same goal, but they need an entire different approach although they still rely on search.  If you run a B2B company, you might want to take a gander at Klevu and their solutions: “Search Requirements For A B2B Retailer.”

In the blog post, Klevu explains that B2B companies have multiple customer groups that allow different pricing, products, discounts, etc.  The customers see prices based on allocation from the store, but they cannot use a single price for every item.  Search is also affected by this outcome.  Klevu came out with the Klevu Magneto plugin to:

With the help of our partners and our in-house expertise, we came up with a solution that allows such group prices to automatically work with Klevu. The Klevu Magneto plugin fetches the group prices and, at the time of showing the search results, Klevu’s JavaScript determines the relevant price for rendering. We’ve also ensure that this works in Ajax / quick search as well, as this was an important requirement.

The Klevu Magneto plugin also has an SKU search option, maintaining the same landing page within search results, and instant faceted search.  Klevu researched the issues that its B2B customers had the most problems with and created solutions.  They are actively pursuing ways to resolve bothersome issues that pop up and this is just the start for them.

Whitney Grace, January 6, 2017

EasyAsk Guarantees Revenue Boost with Its eCommerce Search System

November 26, 2016

I read “How EasyAsk Will Help You Drive 23 to 121% Higher eCommerce Revenues: Guaranteed.” The headline is quite different from most search vendors’ announcements. Search vendors, in my experience, do not guarantee anything: Uptime, fees, performance. EasyAsk, a natural language search technology vendor, is guaranteeing more eCommerce revenues. Like most information available online, I assume that the facts are correct.

I highlighted this statement:

Within 90 days of the EasyAsk implementation, 95% of internal searches were returning the right results – nearly eliminating the dreaded no-results pages. The results have been outstanding;

  • Search conversion has increased by 54%
  • Revenue from search has seen a boost of over 71%
  • Transactions are up 81%

Unlike SOLR, EasyAsk offers powerful merchandising tools that are intuitive, easy-to-use and maintained by business users instead of programmers.

Now the “guarantee” part:

We [EasyAsk] will contractually guarantee that EasyAsk will drive at least 20% more revenue from search.

Here’s how:

  • We will take a baseline benchmark measuring revenue, conversion rate and average transactions on your existing search engine.
  • We will work with you to deploy and implement EasyAsk’s eCommerce suite to provide you with advanced Natural Language semantic search and merchandising.
  • Within 90 days of implementation, we will perform a new benchmark that measures revenue, conversion rate and average transactions and compare them with the original baseline. EasyAsk will contractually guarantee to drive at least 20% more revenue.

The write up explains that there is no risk to the eCommerce vendor who embraces EasyAsk.

There you go. A New Year’s gift which is six weeks early.

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2016

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