March 14, 2013
Amazon seems to be at the top of its game. From the latest electronics, clothing and even school supplies they seem to have their hand in everything and be doing very well. However, not everyone is a fan of the online giant. According to the Paid Content article “Indie Bookstore Sue Amazon, Nig-6 Publishers for Using DRM to Create Monopoly on eBooks” three independent bookstores are suing Amazon and the big-six partners based on their DRM (digital rights management). The three independent bookstores involved are Manhattan-based Posman Books, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza and Fiction Addiction of Greenville, South Carolina.
“The indies, represented by Los Angeles antitrust firm Blecher & Collins, say publisher contracts calling for the use of this DRM, which like most forms of DRM prohibits readers from copying eBooks or reading them on non-authorized devices, restrain eBook sales and that Amazon “has unlawfully monopolized or attempted to monopolize the market for eBooks in the United States.”
According to market estimates Amazon currently is the dominant leader in the eBook market with over 60 percent of uses using Amazon’s Kindle e-readers. Other well-known companies such as Barnes and Noble and even the mighty Apple are involved in the e-book market but represent only a small amount and don’t add up to much competition. The big-six publishers have contracts with Amazon that allow Amazon’s DRM eBooks but do not have any contracts or deals set up with independent bookstores. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction that prohibits Amazon and the big six from publishing or selling eBooks that are app specific DRMs and to allow independent brick and mortar bookstores to directly sell open source eBooks published by the big six. It’s easy to see that though the big six are mentioned that the plaintiffs are clearly taking the fight straight to the front door of Amazon. Looks like digital content is alive and the battle lines have been drawn.
April Holmes, March 14, 2013
February 25, 2013
Canadian start-up Flow, is teaming up with Hakia to provide semantic search capabilities within a closed platform and take online shopping into a new realm in terms of product specificity and search capability.
Until now e-commerce sites have followed roughly the same pattern; Ebay and Amazon, both powerhouses in the online shopping experience introduced a platform for “every product” and have made a lot of money in the last decade.
The article from Silicon Angle, “Flow Adds Semantic Search from Hakia to Revolutionize E-Commerce,” lays out how Flow and Hakia are creating a different way to search for the products you are looking for, without having to wade through all the extraneous mumbo jumbo. This new partnership hopes to do is to create a social flow and eliminate the sixth degree of separation.
“eCommerce as we know it is pretty entrenched, but social commerce is slowly emerging to challenge the status quo. It’s a concept that’s evolved from what are probably the two biggest phenomena on the web – online shopping and social media. And it’s a natural evolution too, as it only makes sense for marketers to connect with their customers to better understand their needs and position themselves as the ones to provide it.”
Facebook is probably the biggest example of the social marketplace at the moment. Facebook isn’t a shopping powerhouse because it has no search structure. Utilizing semantic search is going to create a kind of exclusive marketplace that hopes to promote less cutthroat competition; since users will be finding exact matches for their searches there’s no competition for most hits in order to remain at the top.
But can the Flow/Hakia partnership really pull through with those kinds of promises? It seems like a pretty tall order to fill. Functionality and no middlemen sound like a dream come true to eCommerce consumers, but the proof is in the pudding.
Leslie Radcliff, February 25, 2013
February 11, 2013
As the world’s largest online marketplace, offering millions of products from wholesalers and individual entrepreneurs one would think that Amazon has made its own bed and no one would be able to mess up the starch cotton sheets. Wired says otherwise in“Google’s Plan To Snatch Shopping From Amazon Is Working.” Last fall Google transitioned to all-paid product listing display ads in search results, which is making more than a couple bucks role in. Advertisers spent 600% more on Google product listings, says Marin Software, and advertisers will skip to whatever tune Google plays.
Advertisers do not seem that upset about it, because when they pay their products get shown more. Google has drawn the usual criticism, because the search results would be biased. The response is that users click on these ads, because Google is simply putting more effort into them. It is a common concept, put more work into something and it shows.
“What does any of this have to do with Amazon? Lawson and Marin Software CEO Chris Lien say that online shoppers today tend to start in one of two places for product information: Google or Amazon. In effect, Amazon has become a “commerce search engine,” which cuts into Google’s core function. To compete, Google wants to give shoppers every reason not to go straight to Amazon by becoming as reliable a destination not just to learn about products, but to buy them.”
Google wants to nab sales from window-shopping to check out, leaving the shipping and inventory to individual sellers. It provides direct competition to Amazon with their warehouses. The fight is on, but no one is KO yet.
Whitney Grace, February 11, 2013
February 2, 2013
When it comes to purchasing a book, most people visit Amazon for its deep discounts and fast shipping. A smaller player in the game is the Hamilton Book Company. This book company specializes in bargain books on a range of subjects from fiction, crafts, military history, cookbooks, arts/entertainment, and science/nature. There are DVDs to browse through, though the selection is limited to the less than popular DVDs you find in a Wal-Mart $5.00 bin. The same can be said for the CDs, which are categorized by theme rather than artist. Browsers can search through seventy-five different categories.
You probably will not find any of the current bestsellers at Hamilton Book Company. Most of the contemporary literature has been resigned to the books popular or were mentioned around ten years ago; although there are some exceptions if you dig through the search results. The best things about the Hamilton Book Company are its prices, but its weakest are the selection and the Web site itself. While using the Web site, one has to navigate through the subjects before even finding any of the products. The biggest fault is that when one clicks on a topic heading on main page, a PDF downloads rather than taking the user to a different part of the Web site.
The final verdict is a basic Web site for cheap and basic books.
Whitney Grace, February 02, 2013
December 19, 2012
Explore Consulting recently published, “EasyAsk Partners with Explore Consulting to Help Fusion Beads – a NetSuite e-Commerce Site- to Improve Search and Navigation,” a news release announcing a new partnership offering e-retail customers an improved shopping experience.
According to the article, EasyAsk, a provider of natural language solutions technology, and Explore Consulting have partnered to deliver natural language e-commerce solutions to retailers using the NetSuite e-commerce platform. This platform ensures that all page content is search friendly and maintains centralized data.
The article states:
“After selecting NetSuite as a new e-commerce platform, Fusion Beads turned to Explore Consulting and EasyAsk because they wanted to make it easier for their customers to navigate the wide range of products offered through their website – more than 50,000 items. Not only does Fusion Beads offer a lot of products, but they also catalog a tremendous amount of product and project data to ensure their customers are getting what they need. With the EasyAsk solution, Fusion Beads can now configure down to the item level the product attributes that should be used for search and navigation from over 600 custom item fields they currently use.”
This new partnership allows Fusion Beads and other companies the ability to maintain website information automatically with improved search and navigation.
Jasmine Ashton, December 19, 2012
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