How Redundancy Can be a Competitive Advantage in eCommerce

August 28, 2013

The recent SLI Systems article, “In eCommerce Be, really, really redundant” makes the argument that, unlike most situations, in cloud computing redundancy can be quite beneficial. This is because it prevents downtime, a known cause of inefficiency. Therefore, redundancy is actually a competitive advantage.

The article explains:

“Downtime is especially detrimental in eCommerce; online buyers can be ruthless when they encounter it. Surveys by Akamai and Gomez.com show that among shoppers who have trouble with a web site’s performance, 79% will never return to buy from that site again. Plus, 44% say they would tell a friend about their poor experience. Even a few minutes of downtime can result in dozens of lost customers on an ordinary day. Imagine the effect of downtime during a peak shopping day like Cyber Monday!”

The article goes on to explain other situations where redundancy has been used to prevent both natural and technological disasters. While redundancy may be a plus for eCommerce businesses, how will it impact Google’s indexing?

Jasmine Ashton, August 28, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search

Interview with CEO as SLI Systems Goes Public

July 3, 2013

SLI Systems is now listed on the New Zealand Exchange. CEO Shaun Ryan shares his thoughts on this and the enterprise search market in this Double Shot Interview that Interest.co.nz has posted to YouTube. In the 17-minute conversation with interviewer Andrew Patterson, Ryan is full of confidence as he shares his thoughts on the future of his company and his industry.

See the interview for more, but here are a few highlights. Ryan acknowledges that his company’s biggest competition is Endeca, who he says is the only company to surpass SLI. They actually found it helpful when Oracle bought Endeca, saying that move opened a “hole in the market.” Interesting.

Customer service is a priority for SLI. Since their business follows a SAS (software-as-a-service) model, customer retention is key, so taking good care of the best ones is “vital,” says Ryan. Besides, the company has gotten some of their best ideas from listening to customer suggestions.

SLI’s decision to go public comes after an average of 30 percent annual growth over last five years. The company considered going the private-venture-capital route, but the best options there would have required a move to the U.S. Though Ryan describes the process of becoming publically listed as difficult (and stresses the importance of a good CFO), he says it was worth it. Patterson asks, How big could the company grow? Ryan responds:

“We see there’s a lot of room for growth in ecommerce. Ecommerce is growing globally, in every country. The U.S. is the world’s largest ecommerce market, but it’s also growing in every country in the world. And you’ll find this, you’re shopping more online, your friends and family are shopping more and more online, that’s just a worldwide phenomenon, so we see there’s a lot of potential. And I’m sure, once you look at it, you’ll notice that search on a lot of websites is really poor, and you’ll sort of get a feel if you go and have a look at a few different websites, you’ll get a feel for how much of a need there is for our sort of services.”

We agree, there is no shortage of retail sites crying for improved search functionality. When asked what SLI hopes to achieve over the next five years, Ryan replies quite sensibly that they hope to continue to grow, pushing into more markets since “the whole world needs better search.” At the moment, SLI serves customers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. Next in their sites is Japan, but Ryan emphasizes that they get customer requests from a number of other countries.

The interview concludes with Ryan’s thoughts on cultivating New Zealand’s tech industry. His two suggestion: turn out more qualified computer science graduates (that sounds familiar), and celebrate the success of companies who have done well. That is a category in which SLI Systems is happy to claim membership, and they show no signs of slowing down now.

Cynthia Murrell, July 03, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

More Amazon Fees May be on the Horizon

May 16, 2013

According to CRN, “Growth Concerns Dog Amazon” and it may affect its clients across the board. The company’s stock sank 6% in recent markets and it only reinforces concerns for the company’s continued expansion. In the United States, Amazon is the largest Internet retailer, has seen slower revenue this quarter and it is not taking off in other countries. Amazon looks all right in its long-term plans, however. It continues to expand its digital products as well as SaaS capabilities that project well.

Amazon continues to steal business from physical retailers, even though they have found ways to reclaim some of the market. Amazon stock is trading quite high, but third-party (3P) sellers are generating profit:

“First-quarter 3P unit growth was 33 percent, down from a 40 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2012, according to Ken Sena, an analyst at Evercare Partners…. In a 3P transaction, Amazon books commissions from third-party sales on its marketplace as revenue. That revenue is almost all profit, so as the 3P business has grown, Amazon’s gross profit margins have expanded.”

Amazon has spread itself thickly across many markets, so it might be seeing slow growth at the moment but it will pick up again. The company has stability, but in order to reclaim the lost profit they may look at raising fees. Tack on a few extra dollars, who will notice?

Whitney Grace, May 16, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search

Mercado Builds Marketplace App on Liferay

April 29, 2013

Cignex Datamatics is launching an open source marketplace infrastructure on top of the popular Liferay open source portal. The aim is to fill another gap in the growing open source worldwide network of services. IT News Online covers the story in the article, “CIGNEX Datamatics Launches Mercado – A Lightweight Marketplace Application.”

The article begins:

“Based on Liferay, popular Open Source portal platform, Mercado allows organizations to build marketplace within enterprise portals, extranets, and intranets. The product addresses the existing gap within the market of having a user centric collaborative space for sharing software products, reports, videos, photos, code snippets etc. . . . The company expects these lightweight products to add value to the enterprise allowing them to realize user adoption with little or no customizations.”

It is interesting to see all of the small lightweight products that are popping up and adding value to the enterprise. Open source initially made a large dent in enterprise services through the large pieces like storage and search. Open source then found its place as the go-to for unstructured data or Big Data. However, solutions like LucidWorks are trying to cover all the bases, offering a broad framework that can suit a variety of enterprises with as few addition add-ons needed as possible. Customers appreciate the strong track record, satisfying user experience, and scalability.

Emily Rae Aldridge, April 29, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search

Online Retail Goes Old School

April 15, 2013

You’ve probably heard the theory that the world is cyclical. What happens once is bound to happen again and so on. However, we didn’t expect online retail to follow this path so quickly. We discovered more from a recent SLI Systems story, “Online Retail Goes…Brick and Mortar?”

According to the story:

“According to the New York Times, companies like Etsy, eBay, Piperlime and Bonobos, which have typically had an online-only presence, are now testing small showrooms in large cities across the country. These smaller stores, with smaller square footage than standard “big box” retailers, allow these online retailers to customers interact with products physically before they buy. These stores are not meant to house all products, but rather serve as a showroom for new or popular items. Because they carry limited stock, they are able to afford more expensive, high-visibility locations in major cities.”

Surprisingly, this isn’t the only instance of an online stalwart entering the physical world. eBay, the online auction behemoth, is also tinkering with the idea according to Internet Retailer. Is this the end of online commerce? Of course not. But what we are excited about is how some real world experience will shape the way online businesses interact with customers. Ideally, this will be a blend of shopping experiences.

Patrick Roland, April 15, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

NLP: Do Not Look at Results. Look at Pictures

April 6, 2013

One of my two or three readers sent me a link to a LinkedIn post in the Information Access and Search Professionals section of the job hunting and consultant networking service. LinkedIn owns Slideshare (a hosting service for those who are comfortable communicating with presentations) and Pulse (an information aggregation service which plays the role of a selective dissemination of information service via a jazzy interface).

The posting which the reader wanted me to read was “How Natural Language Processing Will Change E Commerce Search Forever.” Now that is a bold statement. Most of the search systems we have tested feature facets, prediction, personalization, hit boosting for specials and deals, and near real time inventory updating.

The company posting the information put a version of the LinkedIn information on the Web at Inbenta.

The point of the information is to suggest that Inbenta can deliver more functionality which is backed by what is called “search to buy conversions.” In today’s economy, that’s catnip to many ecommerce site owners who—I presume—use Endeca, Exalead, SLI, and EasyAsk, among others.

I  am okay with a vendor  like Inbenta or any of the analytics hustlers asserting that one type of cheese is better than another. In France alone, there are more than 200 varieties and each has a “best”. When it comes to search, there is no easy way to do a tasting unless I can get my hands on the fungible Chevrotin.

Search, like cheese, has to be experienced, not talked about. A happy nibble to Alpes gourmet at http://www.alpesgourmet.com/fromage-savoie-vercors/1008.php

In the case of this Inbenta demonstration, I am enjoined to look at two sets of results from a the Grainger.com site. The problem is I cannot read the screenshots. I am not able to determine if the present Grainer.com site is the one used for the “before” and “after” examples.

Next I am asked to look at queries from PCMall.com. Again, I could not read the screenshots. The write up says:

Again, the actual details of the search results are not important; just pay attention that both are very different. But in both cases, wasn’t what we searched basically the same thing? Why are the results so different?

The same approach was used to demonstrate that Amazon’s ecommerce search is doing some interesting things. Amazon is working on search at this time, and I think the company realizes that its system for ecommerce and for the hosted service leaves something out of the cookie recipe.

My view is that if a vendor wants to call attention to differences, perhaps these simple guidelines would eliminate the confusion and frustration I experience when I try to figure out what is going on, what is good and bad, and how the outputs differ:

First, provide a link to each of the systems so I can run the queries and look at the results myself. I did not buy into the Watson Jeopardy promotion because in television, magic takes place in some editing studios. Screenshots which I cannot read nor replicate open the door to similar suspicions.

Second, to communicate the “fix” I need more than an empty data table. A list of options does not help me. We continue to struggle with systems which describe a “to be” future yet cannot deliver a “here and now” result. I have a long and winding call with an analytics vendor in Nashville, Tennessee which follows a similar, abstract path in explaining what the company’s technology does. If one cannot show functionality, I don’t have time to listen to science fiction.

Third, the listing of high profile sites is useful for search engine optimization, but not for making crystal clear the whys and wherefores of a content processing system. Specific information is needed, please.

To wrap up, let me quote from the Inbenta essay:

By applying these techniques on e-commerce website search, we have accomplished the following results in the first few weeks.

  • Increase in conversion ratio: +1.73%
  • Increase average purchase value: +11%

Okay, interesting numbers. What is the factual foundation of them? What method was used to calculate the deltas? What was the historical base of the specific sites in the sample?

In a world in which vendors and their pet consultants jump forward with predictions, assertions, and announcements of breakthroughs—some simple facts can be quite helpful. I am okay with self promotion but when asking me to see comparisons, I have to be able to run the queries myself. Without that important step, I am skeptical just as I was with the sci-fi fancies of the folks who put marketing before substance.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2013

Sponsored by Augmentext

SLI Systems Brightens Online Shopping

March 21, 2013

Online shopping is designed to be a pleasant experience for shoppers and LEDHut wants to make sure that its customers get the most from their online shopping experience. According to the Econsultancy Digital Marketing Excellence article “LEDHut Brightens the Online Shopping Experience with Site Search from SLI Systems” LEDHut is switching to SLI’s Learning Search. They were previously using the open-source Magento e-commerce platform.

LEDHut wanted a site search that not only improved relevancy but also helped visitors learn more about LED technology and the lighting products that are readily available. More importantly Learning Search gives LEDHut the ability to provide more relevant and tailored results to their shoppers. Not only does the solution take into account misspellings but they also offer product suggestions and the users has done a few keystrokes. LEDHut is looking forward to adding a SLI powered mobile site. Keith Scott, Marketing Director of LEDHut made the following statement:

“The LED lighting industry is still in its infancy in the UK and Europe, which means our customers need to be presented with relevant items that match their searches. Now, instead of being overwhelmed by too many results, SLI’s Learning Search delivers precise results that are easier and faster for shoppers to browse through – which also helps them increase their knowledge of LED options to fit their home and lifestyle.”

 

Shaun Ryan CEO of SLI systems stated a very important fact.

“Fine-tuned, relevant results that are generated from the past behaviour of other visitors encouraging shoppers to browse and glean information about product choices – which in turn increases conversions.”

Online shopping should be a user-friendly and customer oriented experience so LEDHut definitely with the help of SLI Learning Search definitely has the right idea in mind.

April Holmes, March 21, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Indie Bookstore Fight Back against Amazon eBooks Monopoly

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Hakia to Revolutionize Online Shopping Experience

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google Steals Customers From Amazon

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

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search

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