Archive for month: September, 2012

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Search and Merchandising Gazette – September, 2012

What’s in This Month’s Newsletter?
  1. E-Commerce Challenges Survey
  2. Secrets to Searchandising Success
  3. Dynamic Merchandising with DollarDays
  4. Agile Online Merchandising White Paper

 

Free Search & Merchandising Assessment

Want to see how your online merchandising is doing? Fill out the form below to register for a free online search and merchandising assessment from our expert team.

For decades retailers have successfully used in-store merchandising to increase sales using tried and true techniques such as displaying popular or seasonal items at the store’s entrance, using end-caps to feature discounts and offering add-ons and accessories near related products to increase average purchase sizes. The actions they took were backed by detailed analytics that told them which products to promote and what type of promotions to use based on past success.

In the highly competitive e-commerce market, online merchandising is even more critical to building a customer base and increasing sales. While many of the techniques are similar, the technology to deliver these promotions is vastly different.

Your e-commerce platform typically provides some merchandising capabilities. However, these tools typically require you to “hard-wire” the merchandising item by item, which will: (a) require a laborious process to manage merchandising promotions, and (b) make it difficult to adjust the promotions for new products, events (seasons, holidays, etc.), trends and styles.

This is where a search and merchandising platform with natural language capabilities such as EasyAsk adds tremendous value. Natural language not only makes your search better, but also makes it easier for merchandisers to create dynamic merchandising promotions and deliver more compelling offers based on the products customers are exploring.

The following articles can help you better understand the importance of online merchandising and the new techniques and tools available to help you increase sales with better merchandising.

E-Commerce Challenges Survey

Earlier this year Retail Systems Research LLC performed a custom survey to gauge the biggest business challenges to increasing online sales in 2012. When asked about places their sites could improve to increase sales, the top 4 answers were all related to merchandising, with the top answer specifically calling out merchandising as a challenge:

  • Improving online merchandising and assortment, 65%
  • Providing richer product details, 61%
  • Investing in cross-channel shopping capabilities, 59%
  • Improving search and browse capabilities, 43%

Click here to read the full article in Internet Retailer magazine on this survey and the interesting results.

Secrets to Searchandising Success

How does a retailer take the same tried and true methods from their brick and mortar operations and apply them to online merchandising? Does each technique translate into the online world? What new techniques are available to the online merchandiser?

This Website Magazine article examines the similarities and differences between in-store merchandising and online merchandising. It lists the five most important things to keep in mind when using online merchandising to increase your online sales and customers’ satisfaction.

Dynamic Merchandising with DollarDays

With over 250,000 products that are constantly changing and promotions that need to be adjusted at a moment’s notice, online B2B retailer DollarDays International faces challenges every day with online merchandising. Even with such a complex environment DollarDays thrives by continually pushing out new online merchandising promotions based on seasons, trends, cross-sell opportunities, inventory and more.

We invite you to read the full DollarDays Customer Success Story to see how the company uses natural language to dynamically adjust the promotions on the company’s highly successful e-commerce site.

Agile, dynamic merchandising with natural language rules

The secret to better merchandising is a dynamic platform that makes it both easier for merchandisers to define promotions, and can offer highly attractive offers to visitors in real-time. Natural language merchandising rules delivers both these capabilities.

For example, natural language allows you to define cross-sell offers that are delivered dynamically, based on the characteristics of the products the customer is exploring. This simplifies the job of the merchandiser and makes offers more compelling to visitors.

Please download the white paper Making Merchandising Faster and Easier with Natural Language to see how you can use dynamic online merchandising tools to increase sales.

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Online Merchandising White Paper

Merchandising has been a staple in brick and mortar stores for decades. For years retailers have honed their merchandising strategies, spending countless millions of dollars to display certain products at specific places in the stores based on price, sales popularity and more. They also know what products to place near each other to promote cross-selling and larger overall purchases.

Internet retailers are learning the art of merchandising all over again – for the online environment. While some basic principles remain the same – cross-selling, up-selling, promoting certain products over others, and more – the methods of going about merchandising in the online world are vastly different. The merchandising tools and analytics are new, the display techniques are algorithmic, and the sales influencers have drastically altered – social media, etc.

This white paper will offer techniques online retailers can use to better merchandise on their e-commerce sites and show how to implement an agile online merchandising environment to rapidly respond to changes in markets, consumers and products.

Click on the button below to download our white paper on Online Merchandising.

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CPC Strategy E-Commerce News – How Do You Increase On-Site Conversion Rates? Enter Site Search Experts EasyAsk

Posted by  on September 20, 2012 in Ecommerce

With online traffic increasing in cost each year, retailers need to work on optimizing the conversion rates of the visitors that reach their site. There’s many ways to do this, and one of the most effective is implementing new site search technology to help consumers find the right product faster.
EasyAsk is a company that does just that. Their CEO Craig Bassin was nice enough to answer a few questions about the product for our audience.

Define EasyAsk in 140 characters or less:

EasyAsk, a Gartner Cool Vendor for 2012, is the leading provider of natural language semantic technology and solutions.

EasyAsk eCommerce provides intelligent search, navigation and merchandising tools to all sizes of eRetailers. Our customers enjoy industry-leading conversion rates because EasyAsk’s Natural Language search helps their customers more easily find what they are looking for on your site and merchandisers are empowered to drive sales with the right changes and promotions.

What is your target market? Please be as specific as possible.

Over 350 e-commerce sites already rely on EasyAsk’s natural language solutions.  EasyAsk delivers its solutions as on-premise software and SaaS to all types and sizes of B2B and B2C e-commerce companies.

EasyAsk eCommerce manages sites with as few at 500 SKU’s to as many as 10 million+, so we can grow with our clients as their business grows.  Most merchants quickly realize that keyword search functionality embedded in e-commerce platforms provide less-than-stellar shopping experiences.

We get a large number of calls from small to mid-sized e-commerce companies looking to fix poor search box results due to limited platform search capabilities – like SOLR, or other keyword based technologies.

Merchandisers may often lead the selection process too, demanding intuitive tools to better control their business, aiming to rely less on technical teams to translate their merchandising and promotional strategies.

What’s your pricing structure look like? Do merchants have to make long-term commitments to use your products / services?

We find that in most cases, EasyAsk deployments pay for themselves in the first 6 to 12 months, so the pricing structure is always positive, and we created a very flexible pricing structure to support a wide rage of budgets. EasyAsk customers should expect revenues to increase, due to improved customer conversion. Many have seen revenues grow from 20% to, in once case, 100% in the first year.

EasyAsk eCommerce SaaS starts at $999 a month and on-premise deployments start at $35,000. Subscription licenses (SaaS) have commitments of as little as one year, and on-premise licenses are perpetual, requiring only industry-standard annual maintenance.

What differentiates you from other companies that provide similar products / services?

EasyAsk is the leading natural language search engine in the marketplace.

The evolution in search is to extend beyond the limitations of keyword search.  Keyword search only matches words – there is no understanding of the intent or context of the search.

The industry is acknowledging keyword search deficiencies, and in fact even Google is now implementing a new semantic model that provides some understanding of what the searcher is looking for.

EasyAsk leads the industry in providing an even stronger model that not only understands the intent of the search, but also the content of the site.  This provides a perfect combination resulting in the right products displayed on the first page every time and also eliminates the dreaded ‘no results’ page.

Traditionally we compete with keyword search providers, which don’t measure up when it comes to understanding shopper intent.  We also compete a bit with in-house development – some e-commerce sites are built with a patchwork of open source code.

It takes a lot of technical savvy to keep these sites together and functioning.  In all cases, once we plug in EasyAsk, we dramatically improve search, navigation and merchandising control, resulting in increased conversion and higher revenues.

For your shoppers who continue to search with keywords, EasyAsk’s natural language solution even improves keyword search.  For example, a search for “dresses” or a search for a “shirt” will be different than a search for a “dress shirt”.

EasyAsk’s advanced linguistics automatically recognizes that a dress shirt is a different product concept and not the intersection of “dress” and “shirt” as would happen with the keyword search technologies in the market today.

What’s next for EasyAsk?

Everyone’s talking about mobile.  But very few companies are really thinking about how the mobile shopping experience differs from one designed for the desktop, laptop and tablet.

The fact is that it needs to be VERY different, and designed for a 3”x2” screen.  The user interface needs to be optimized for the smartphone. If your shoppers could speak to their smartphone, as they would a sales person in a store, and get accurate results, then you’ll convert that shopper into a buyer.

We’ve developed some really cool, cutting-edge mobile solutions, both for e-commerce and inside the enterprise.  It’s similar to the Apple Siri model, blending voice recognition with natural language.

This gives you the ability to touch your microphone button and ask for exactly what you want.  EasyAsk takes it from there and delivers the right result to your smartphone.  Shoppers have little patience when it comes to navigating lists on a 3-inch screen.

Voice-enabled natural language search is an ideal way to get the right products in front of shoppers with minimal end-user effort. We already provide this capability to most of our e-commerce customers today.  Nearly all Androids and all iPhone 4s are voice-enabled, and our natural language engine on the backend understands shopper intent – providing the best shopping experience for mobile shoppers today, period.

We also just launched a Siri-like solution for the enterprise called Quiri.  It gives workers easy access to the information they need to perform their jobs.  You can watch a quick video demo here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLhQn-Zx7D8 ).

Research we commissioned suggests US organizations could save more than $800 million a day by deploying this type of voice-enabled natural language technology.  For more on the benefits and how people are accessing information today, take a look at some of our research highlights here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZkS7JK-mtE )

Where can merchants learn more?

We provide a lot of product and topical information on our Website.  The best source is probably other merchants – we have a variety of case studies and articles on our Website and we host a series of Webinars where our customers tell their stories in their own words.  Readers can check on our Website for upcoming events and can also go directly to our e-commerce solutions center athttp://www.easyask.com/solutions/e-commerce/.

For those merchants that want a quick look at our e-commerce solutions, they can go tohttp://www.easyask.com/products/ or give us a call at 1-800-452-8200.

For the articel as it appears in CPC Strategy News Blog, go here.

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Great Moment for Humans

What do we have here, in our present day and age, which enables all these powerful technologies and personal tools that we talk about? What is the main change in society, at a great historical moment, now, that will be remembered as a great turning point, a watershed?


 

A New Earth

Our momentous moment is much more than just a range of new devices and technologies. People on this planet have always communicated, played games, traveled and so on.

Those sorts of things don’t change over time much. Deep changes don’t happen in what people do, but how they do it. Over time, our awareness of what we do, and why, can shift. This is the way trend-watchers and some technologists interpret history.

One area where this change is expressed clearly is in the human race’s conception of the planet earth itself. We always had some idea of terra firma, and yet ever since NASA landed men on the moon, that image changed dramatically.

Great astronomers like Carl Sagan have pointed out that shift: a shift in humanity’s understanding of their home within the universe. With those incredible first images of the earth, taken from the moon, humans had their first ever look at the very planet on which they lived.

 

New Basis of Technology

We might say that technology was changing radically at the same time as our picture of the world was changing. Modern digital inventions were being created, and a few decades after the lunar mission, the Internet was born at a simple stage (not yet with the Web added to it, for use by the general public).

At the same time as humanity had gained a powerfully cohesive image of its home planet, its escalating sciences and (some would say out of control) technology were threatening to blow it up!

But a profound shift was already taking place in the degree to which people all over the world were sharing their cultures and concerns, through modern media like television, film and music.

The Web has continued that trend, making sharing ever more possible. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, a kind of landmark in human communication history, basically consolidated and focused this major trend.

 

Where We Are Now

These days, far beyond the basic technologies that have made physical life so much easier, humanity uses virtual technology that has created another sphere of life, wherein great amounts of experimentation, art, communication, collaboration and fun can happen without much limitation.

It all started in our imagination! This great moment in human history, arguably, kicked off with a great boost for the global mind, or ‘collective intelligence’.

It wasn’t as if children all starting doing quantum physics, however — the change actually showed up in simple things like playing video games, actually. Meanwhile science fiction encouraged people to think out of the box.

Strange as it may seem, for instance, if we play at Classy Casinos online or any other popular Web-powered games we are experiencing something that could only be available after the progress we have discussed above — it’s proof of a new way to live and play on earth.

 

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SemanticWeb – EasyAsk Helps DollarDays Boost Sales and Web Presence

EasyAsk reports that their client DollarDays has marked several milestones this back-to-school season thanks in part to EasyAsk’s natural language semantic search. The article states, “In 11 short years, Dollar Days is celebrating several milestones, including doubling the number of SKUs it offers to more than 225,000 and the number of suppliers to more than 500. Traffic on the DollarDays.com site has increased significantly, as have the number of memberships. All of this translates into revenue growth for DollarDays, even in a business environment where competitors are shrinking or going out of business.”

The article continues, “DollarDays CEO Marc Joseph attributes DollarDays’ continued success to many key variables, including a growing number of price-sensitive shoppers, dominant marketing as seen in the company’s back-to-school programs and an overall exceptional customer experience, led by strong site search, merchandising and analytic capabilities. ‘As the volume of traffic and the total number of items increases, the more important it is to present the right items to the visitor as quickly as possible,’ says Joseph. DollarDays originally used the open source search product, Solr as part of its open source e-commerce software stack. Solr is an open source search platform from the Apache Lucene project.”

For the full article, click here.

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Take advantage of an internet niche

There’s value in having something unique, yet popular, to offer. In the world of commerce, it’s called a niche product. A niche product is something that is the goal of most any entrepreneur, especially in today’s world of online access. The internet allows people to get the word out on their product or service, not just in the community, but globally. That’s why almost all businesses need an online presence. And that rings true especially for the type of niche product that a company such as Cascade Coil produces. There are any number of practical and aesthetic uses for the type of wire fabric that Cascade manufactures and sells. Having a worldwide venue to boast those uses and advantages is crucial to their business.

 

The internet effect

The notion of promoting a unique product or service over the internet has been around for decades now. And the internet has revolutionized many traditional products by opening new doors to the niche product. Something as simple as the lottery is a good example of how the internet has transformed something and created a whole new segment of commerce at the same time. Of course the lottery has been around much longer than the internet. In fact, lotteries have been used for centuries as a way to raise money for things from building the Great Wall of China to financing the first colony at Jamestown. It lost favor with the law for a period of time and turned into a “numbers racket,” falling into the domain of organized crime. But now hundreds of states, provinces, nations and other government entities sponsor lotteries as a way to raise revenue. Plenty of government projects and programs are financed through lotteries.

Transformation

But playing the lottery is no longer just a matter of picking up a couple of tickets at the convenience store and crossing your fingers. The internet has changed all that. Nowadays millions of people go online for their lottery games, and that type of access has created a new type of player and a new type of website. The player is a high-volume seeker of odds, who browses lottery games worldwide in search of the best chances of hitting a winner. It may seem strange that so many people would devote good picket money to games of random numbers. But these players have a variety of systems and money-management strategies to help them parlay wins and taper losses. The internet has responded to their needs with centralized websites that provide the information the big-time players need for online lotteries worldwide. These websites provide the results of online lotteries across the globe. They also offer tips and guides on how to play each game, advice on the best payment/withdrawal systems, and eligibility rules for the games. They act as online hubs for lottery players, and they provide a good example of a niche product that gets big response because of the access millions of people have via the internet.

Online lotteries aren’t for everyone; the laws vary for each jurisdiction. That’s because online access has made for a competitive atmosphere for lottery games. Some online lotteries only offer access to players from particular places. And some jurisdictions don’t allow their residents to play online anywhere else. So playing online all depends on where you live – or your computer IP address. But these full-service lottery websites exemplify the transformation the internet has created in the most traditional things. They also demonstrate the advantages of having the world wide web to promote and offer a niche product.

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DollarDays Delivers a Solid Back-to-School Season with EasyAsk Semantic Search

Move from Open Source Solr, to EasyAsk Improved Search, Navigation and Merchandising – Driving Business Forward

EasyAsk, the leading provider of natural language semantic technologies, and DollarDays International, the largest by-the-case online store for small businesses shared details of DollarDays recent Back-to-School season success.

In 11 short years, Dollar Days is celebrating several milestones, including doubling the number of SKUs it offers to more than 225,000 and the number of suppliers to more than 500. Traffic on the DollarDays.com site has increased significantly, as have the number of memberships. All of this translates into revenue growth for DollarDays, even in a business environment where competitors are shrinking or going out of business.

DollarDays CEO Marc Joseph attributes DollarDays’ continued success to many key variables, including a growing number of price-sensitive shoppers, dominant marketing as seen in the company’s back-to-school programs and an overall exceptional customer experience, led by strong site search, merchandising and analytic capabilities.

“As the volume of traffic and the total number of items increases, the more important it is to present the right items to the visitor as quickly as possible,” says Joseph.

DollarDays originally used the open source search product, Solr as part of its open source e-commerce software stack. Solr is an open source search platform from the Apache Lucene project.

Business Reasons DollarDays Upgraded to EasyAsk from Solr
• Highly descriptive search – Because of their explosive product catalogue growth, DollarDays needed to give shoppers more search functionality, and the ability to enter more detailed descriptions in the search box.
• Faceted navigation – most navigation systems define static categories. EasyAsk natural language automatically generates additional layers of product definitions that greatly improve faceted navigation.
• Agile merchandising – Merchandisers can leverage EasyAsk eCommerce to create banner ads, promotions and rapidly identify and adapt as shopper trends develop.
• Manageability – the scope of managing search terms over a product catalogue of 225,000 SKUs can be overwhelming. EasyAsk offers intuitive graphical tools and analytics to make the job easier.

“EasyAsk search dramatically reduced the time for customers to find products and get to that all important checkout stage,” said Joseph. “As our number of items and seasonal merchandising needs grew, EasyAsk’s superior faceted search enabled our shoppers to more explicitly explore items across multiple dimensions. We offer a number of niche products, and once the visitors get to our site, we need to make it easy to find the exact product they want. EasyAsk helps us do that.”

Kevin Ryan, VP of merchandising at DollarDays said, “wholesale sites are generally behind consumer sites when it comes to usability. Many sites only offer basic search and simple navigation by category. Imagine scrolling through 5000 different products in the same category, such as toys to find the one you’re looking for. People eventually get frustrated and leave. That is what sets us apart – we are way ahead of the competition.”

DollarDays recently redesigned its homepage (www.dollardays.com), leveraging EasyAsk’s analytics, natural language merchandising and faceted navigation to better guide visitors and present high priority items for the season in much less space. DollarDays also uses EasyAsk analytics to discover and actively promote the top items its customers are looking for at any given time. An example can be found in its “School Charity Drive” page (http://dollardays.com/easysearch.aspx?pg=1&q=bts2012) where EasyAsk Analytics identifies the 500 most popular items from last year, and promotes these in a blackboard-style category grid.

Joseph is an active contributor to the Huffington Post on economic and business issues. According to Joseph, “Despite the fact that many US consumers believe we are still in a recession, DollarDays is well into our best back-to-school season yet, which is the biggest season for our company. EasyAsk is a big part of our success.”

About EasyAsk
EasyAsk is radically changing the speed and ease of how people find information through the company’s ground-breaking natural language search software. EasyAsk has long been a leader in natural language information analysis and delivery software and its customers include Coldwater Creek, Lands End, Lillian Vernon, Aramark, TruValue, Siemens, Hartford Hospital, Ceridian, JoAnn Fabrics and Harbor Freight Tools. For more information, go to www.easyask.com.

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Webinar: Using Analytics to Optimize the Shopping Experience

Orginal Air Date: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Length: 60 minutes

Learn how to apply search analytics to increase online sales.

Search, navigation and merchandising are a living, breathing part of your e-commerce site and overall customer shopping experience. You need to quickly adapt these critical aspects of your site for new products, market trends and customer needs.

Your search analytics provide you with timely, actionable information for continuously optimizing your shopping experience. Using search analytics, you can identify opportunities to streamline the path to customer purchases, and highly specific actions to deliver these optimizations.

In this webinar, the EasyAsk “Man in the Green Hat” will teach you:

  • What information is contained in search analytics and what it can teach you,
  • The customer experience problems search analytics can help you identify and how to take action, including the elimination no results searches and fine tuning the results of searches,
  • How search analytics can help identify new categories and attributes that can better guide customers to the right products,
  • The new merchandising opportunities which search analytics can identify to increase sales through promotions, SEO, and new product offerings.

The webinar will be hosted by Ben Rudnick, EasyAsk Director of Field Technical Services. Ben is also affectionately known as the “Man in the Green Hat” for his unique expert sessions at leading industry events.

Attend this session from EasyAsk to learn how to apply analytics to drive conversion and shopper satisfaction. To register for this webinar, click the button below.

Ready to see how EasyAsk's eCommerce solution can help you? Request a demo!