Archive for month: April, 2013

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Searching For Results

A strong search capability on e-commerce sites seems like an obvious requirement, yet surprisingly often it is overlooked, to the detriment of the merchandiser. Potential customers who cannot find what they want in their first search attempt may assume the item is not available and abandon the search entirely. Some studies indicate that average conversion rates are as low as 1 to 4 percent. “When users get irrelevant results, they lose faith quickly,” says Jarrod Gingras, principal at the Real Story Group, a research firm that advises enterprises on content technology. “It is important to choose the right search technology for the content, and to recognize the need for ongoing tuning.”

Go2marine.com offers a diverse group of 160,000 marine products and parts online, made by more than 800 different manufacturers for both commercial and recreational boaters.

The parent company, Mariner Supply, staffs its call center with experienced boaters and engine specialists to provide valuable expertise to its customers.

With such a large set of products, the success of the Go2marine site depends on an effective search capability. Mariner Supply had developed a  search engine in house and used it for many years, but decided to turn to the eCommerce Edition from EasyAsk after discovering it at a conference. “We were not really in the market to replace our search engine,” says Keith Fetterman, CTO of Mariner Supply, “but we realized EasyAsk had a lot more capabilities than the search engine we were using.”

Asking questions naturally

The Go2marine website had been operating for more than a decade. At the time it was established, marine supply sites were generally an extension of catalog retailers or brick-and-mortar stores. “Our founder was a boating enthusiast and worked in the commercial marine industry,” Fetterman explains.

EasyAsk’s products are based on natural language query capability, which allows visitors to the site to ask questions in the same terms they would use when interacting with a clerk in a store. For example, users can ask for a product “under $10,” and the site will respond with appropriate results.

One of the qualities of EasyAsk that appealed to Mariner Supply was that it matched the way the company thinks about its product line. “Rather than returning results for a series of individual products,” Fetterman says, “it groups them into product families.” For example, for a particular brand of diesel stove, about eight variations are possible, with assorted options for size and features. “Our customers can select the product family and then choose the details that match their needs,” he explains.

If the search finds products in multiple categories, it groups them in the left margin of the screen so that the customer can select the desired category of products. “EasyAsk also filters by attributes such as manufacturer, size, weight or other factor depending on the product,” Fetterman says.

PlowAnchor Go2Marine

EasyAsk’s rich administrative tools were another attractive component. “There are many ways to tweak the search engine in order to improve results,” Fetterman explains. “We wanted to give priority to products for which we have thumbnail images available, for example, and EasyAsk was able to do this after we modified our database to indicate that the product had an image available.”

The proof of EasyAsk’s effectiveness was evident to Mariner Supply in the sales volume. “Normally, the fall is our slow season,” Fetterman says, “but the year we rolled it out, we saw an uptick, despite the economic downturn.”

Prioritizing by attribute

Through the use of EasyAsk Studio, merchandisers can manage search and navigation as well as create business rules and promotions. The same natural language technology that supports search by customers is also used in the development environment, allowing the merchandiser to write a rule that says, for example, “Every time we show brown shoes, also show brown belts.” Relevancy weightings for different fields are easily set up in a table by selecting options from “very low” to “highest.”

EasyAsk eCommerce can be tuned to prioritize results according to any attribute. “The merchandiser might want to put high-margin products near the top of search results,” says Marc Schnabolk, VP of sales at EasyAsk, “or automatically indicate the product as ‘new’ if it was added in the last two days.” If a product has more than a certain number of sales in a given time period, it can be automatically categorized as a “top seller.” In each of those cases, the search will bring back those items.

If a search does not produce any results, rather than showing “no results,” EasyAsk can be set up to relax the search criteria according to any attribute. For example, it can relax out the color first, or the manufacturer. “We think it’s important to have something on the page as an alternative to the initial search,” Schnabolk says. “This is a core concept for the product.”

EasyAsk is available in both on-premise and SaaS licensing models. “SaaS has made it very affordable for smaller companies to have the same search power as large retailers,” Schnabolk says. “EasyAsk is equally well suited for sites with a thousand items for sale and those with millions of items.”

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Come Meet Ben at Inforum!

Look For The Man In The Furry Green Hat!

EasyAsk's Ben Rudnick. Look for him at Inforum 2013!

If you are an Infor Storefront Customer, you may be heading to Orlando this weekend for Inforum 2013. If you are planning to be there, our own Ben Rudnick would love to meet up with you while he’s there!

Infor Storefront is built on the award winning EasyAsk eCommerce Edition Site Search and Navigation platform. EasyAsk drives higher conversion through better part number searching, faster response, and better results with understanding of shopper intent, thanks to EasyAsk’s Natural Language Semantic Search.

We aren’t exhibiting in the Expo Hall. However, Ben will be there walking around in a green furry hat (to make it really easy for you to find him). You can also find Ben in the following sessions:

Monday

  • 11:45 AM – 12:45 PM – W304A DIST-5002 – Storefront Overview
  • 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM – W304A DIST-5001 – Storefront – What’s New and What’s around the Corner

Tuesday

  • 11:45 AM – 12:45 PM – W304A DIST-5001 – Storefront – What’s New and What’s around the Corner
  • 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM – W303C DIST-3023C – FACTS Roundtable: Using Storefront with EasyAsk
  • 3:15 PM – 4:15 PM – W304A DIST-5006 – Storefront Rocks with Easy Ask & Google Analytics
  • 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM – W303B DIST-2024C – A+ Roundtable on eCommerce topics

Wednesday

  • 9:45 AM – 10:45 AM – W304A DIST-3024C – Storefront for FACTS Roundtable

We hope to see you at Inforum!

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Is it Time To Upgrade The Site Search Built Into Your Platform?

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Top tier eCommerce platforms like Magento and Websphere Commerce are optimized to provide an array of services to help you deliver an excellent eCommerce site.  These services includes a shopping cart, content management system, product catalog management, customer relationship management, order management and more.

They also offer basic keyword search and many offer an advanced search option based on Solr, a popular open source project.  However, Solr may not be the right answer for many eCommerce companies.  It’s difficult to administer, requiring development resources for basic administration as well as creating rules for navigation, sorting and merchandising.  Solr also lacks support for some of the most important site search features, like actionable customer analytics.  Solr’s inability to manage spell-correction and stemming means admins have to enter all the various word forms into the system manually, increasing the burden of maintaining it.

For companies just starting out in eCommerce or those with a limited number of products that are easy to find and navigate, the site search functionality that comes with your eCommerce platform may be adequate.  But, at what point does the business outgrow those capabilities? When any of the following occur:

  • The number of products you offer on your site grows
  • The variances of the products (a.k.a. SKUs and attributes) grows
  • The ways in which you want to describe product options in your navigation become more variable – different price ranges, different sizes or colors, etc.
  • The ways in which you want to merchandise your products gets more sophisticated – fast changing promotions, cross-sells, up-sells, etc.

The changes in product characteristics sneak up on online businesses very quickly.  The business grows rapidly, new products and variances are added to meet that growth, and suddenly the product catalog becomes unwieldy and products become difficult to find and merchandise on the site.  At this point, the business has outgrown the search, navigation and merchandising functionality that comes with your eCommerce platform – even with upgraded options, like Solr.

Need more information to help you figure out whether it’s time to integrate a better site search, navigation and merchandising solution with your eCommerce platform? Schedule a demo with our team and we’ll be happy to tell you all about it.

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Discounts Are No. 1 Enticer for Online Shoppers, Learn How to Entice with EasyAsk

A recent piece by Allison Enright for Internet Retailer shares a discovery by Rakuten Inc.  Their discovery states that “U.S. consumers cite price most often as the prime factor in choosing to make a purchase online, according to an online survey of more than 5,300 consumers in a dozen countries. 75% of U.S. respondents rank price as the most important factor, while the global average stands at 61%.  The survey included responses from consumers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, France, Spain, the United States, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Rakuten, which is based in Japan, operates marketplaces in all those countries. It is the second-largest eCommerce company in Asia, according to Internet Retailer’s Asia 500.”

With it being fairly obvious that price is so important, offering a discounted price should be the ultimate money maker… as long as your customers know you are offering discounted items.  So I sat down with Ben Rudnick, Director of Field Technical Services at EasyAsk, to discuss how a retailer could use EasyAsk to entice buyers through promotions and business rules.

Here is what he had to say:

“This price sensitivity can be used to drive sales through targeted email campaigns, sorting product results and more with EasyAsk.  For example, for a price conscious customer who buys Tools, a set of products could be selected such as “Tools on sale with discount over 60%” and with a single link from within the email, the site product search could deliver those products, sorted by decreasing discount percentage.  With EasyAsk a single campaign landing page can serve many email campaigns for the future.  The products are selected for each campaign within the EasyAsk’s Natural Language tools.  For each email campaign the link can point to the same landing page, passing the EasyAsk campaign selection as part of the search. In addition the request passed to EasyAsk could also sort by your choice of: price, margin, discount percentage, price sensitivity score and more.”

EasyAsk is more than just eCommerce Site Search and Navigation.  It’s Natural Language engine puts the power in the hands of the Merchandisers, and the examples Ben mentioned are just a few of the many ways that EasyAsk can help your eCommerce Site do its job to the best of its abilities.  Come see what else we can help you accomplish.  Visit our website or give us a call at 781-402-5641.

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