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What do keyword mCommerce Search & Dinosaurs have in common?

comic courtesy of Christiann MacAuley (


They’re both extinct.

It’s a pretty good analogy, really. If we set the way-back machine to 2007, there was no mCommerce (eCommerce on a mobile device). Why? Because the mobile devices of the day were not designed to be the computer-in-a-pocket devices that we have today. The very best options in those days were slick flip-phones (like the Razr, I still have a red one sitting in a drawer), PDA’s that doubled as phones (like the Palm Treo my boss had) and, of course, the Blackberry.

In the same universe, eCommerce searches, like all searches, were based on keywords. We were all trained to search in terse terms, knowing that the search engine was not intuitive and could not understand the intent or context of the words we use in normal, everyday language. So we searched based on one or two words and then used navigation to drill down to find what we were really looking for.

But technology evolved, as it always does. First came the iPhone, followed closely by the Android. Here was a game changer, we all rapidly abandoned our formerly beloved cell phones to harness the amazing power of a smartphone. By December 2014, 9 out of 10 (88.9%) mobile subscribers aged 25-34 owned a cellphone and 3 out of 4 (75%) of all mobile subscribers over the age of 13 had one. (source: marketingcharts)

I don’t need to tell you how smart your smartphone really is – you already know that. With the advent of voice technology like Siri and GoogleNow, the next big game changer came in the form of smarter search. We now have the ability to speak to our smartphone the way we speak to another person. For example, if I’m in Boston’s famous North End and I want pizza, I can ask for the best pizza in the North End and get a list of shops – with recommendations. How cool is that?

But what about mCommerce? Here’s a world where search is critical. After all, any shopper coming to your site has the potential to become a buyer. If they found what they were looking for on their first search, there’s a better chance of delighting them and converting them into a buyer.

So, if I want to buy a blue dress, I ask for a blue dress, and if I want that dress in a size 6 for less than $100, then I ask for a blue dress in a size six under $100. Here’s the interesting part, most of the technology that is used to search in eCommerce still uses keywords. Those engines will pick apart my query and return things that have nothing to do with what I asked for. I’ll get lots of blue things, and I’ll get underwear and I’ll even get a message telling me that they can’t find any matches (the dreaded no results page) or worse yet, I will get 10,000 items that are all wrong.

But, there are some technologies available today that understand the true context of my question, and will return results that exactly match what I asked for in the first place.

It’s funny because Google, Bing, Yahoo and IBM’s Watson all use this new natural language technology for their searches, but in the eCommerce world, the obsolete keyword search model still pervades the market. Why? Because it is free and it is embedded in the eCommerce platforms and many eRetailers don’t even know that a better way exists.

If you are an eRetailer you must be asking yourself if a natural language search engine would give you a competitive edge, delight your customers and drive your revenue. The answer is, of course!

When your business is relying on returning the right products, the first time, don’t give it to the dinosaur. Because what do dinosaurs and keyword search have in common? They are both extinct.


Internet Retailer Reveals Mobile Commerce Conversion Troubles

Guido Laures, the CTO of Spreadshirt, an e-retailer of print-on-demand apparel and accessories, recently published a revealing article in Internet Retailer on the struggles of e-retailers to convert on their mobile commerce sites and the lost potential revenue as a result.  According to Mr. Laures,

“Every year retailers are inundated with studies that herald mobile breakthroughs, but in reality, very few consumers finalize purchases on a smartphone.”

He cites interesting statistics from m-commerce technology provider Branding Brand that tablets and smartphones generated 53% of the visits to 50 retail sites that Branding Brands tracks in January 2015, but only generated 24% of the total web sales, thereby highlighting the conversion problem.

We have seen similar poor conversion rate statistics from the Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly reports.   In the 4th quarter of 2014 – the prime holiday season – Monetate found the conversion rate on smartphones was only 1.00% percent which is almost ¼ the rate on traditional desktops.

While mobile-friendly responsive designs and easier mobile checkouts are cited as inhibitors to mobile commerce conversion, an overlooked and more dangerous problem is earlier in the shopping process.  Before they can buy, customers first need to find the product they want.  Small screen sizes, clumsy typing and awkward scrolling gestures render traditional search and navigation useless on a smartphone.

The era of voice search is upon us.  Natural language voice-enabled search allows shoppers to freely say to your mobile site or app what they want, like they were speaking to a sales associate.  And in return, the mobile commerce site will show them exactly the products they want.  If they find the products faster, customers will convert more often.  It is that simple.

Only a natural language search solution can give your mobile commerce site the linguistic capabilities to understand the intent of a shopper’s spoken search and translate that to an exact set of products that matches their needs.  A keyword search engine leaves you prone to misunderstanding different words and returning a wide swath of products that will frustrate your shoppers and continue you down the path of poor mobile customer conversion.

Please watch this short video to see a true natural language, voice-enabled search solution in action on a live women’s apparel mobile commerce site.


Internet Retailer on Reading Shoppers Minds

internet-retailer-logo          the-north-face-logo-black




Can your e-commerce search solution think and understand like a human? If so, your site turns into virtual sales associate, understanding clearly what customers want and closing the sale.

Internet Retailer has published an article, Reading Shoppers Minds, which explores how e-commerce search solutions have become more human-like for e-retail and mobile commerce. The article highlights how EasyAsk customer The North Face makes their site more human like to help their shoppers.

Natural language is an integral part of making your e-commerce site smarter and more human like. Natural language makes your search box more versatile, expanding the vocabulary your site understands and allowing customers to express what they are looking for in their own words.

Natural language is important in everyday e-commerce, and is IMPERATIVE in mobile commerce. In a mobile environment, your customers will use voice to input their searches, expressing their searches, as one industry analyst put it, “using a free flowing stream of consciousness”, such as: I’m looking for a Michael Kors watch in rose gold and I don’t want to pay more than $300.

Can your e-commerce search find that?


Amazon Voice Search: It’s the Search Engine That Matters

Amazon released a new version of its’ iPhone app (version 4.3.0) that contained a very interesting new feature – Search with your Voice. When you open up the app and tap the search box, you can then tap the Voice button and enter your search by voice. Very nicely done!





















But some are questioning the true capability of Amazon’s voice search, as reported in this article in the mobile commerce daily. The real question is: what’s behind that search? In the end, voice search is only as good as the search engine behind it. I tried two searches with the Amazon app to see how good it was.

The batteries in my wireless home phone set had recently gone out (the phone is old) and I am looking for a new home phone. My current Panasonic model had served me well, so I was looking for a new Panasonic model. So, for my first search, I tried “Panasonic wireless home phone.” The voice interface translated my voice request well. But the results left me somewhat confused. I received 5,391 results! The first 3 were Panasonic phones, but then there were headsets and AT&T home phones mixed in. The results were not highly relevant.

Then I decided to try a conversational style search – “I’m looking for a Panasonic wireless home phone.” The results were not even close to being relevant. They included a USB charger, iPhone cases, and headsets, finally followed by a couple Panasonic phones.

The ability to interact conversationally with the mobile phone user is a core design philosophy of a good voice interface, as depicted by this Information Week article. Without relevant results and conversational interaction, users will not fully trust the interface or find it engaging.

Any EasyAsk customer has voice search capability built-in. But EasyAsk takes it to the next level with highly precise and accurate results, and the ability to have conversational search, as shown by this video.

With mobile commerce conversion rates lower than those of a standard e-commerce site, it is the engaging voice search capability powered by conversational search that will increase your m-commerce conversion rates.


Breaking the Barrier of Low Mobile Conversion Rates

According to Goldman Sachs, global mobile commerce sales will reach $626 billion by 2018, growing nearly 5 fold from 2013. The $626 billion in global mobile commerce sales in 2018 will be just shy of the total global e-commerce sales for 2018 of $638 billion.

However, customer conversion rates on mobile smartphones are alarmingly low.  The average conversion rate on a traditional desktop is slighly over 3%.  The conversion rate on mobile smartphones is less than a third of that rate – around 1%.

Many e-commerce firms have launched mobile sites that are well designed for the display aspects of the device – they fit the size and some of the look and feel requirements.  New Responsive Design techniques have played a role in the rollout of a new generation of mobile sites.

So, where is the disconnect? Why the low conversation rates?

One major aspect overlooked in mobile site design is search and navigation.  Mobile keypads are clumsy, making it hard for shoppers to type searches.  Small screen sizes and awkward touch screens make it difficult to use the complex navigation menus offered on most e-commerce sites.  E-Commerce firms need to rethink the look, feel and functionality on their mobile commerce sites.

Please take a look at our latest video which explains this problem and offers a solution to increasing your mobile commerce conversation rates, and leaping ahead of your e-commerce competitors.




EasyAsk Named a Magento Silver Partner

We announced this morning that EasyAsk and Magento have entered into a partnership, with EasyAsk being named a Magento Silver Technology Partner.  Please read our press release for more details on the announcement.

The partnership will enable the two companies to jointly market the EasyAsk e-commerce site search solution and engage with more Magento customers.  In addition, it will more closely align technical resources to further integrate the EasyAsk solution into the Magento platform.

The existing EasyAsk Connector for Magento seamlessly integrates EasyAsk search, navigation and merchandising services into the Magento platform and sites running on Magento.  Please read our Magento product page to learn more about the value EasyAsk brings to Magento sites, and the integration of the EasyAsk Magento Connector.

Please read more about EasyAsk in our listing on the Magento Partners Portal.


Natural Language Search Explained

Natural language is a term that is used in many different ways depending on the software sector or industry. In the e-commerce search world, there is only one true meaning to natural language:

Allowing a visitor to perform a search like they are communicating with another human being and getting precise and accurate results.

By way of example, it allows a visitor to ask in detail for what they want and they get back exactly those products.  If someone asks for “men’s polo shirts in size medium under $100”, then a true natural language will return EXACTLY that set of products.

It takes an extremely intelligence site search engine to have this type of “conversation” with a visitor. While some e-commerce search vendors say the have “smarter search”, if they cannot support natural language, then how smart are they really?

Most e-commerce search engines are still keyword based.  Those engines would not understand the price constraint or the size specification and would return a very large set of products that are not related to what the visitor was looking for (in fact, if the site carried Polo cologne, they might also see that!).

Supporting natural language search requires a sophisticated engine.  It has to do two things: (a) properly interpret the search phrase (visitor intent), and (b) have a deep understanding of the product catalog (site content).

To explain this, we created a new video, natural language search explained, which shows you how a natural language e-commerce search engine works and what makes it different.

With search accounting for anywhere from 40 to 80% of your sales, a natural language search engine can have a huge impact on your online revenue.  Knowing how natural language works and how it makes a difference can make you the e-commerce hero at your company.



Voice-Enabled Mobile Search: The Differentiation You Need

The mobile commerce market is growing rapidly and playing an increasingly important role in any e-comemrce strategy.  The numbers are staggering.  The U.S. Retail Mobile Commerce market growing 70% last year to $42 billion, and forecasted to more than triple to $133 billion by 2018.  By 2018, mobile commerce will be 27% of all U.S. e-commerce sales.

Every e-retailer is taking a hard look at their mobile commerce strategy seeking ways to grow their share of the pie and differentiate in an increasingly crowded market.

Studies have shown that search plays a very strong role in the customer experience in mobile commerce.  The limited screen size and user interfaces on mobile devices push consumers to go directly to the search box to find the products they want on every mobile commerce site.

Voice-enabled mobile search is a tremendous way to differentiate from competitors through an engaging customer experience that will convert more customers and drive more revenue.

Please take a moment to watch our compelling voice-enabled mobile search video that can provide your mobile commerce site with the differentiation you need.




Poor Product Data? – No Worries!

Many people will tell you that your search and navigation is only as good as your product data.  However, derived attributes with natural language search and navigation now allows you to mask the problem of insufficient data in your product catalog and still deliver a rich search and navigation experience.

Derived attributes enable you to add extra navigation facets and search terminology when these attributes are not fields in your e-commerce catalog.  This saves you the cost of fixing or restructuring your product catalog when you want to deliver better search and navigation.

Also, from a customer experience standpoint, derived attributes can provide alternative ways for customers to shop on your site, creating a better shopping experience and allowing customers to find the right products faster.

Derived attributes are a feature unique to natural language site search systems such as EasyAsk.  They are defined easily using natural language rules.

The natural language rules derive the attribute values from any field in your product catalog and/or operational data from your e-commerce system.  When the search index and navigational facets are generated, the natural language rules calculate the derived attributes, extending the range of the index and facets.

The derived attributes can also provide unique merchandising and promotional capabilities.  Promotional rules can use the derived attributes to raise products or place products in special display blocks.  Andertons Music, who has a derived attribute named “Great for Beginners”, can use this attribute in promotion rules when they offer specials on music products geared for beginners.

Let’s look at two EasyAsk customers and how they use derived attributes: Andertons Music and The North Face UK.

Andertons Music

As mentioned above Andertons Music uses derived attributes to label specific products as “for beginners.”  This allows customers to search for things such as “beginner guitars” when looking for guitars geared for those just learning the instrument.  Customer can also select a navigational attribute called “Great for Beginners” when a person performs a more generic product search such as one for a specific instrument.  You can see this navigational facet in the screenshot below.

















In addition, since Andertons products cover a wide range of color types, some of which have complicated color names, they needed the ability to rationalize these colors into a palette more easily readable by the generic consumer.  Thus, they created a derived attribute for color, which you can see on the screenshot below, which takes these various color descriptions and presents them in a facet more understandable by the shopper.

















The North Face UK

The North Face UK site also uses derived attributes to help describe the different technologies that go into some of their products, such as jackets.  This derived attribute is called “Technologies” and appears in the navigation after performing a search on products which include unique technologies.

This allows a sophisticated buyer who is looking for a product with that technology to find it faster on the North Face UK site.  In the screenshot below, you can see the Technologies navigational facet after I performed a search on “mens jackets”.  I can then narrow the results by selecting the technology I am looking for.  I can also use those technologies in my search, allowing me to search for “mens primaloft jackets” and get the exact results.

















Derived attributes help you provide a unique shopping experience on your site without the high cost and complexity of re-organizing your product catalog.  In addition, the derived attributes are automatically applied to new products added to your catalog, which simplifies the launch and merchandising of new items.

To learn more about derived attributes and ways in which you can increase conversions through better product findability on your site, click here to receive our white paper Increasing Customer Conversion by Boosting Product Findability.

Also, contact the EasyAsk team to schedule a demo today, and we show you this unique feature and others that will lower the cost of maintaining your site and increase your customer conversion.


Online Merchandising using Special Display Blocks Part 2

We showed in Part 1 of this blog how to use natural language rules to drive special blocks for cross-sells and up-sells.  Special display blocks are a fantastic way to drive faster sales and increase orders sizes according to the EasyAsk white paper Increasing Customer Conversion by Boosting Product Findability.

What if you’d like to go beyond the typical special display blocks such as cross-sells and up-sells?  You could special display blocks such as:

  • “Featured Items” – display of specific items the merchandisers want to promote related to the search or product on display.
  • “Top Sellers” – display of products that have the most sales related to the search or product on display.
  • “What’s New” – display of the products most recently added to the catalog that related to the search, category or product on display.
  • “On Special” – display of products that are on sale or special price related to the search, category or product on display.

These blocks help you better promote products and provide greater flexibility to show products that are more in line with the visitor’s context – what they have been looking for or looking at.

The EasyAsk Merchandising Studio provides a direct method to drive a Featured Products block with any natural language rule.  The rule dynamically finds the products to display.

For example, an apparel retailer might want to feature products of a certain brand such as Cole Haan.  A simple featured products rule of “cole haan” will drive the featured products block to display the Cole Haan products.  This is much simpler to maintain that the approach of your typical e-commerce platform of hard-wiring products into special featured products groups.

EasyAsk natural language rules can use any product attributes from the catalog such as creation date/time for a What’s New block and a Sale or Special flag for a On Special block.  EasyAsk can also use operational data such as sales data for a Top Sellers block.

Since these rules are executed dynamically, the system will find the right products to display based on the current information in the catalog and the visitor’s context (what they are searching on, what category they are in, what product they are looking at, etc.).

Natural language rules will dramatically increase the flexibility of your site and speed promotions.  Your merchandisers will save valuable time in pushing out new promotions, and they can focus on what they do best – promote products.  This drives more revenue and speeds time to market.

You can learn more about using special blocks with natural language rules and other customer conversion tips in our white paper Increasing Customer Conversion by Boosting Product Findability.

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