Archive for category: Blog

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Gartner E-Commerce Search Best Practices Part 2

In my last blog post, I discussed the recent Gartner report “Best Practices in Strategically Combining Search, Content Analytics and E-Commerce.” One of the most important e-commerce search best practices that analysts Whit Andrews and Gene Alvarez emphasize is the ability to “Offer effective definition-matching and handling of ambiguity in Query terms.” Let’s take a closer look at what this means, and how it applies to your search environment.

Effective Definition Matching

The Gartner reports talks about how a truly effective e-commerce search environment must understand the “language variations that are specific to what’s being sold and the audience to whom it’s being sold.” This really boils down to two items a search engine must be able to do:

  1. For each term in a search string, understand what that value represents – an attribute, product name, product category, etc. – and allow each column to have different relevancies.
  2. The ability to process search strings of different complexities as entire entities and understand how the individual terms relate in order to return the most accurate results.

This is the essence of natural language.  A natural language engine will process a complete search phrase, break it down linguistically and understand the full meaning of the request – NOT just what individual terms mean.  In this way, a natural language engine such as EasyAsk can fully support the specific “language of the site” and allow visitors to “speak” to the site in that language via the search engine.

With natural language processing, you can be assured that not only will simple searches – “blue shirts” – be processed effective, but so will complex ones – “women’s blue short sleeve shirts under $50.”  You can fulfill this e-commerce search best practice with the most effective definition matching possible.

Ambiguity

Ambiguity can come in many different forms.  It can come from mistakes or typos.  It can come from simple language variations such as different tenses.  Or it can come from a visitor’s lack of knowledge of the products – asking for “purple blouses” when none are available on the site.  To help you fulfill this aspect of the Gartner best practices, your search engine needs to give you the following:

  • Spell correction – your search engine needs to provide automatic spell correction.  Anticipating and pre-coding every potential misspelling of each term on your Website is a time consuming task. Who wants to do that?
  • Stemming – Your search engine needs to automatically support the different tenses, plurals and other variances of terms.  Once again, why should you need to have the time consuming task of entering every potential variance of each term?
  • Relaxation – this concept allows the search engine to drop part of a search term if no specific products exist in order to make sure some products are returned.  Seeing some products is always better than seeing NO products.  With relaxation, a search for “black levi jeans” will still return Levi jeans, even if there are none in black.  You search engine needs to have automatic support for this capability.

All of these characteristics will help you virtually eliminate the dreaded “no results” page and dramatically enhance the customer experience by always returning products to the visitor, even when there is some degree of ambiguity.

Further Flexibility

What if your “site language” is more complex than standard terms?  What if your site has a number of acronyms and industry terms?  What if you have cryptic model numbers that customers need to use to find parts or products?

To fulfill this last requirement, your search engine needs to make it easy to add synonyms, custom search terms and rules.  Once again this is where natural language engines help you implement best practices.

With natural language, you easily specify additional search terms and rules in – well, natural language.  You simply type in terms of any level of complexity and associate those with the existing terms or products in your catalog by simply pointing and clicking.

Learn More

To read more on these capabilities, please download our white paper, “The ABCs of E-Commerce Search: A Guide to Essential E-Commerce Search Features.”  In Part 3 of our blog post series, we’ll look at best practices in Search Analytics and Merchandising.

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Gartner Best Practices in E-Commerce Search – Part 1

July is “Best Practices” month here at EasyAsk – where we describe good search, navigation and merchandising techniques that can help you convert more customers.  As you and your teams ramp up for busy back-to-school and holiday seasons, we want to help you convert more visitors into sales.  Over the course of this month, our team will show different best practices in search, navigation and merchandising and how they can impact customer experience.

While EasyAsk has many lessons to share, we always like to recognize best practices from independent firms, especially when they align with our vision. Gartner, a preeminent research firm, recently released a report called “Best Practices in Strategically Combining Search, Content Analytics and E-Commerce“, written by Whit Andrews and Gene Alvarez – two of the brightest minds in e-commerce and search.

Among the findings in this report, the Gartner analysts clearly stated the value of search, navigation and merchandising to an e-commerce environment:

  • Search is the means by which shoppers most nakedly reveal their needs and wants (as they themselves perceive them) to sellers.
  • Search is, therefore, a particularly powerful way to promote, relate and reveal products in a shopping experience.

The analysts went on from there to lay out two very important best practices in e-commerce search:

  1. Offer Effective Definition-Matching and Handling of Ambiguity in Query Terms
  2. Use Search and Content Analytics to Fulfill Shoppers’ Desires Through Merchandise, Related and Suggested Offers, and Advertising

These two best practices highlight the unique advantages natural language technology delivers in an e-commerce search environment.  Since natural language understands both the intent of the search and the content being searched, visitor searches are more accurately matched and the search engine seamlessly deals with ambiguity – misspellings, tenses, stemming and when to relax terms.  Natural language also understands the relationship between terms in a search to derive contextual meaning and further eliminates ambiguity.

In addition, the actionable analytics and natural language business rules in EasyAsk make it easy for your business people to better merchandise your site with context-driven offers, promotions and ads.

In the next two blog posts of this series, I will drill down into each of the two Gartner best practices we discussed above.  I will examine the best practices, detail how natural language fulfills the promise of these best practices and show customer sites where these practices are applied.

The most valuable best practices typically come from experts that have visibility into the widest spectrum of implementations – learning how smart people across the industry approach problems differently.  We’re always happy to confirm when EasyAsk best practices match those of top-tier research firms, such as Gartner.

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EasyAsk Products – Excerpt from Sync-Up Interview on the Pulse Network

Sync-Up host Tyler Pyburn asks CEO Craig Bassin about EasyAsk’s products – EasyAsk eCommerce, Business Edition and Quiri.

 

 

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EasyAsk Quiri – Interview Excerpt on Pulse Network Sync-Up">Voice Recognition & EasyAsk Quiri – Interview Excerpt on Pulse Network Sync-Up

EasyAsk CEO Craig Bassin talks about the differences between “voice-recognition” and “natural language search” – without understanding intent, you can’t accurately answer questions. Craig also notes that even Google is evolving from traditional keyword search.

 

 

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Google joining IBM, Apple and EasyAsk? Pigs fly! News at 11…

 

(Message from the CEO of EasyAsk, Craig Bassin)

Looks like this is the beginning of the end for keyword search.  You’ve probably seen a number of articles discussing Google’s shift to ‘semantic search’.  Anyone understand what that REALLY means?  First, the definition of ‘semantic search’ is an understanding of the ‘intent’, or meaning, of the search, rather than just matching the keywords.

Now why would the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of keyword search, change course at this late date?  Conventional wisdom says they were forced to take a hard look after Apple launched Siri.  The timing sure seems to reinforce the fact that they’ve been playing with semantic search for some time, but needed to make a marketing splash now.

So, why change?  Well, obviously it’s a BETTER way to search and they had to, or they wouldn’t have!  I mean, really, Google acknowledging the limitations of keyword search?

Quoting from Paul Demery’s recent article (to read it, click here) about Google’s adoption of semantic search in Internet Retailer, ‘“Semantic search should allow Google as well as other search engines to better understand the true user intent of a search query,” says Kevin Lee, CEO of search marketing firm Didit.

Also, quoting from the same article: “Every day, we’re improving our ability to give you the best answers to your questions as quickly as possible,” Amit Singhal, Google’s head of search technology, said in a blog post. “In doing so, we convert raw data into knowledge for millions of users around the world. But our ability to deliver this experience is a function of our understanding your question and also truly understanding all the data that’s out there. And right now, our understanding is pretty darn limited. Ask us for ‘the 10 deepest lakes in the U.S,’ and we’ll give you decent results based on those keywords, but not necessarily because we understand what depth is or what a lake is.”

Now, understanding ‘intent’ AND ‘content’ is something that is at the very core of who EasyAsk is and how EasyAsk searches.  It’s the idea that, in an e-commerce setting, you can search for ‘men’s dress shirts under $30’ or ‘ladies red pumps size 6’ and get EXACTLY what you’re looking for.  Natural language understands the semantics involved in the search.  We understand the ‘intent’ of the question, we understand the ‘content’ of the data.  In adopting a new ‘semantic’ architecture Google will start to understand the ‘intent’ piece as well.

Now, who else searches this way?  How about Microsoft’s Bing, IBM’s Watson, obviously Apple’s Siri.

Now which of these companies can help you improve your e-commerce site?

None of them.

OK, but what about the other e-commerce search providers.  You probably know a few of them.  Endeca, SLI, Adobe, SOLR.

No, no, no and no.  Strictly keyword search.  Old news. Yesterday’s tech.

So we want to be the first to welcome Google.  We like them, use them all the time for internet search, along with Bing.  But when it comes to e-commerce search, folks, EasyAsk is leading the way.  Let us show you how.

It’s what we do.

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Why It’s Cool to be a Cool Vendor

 

With EasyAsk being acknowledged as a Cool Vendor for 2012, I figured it would be a good idea to give you some insight into why it’s cool.  So let’s take a look at a couple of past winners.

In 2011, Bazaarvoice was acknowledged as a Cool Vendor.  Bazaarvoice is a multinational internet marketing company that specializes in user-generated content through customer reviews.  It has become one of the largest social marketing companies in the world, with over 500 customers including: Best Buy, Macy’s, Costco., and Home Depot.  Bazaarvoice recently went public in February of 2012, and their present market cap is just under $1 Billion! Pretty cool . . .

Also in 2011, Instagram was acknowledged as a Cool Vendor. Instagram is a free photo-sharing program for social networking services. You’ll find photos all over Twitter and Facebook that are launched through Instagram. In fact, this program, which was only launched in October of 2010, was recently (April of 2012) acquired by Facebook for $1 Billion in cash and stock. With over 30 million accounts, you can see why the social media giant wanted to snatch them up.  Very cool!

Previously Splunk was named a Cool Vender. Splunk, according to their site “makes machine data accessible, usable and valuable to everyone.” And as of April 2012, they are the first Big Data company to go public, with over 3,500 customers in more than 75 countries.  That’s cool on a global scale . . .

Another former recipient, SugarCRM, is the fastest growing CRM provider on the planet, and was selected in 2011 as an IBM Global Alliance Partner for Cloud Services. They launched their own convention, SugarCon in 2007, and it is a show that has garnered more and more attendance as the years go by.  They also happen to be a partner of EasyAsk.  Now that’s beyond Cool, it’s Ice Cold…

In 2010, Jigsaw was acknowledged as a Cool Vendor. Jigsaw is a prospecting tool used by sales professionals, marketers and recruiters to get fresh and accurate sales leads and business contact information.  With a directory of more than 30 million business contacts, Jigsaw has quickly proven to be a very useful asset.  So much so, that Salesforce.com acquired them for $142 million.  I’ve used it myself countless times to get accurate contact information. SalesForce, hmm? … cool.

And now it’s our turn.  EasyAsk, the leader in Natural Language technology, being acknowledged as 2012 Cool Vendor.

EasyAsk recognized that Natural Language goes beyond the limits of Keyword. (something Google is now discovering, by the way)  And we have used this technology to help over 300 customers, applying it to e-commerce, business data and have recently used it to design Quiri, a Voice-Enabled Natural Language mobile app for Corporate Data.  Imagine Apple’s Siri, but for business.  It’s that easy and that revolutionary.

So… Why is it cool to be a Cool Vendor?  Well, one of the best ways to predict the future is to look at the past. With companies like the ones mentioned above, EasyAsk has certainly found itself in some cool company. To read more about EasyAsk becoming a Cool Vendor, click here or here.

One thing is for sure.  We think Gartner has excellent vision and is pretty cool!

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Travers Tool Mobile Site

EasyAsk customer, Travers Tool Company, has launched a new mobile commerce site. The mobile optimized site presents the search engine, category structure and products in a more friendly way for the smaller screen real estate of mobile devices.

The new mobile platform will be especially convenient for finding product attributes and specifications when a PC is not close by. Also, crews on construction sites, repair teams on the road, and others should find this new format especially convenient.

EasyAsk powers the search, navigation and merchandising for the new mobile site and has been used for years on the main Travers Tool Company e-commerce site, Travers.com. And best of all, the Travers.com mobile site is automatically “Siri-enabled” due to EasyAsk.

Go to the Travers site on your mobile phone (www.travers.com will recognize you are using a mobile browser and re-direct you to the mobile site).  On the home page, touch the search box, press the microphone button on your keypad and speak your request. Say, “solid carbide jobbers drill”, hit Go, and you will find the exact drill bits for that search. It works like a charm.

 

 

Also note how effectively Travers uses the screen real estate on the mobile site. It is very different from their main site and is optimized for FINDING PRODUCTS. The search box is prominent. Why? Because while search is important on an e-commerce site, search is CRITICAL on a mobile commerce site, as I spoke of in this blog post a few months back.

 

 

Travers Tool is an amazing organization. They continue to grow and take market share due to a strong focus on serving their customers, and the delivery of e-commerce services that outclass their competitors, including their new mobile commerce site.

The Travers mobile site it another indication on how simple it is for small and medium businesses to deliver competitive advantages using EasyAsk natural language search, navigation and merchandising.

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SKU Processing: Optimizing search results to maximize conversion

As much as we like to promote natural language long-tail searches here at EasyAsk, the unfortunate reality of the e-commerce market is that Google (and others) have taught us to search wrong. Many visitors go to a web store and do what I call SSTN – simple search then navigation.

But what if your site has many thousands of SKUs or Items? What if your site carries many of the same product, but in different sizes, composition, color or brand? A simple search could return hundreds of undifferentiated products that leave the visitor with the daunting task of sifting through those many results just to find the item they are looking for. How quickly will they abandon the site? I’d bet on 3 seconds or less.

Luckily there are techniques that can help you reduce the “search result overload” on your visitors. We call it SKU processing. Let’s show you how it works by looking at the e-commerce site for Travers Tools.  A very common search in their business is – “titanium drill bits.” So if we do this search on we get:

 

 

Travers only returns 23 products, even though they have thousands of different titanium drill bits. EasyAsk allowed Travers to group all the SKUs (or items) for each product into blocks. The blocks are organized such that the visitor can choose a particular drill bit style, drill down, and then select the specific SKU based on size, length, etc. (see below) This organization makes it easier for the visitor to choose the right product, providing a better customer experience.

 

 

If you go to many other hardware and tool retail sites, you will get hundreds of results for “titanium drill bits”, making it incredibly hard for the visitor to then find the ones they really want. And if we look at the products, many of them are the same. They are just different sizes and lengths.

But wait, there’s more. What if the search is more of a long tail search? In this case there might be a length – ¼” titanium drill bits. EasyAsk will produce similar first level results as the above example – product blocks or groupings (see the first image below).

 

 

But when you drill down to a product (look at the second image below), EasyAsk carries forward the length from the search, showing specific SKUs for ¼” bits.

 

 

In this case, EasyAsk remembered the “context” of the visitors search and carried that forward to the product drill down. This again simplifies the buying process for the visitor, leading the customer directly to the product they were seeking.

Carrying forward the context is one of the hidden beauties of EasyAsk natural language search. SKU processing, search result simplification and context carry-forward is something you can and should take advantage of to improve customer conversion and customer experience.

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EasyAsk at SuiteWorld 2012

We at EasyAsk will be very busy at the upcoming NetSuite SuiteWorld 2012 event next week in San Francisco.  At this event we will be showing our eCommerce Edition for NetSuite and Business Edition for NetSuite.  In addition, we will be unveiling a new EasyAsk Quiri solution for NetSuite (look out for the news on that!).  Click here for more information on what we will be showing for e-commerce customers.

In the past year and a half, our e-commerce business on NetSuite has grown dramatically.  As our news note said, we now have dozens of customers in a variety of industries and retail sectors.  Each has seen substantial increases in customer conversion rates and order sizes after implementing EasyAsk.  And our team has worked hard to reduce our already fast implementation times.  EasyAsk has established itself as the 3rd party search, navigation and merchandising solution of choice for NetSuite Ecommerce customers.

Please be sure to visit us in Booth EX-111 where we will be able to demonstrate our innovative and game changing products for e-commerce, business intelligence and mobile solutions.

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EasyAsk Named Cool Vendor

It is always great to be considered Cool.  But that is usually a personal distinction.  Now Cool is an attribute given to software vendors such as EasyAsk.

EasyAsk is proud to announce that we have been included in the list of “Cool Vendors” in the ‘Cool Vendors in Analytics and Business Intelligence, 2012’* report by Gartner, Inc.  We feel this is an accomplishment due to our products, our team, and most of all our customers.

As we look at our market position today, EasyAsk has dramatically expanded its solution footprint and customer reach in the past 12 months.  Direct sales to customers have grown.  We’ve forged new solution partnerships with IBM Big Insights and SugarCRM while expanding our partnerships with Infor and NetSuite.  We have also more than doubled the number of channel partners we work with, including our distribution partnership with BrainSell in the SugarCRM market.

Our eCommerce edition product continues to be the clear solution leader in e-commerce search, navigation and merchandising.  No other vendor can come close to performing the long-tail natural language searches that EasyAsk does, nor can any vendor make merchandising as easy to use as EasyAsk.

And our new Quiri product is revolutionizing the way people use mobile devices and mobile corporate applications.  Quiri is the only solution on the market that provides Siri-like voice-enabled natural language tools that work with your corporate data and applications.

Thank you, Gartner.  And a special thank you to our customers and partners.

 

*  Gartner “Cool Vendors in Analytics and Business Intelligence, 2012” by Bill Gassman, Douglas Laney, Andreas Bitterer, David Newman, Rita L. Sallam, James Richardson, 27 April 2012

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

 

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