And the implications for eCommerce
Automation of the home environment through Voice
Automation of the home environment through Voice
In the world of online shopping, your site search box is like your personal shopper. You know, like the ones who ask you, “How may I help you?” when you walk into a department store.
In the real world, if you’re asked that, you’re going to tell them how they can help you. But in the eCommerce world, most of the sites you go to can’t help you the way a personal shopper can. Why? Because of Keyword Search limitations, and the fact that most people don’t know what’s possible with their eCommerce Site Search.
In the early days of the Internet, way back in 1995, the Keyword attribute was popularized by search engines like AltaVista. But even as early as 1997, which was 15 years ago, they discovered keyword search was unreliable. But people still continue to use it! Why?
Yahoo! and Google…
If you use a long-tailed search (i.e. “Women’s black long-sleeved dresses”), the chances of your search returning the right product, are very slim. And now you’re reduced to clicking through page after page to try and find what you want. Or, if you’re like me, you leave the site altogether.
Let’s flip it around and compare it to real life. What if you told a personal shopper that you wanted a “Women’s black long-sleeved dress,” and she returned with long-sleeve shirts, coats, jackets, short-sleeve dresses, strapless dresses, etc. You would look at her like she’s… how do I put this nicely?… AN IDIOT. Because you made it clear you what you wanted and she didn’t understand you.
You wouldn’t accept this in real life, so why are you accepting this with eCommerce websites? Because you’re used to it? That’s just ridiculous, especially when your eCommerce Site Search has the ability to understand the entire intent and context of your request.
If you’re using the right technology…
Natural Language/Semantic Search has been around for years, but has not gained steam until fairly recently with IBM Watson and Siri on the iPhone. It’s a SMARTER and FASTER search than Keyword, and can understand long-tail searches, price constraints, and synonyms. Flip-flops, sandals, thongs, slippers are all the same thing, you know it, I know it, your search box should know it.
It’s time to stop accepting below-average as the norm. Upgrade your eCommerce Site Search to a Natural Language Engine. EasyAsk has done wonders with companies Large (Lands’ End) and small (Schuler Shoes).
Take a look for yourself and see what can be accomplished with the right Searchandising tool.
(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 which of these companies can help you improve your e-commerce site?
None of them.
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.
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!
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.
Lucene/Solr is great for developers that enjoy tinkering with code as if it’s DNA and you’re working on the Captain America Super-Soldier Serum. But what if you don’t have the time or resources? What if you’re a company that cannot afford the manpower or hours needed to work on the open-source, Java-based search library? What if… what you need is a rich, mature product with the most accurate search engine on the planet?
Apache Lucene, for those who are unclear on the difference, is the library and Apache Solr is a layer of code on top of Lucene that turns it into a search platform, adding management and website APIs that are tailored for e-commerce. With Lucene/Solr you get a basic search engine, that requires a large IT staff or an army of consultants. It takes a lot of time, experience and troubleshooting to get the results you’re hoping for.
But let’s say you’ve outgrown the basic search functionality, or get frustrated having to build everything you need. And you’ve noticed how the e-commerce community has shifted to mobile sites with voice-recognition, and the abilities of open-source seem more and more limited. So wouldn’t you be tired of continuing to compete with every other e-commerce company that is trying to do the same thing with the same keyword-hampered technology? Why wouldn’t you want to stand out from the pack?
Where Lucene/Solr falls short, EasyAsk excels.
Companies like IBM, Magento, NetSuite, Infor and more have partnered with EasyAsk for a reason. The powerful Natural Language search-box and easy-to-use merchandising tools allow you to perform tasks a keyword-based software (Lucene/Solr) can’t even dream of. The intuitive site-search, dynamic navigation, and merchandising software utilizes Natural Language to increase conversion rates. It understands the intent of the search and delivers faster, more accurate results than keyword or navigation-driven softwares. The limitations you find with Lucene/Solr are simply not found with EasyAsk.
From understanding numeric units, to intelligent term relaxation, to merchandising capabilities like: Cross-Sell/Up-Sell promotions, EasyAsk has proven to bring something to the table that Lucene and Solr just can’t touch. Not to mention with EasyAsk you’re a step ahead of the game.
Take a quick look around and see which direction the technological world is headed. IBM’s Watson, Apple’s Siri, Nuance’s Dragon-Go, Panasonic’s Smart-TVs, and many more have all made the jump to a Natural Language Processing engine. It’s just a smarter way to connect with your customers.
And EasyAsk has been a leader in Natural Language for over a decade.
For example, on an EasyAsk-powered site, you can use your iPhone 4S or Android to verbally search for products on their mobile-sites. And thanks to the natural language engine that powers EasyAsk, they’ll find exactly what they’re looking for. Go to Lands’ End’s site on your phone, type-in or speak a product you’d like to see and a price constraint (i.e. Black Sleeveless Dresses for under $100) and see for yourself how powerful EasyAsk is. You’re not going to find that functionality with an open-source, keyword-based software.
Also the EasyAsk Commerce Studio puts the power back in the hands of the merchandiser. Want to add a new brand for your site, or cross-sell a couple of items? No problem, it literally takes a minute. To see what I’m talking about click here.
Look, if you want to keep trying to reinvent the wheel, go right ahead. But if you’re tired of sputtering in a Model-T and you’d rather upgrade to a search that’s better, the wave of the future, comes with merchandising capabilities that Lucene/Solr just can’t match, come take a look at EasyAsk, the Search That Means Business.
The technological world seems to be making a shift. It began with those three days in February 2011, when IBM’s Watson computer competed on Jeopardy! (By the way, the natural language super-computer trounced the shows two biggest champions!) And culminated with Apple releasing Siri in their latest model of cell phone, the iPhone 4S on October 14th, 2011.
You can feel the buzz in the air, a change in the winds, that a paradigm-shift is coming. The ability to tell your electronics what to do.
So wouldn’t it make sense that this same technology could be used by everyday consumers to shop on their smart-phones? Isn’t it logical, that the next step will be the ability to use this natural language technology to search and purchase items on your favorite website? That this technology would improve user experience, retention and increase conversion rates? Wouldn’t you want your favorite sites to be Siri-cized?
Well, if you’re a client of EasyAsk, this power is already at your fingertips… err… voice-box.
EasyAsk-powered sites such as: Lands’ End, Harbor Freight Tools, J. Jill, True Value and Coldwater Creek, are already Siri-cized. Customers of these and other EasyAsk clients can use their iPhone 4S or Android to verbally search for their products on their mobile-sites. And thanks to the natural language engine that powers EasyAsk, they’ll find exactly what they are looking for.
Now, I hear the nay-sayers, griping about the times that Siri doesn’t work as well as they want. First of all, Siri is cutting-edge technology, so of course it’s still working out a few of the kinks. But here’s where EasyAsk differs. With Siri, the options are so varied, it’s difficult for the software to search through the entire Internet to find the right answer every time. With EasyAsk, the data needed is pulled from the company’s product catalogue. So, if you’re on Lands’ End, you’re going to be searching for items Lands’ End is known for having, like swimwear, shoes, luggage, etc. If you’re on Harbor Freight Tools, you’re going to search for items they’re known for having; air compressors, engines, toolboxes or various tools. EasyAsk understands the context of your request and retrieves the right product on the first page.
This isn’t the future; it’s the present. EasyAsk sites are and have been ahead of the game, because EasyAsk has been mastering Natural Language for over a decade. Feel free to find out more here.
So go ahead, grab your iPhone 4S or Android 2.1, jump on Lands’ End and get ready for summer by shopping for a new bathing suit or try True Value and order that new grill you’ve been waiting for. It’s as simple tapping the search box, tapping the microphone, and saying what you’re looking for.
Welcome to the future.
You’re currently a customer of Endeca. Your site has been expensive to maintain, but it has worked well enough and you see no need to make a change. Recently however, changes have been made to the company who runs your search. Changes that could affect your relationship and your ability to do business.
In October of 2011, Oracle acquired Endeca, a leading provider of unstructured data management, Web commerce and business intelligence solutions. A year before that, they acquired the Art Technology Group, Inc. (ATG), an e-commerce software platform that is one of the industry’s top-ranked, commerce solutions. Essentially packaging a search and platform duo. But… What if you don’t own both pieces of the puzzle? What if you’re an Endeca customer, but not an ATG customer? Is your site in danger? Is your business in danger?
Before Oracle acquired these pieces of technology, Endeca and ATG were open – meaning they worked cooperatively with other solutions in the market. Didn’t matter who you had for an e-commerce platform, be it Magento, IBM’s WebSphere, in-house, etc., you could still work with Endeca.
Is that still the case?
If recent history proves prophetic, then probably not. Oracle has a history of closing the proprietary loop when they acquire a company, making them a part of the Oracle stack. If you are inside that stack, then your feeling of security should be warm-and-fuzzy. But what if you’re not inside the loop? What if you’re currently using Endeca for your search and have a platform not named ATG? Will Endeca continue to fit? Should you be concerned?
If you are concerned and don’t feel like being at the mercy of Oracle, what can you do about it?
Here’s the good news:
You do have options and one of them can kill two birds with one stone: Get out from under Oracle’s thumb and upgrade your search by switching to EasyAsk. EasyAsk provides a user-friendly and cost-effective way to make complex business data accessible to anyone. With EasyAsk’s natural language engine, it’s Apple’s Siri and IBM’s Watson rolled into one best-of-breed, site-search, navigation and merchandising tool.
In other words, it’s common sense brought to search. It also happens to be platform-agnostic, easy to maintain, plus it puts the power in the hands of the merchandisers, costing far less than Endeca, and touting the lowest total cost of ownership in the business. To learn more about e-commerce search and how it can impact your site, please read our paper, The ABC’s of E-Commerce Search.
So… You’re an Endeca customer, but you are also now a customer of Oracle, the 4th largest software company in the world. Will your company get lost in the shuffle? Maybe yes, maybe no, and you’re welcome to stick around and find out, but… Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to “Find, Analyze, and Understand” that it’s time to switch to a Search That Means Business.
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