IQ News: IQ Cool Tool – A Real Find




Software simplifies Web shopping.
Imagine that you’re shopping for an outfit at your favorite online retailer. You type in “wool pants.” No selections appear. Next you try “lined slacks.” Still no luck. “Gabardine trousers” strikes out too. Twenty blood-pressure-elevating minutes later, you realize the catalog calls the item you’re seeking “dress slacks.” It’s a minor quibble, but a major nuisance. You, the now-disgruntled shopper, have lost time and patience. And the shopping site may very well have lost a return customer.
Enter IntuiFind, the new e-catalog search-and-navigation software from Mercado Software, Palo Alto, Calif. Unlike many e-commerce search engines, which force would-be consumers to work within the confines of a store site’s terminology and structure, IntuiFind technology accommodates and adjusts to the shopper’s buying behavior. Introduced in July 1999, the software ignores misspellings, interprets incorrect phraseology or unclear terminology, accepts ambiguity and expects error.
“[IntuiFind] bridges the gap between how the customer defines the products and how the catalog defines the products,” said Menachem Cohen, chief executive officer for Mercado. “It bridges the gap between man and machine.”
By integrating thesauruses, morphology (the study of word formation) and 50 other linguistic tools and correction en- gines, IntuiFind permits shoppers to use their own plain-language queries to find the products they want, without being constrained by database structure, terminology or even spelling.
That means that if a consumer wants to buy the old college film classic featuring beer-guzzling John Belushi, but can’t recall the movie title, narrow or limiting fields won’t complicate the quest. If the online video store uses IntuiFind, the user can search for something as vague as “fraterity & beluchi.” Even though the query contains a sketchy description and misspellings, the search engine manages to come up with the 1978 frat flick Animal House.
“[E-commerce sites] want customer retention and conversion rates to go up,” said Yaron Dycian, Mercado’s director of product marketing. “If you offer the capability to find products, you’ll convert people to shoppers.”
Towerrecords.com, a Sacramento, Calif. e-tailer, added the intuitive software to its 600,000-item site last year to do just that–increase functionality and boost sales.
“[Tower Records] had a raging CEO logging onto the site, and saying ‘Look, I’m searching for items I know we have, but I’m not finding them,'” Dycian said.
Eight months after implementing IntuiFind, Towerrecords.com claims success. “Since our deployment of the solution, the number of hits on our search page has doubled, along with our conversion rates,” said Kurt Booker, Tower Records Online Webmaster. After the company began using the IntuiFind software, shop-to-buy rates more than doubled from 3 percent to 7.72 percent, reconfirming Mercado’s claim that an easier find makes for a more likely buy.
In addition to directing consumers to the exact item they’re looking for, IntuiFind automatically generates powerful links to related products in a cross-selling initiative. For instance, the software finds other Belushi projects as well as Animal House, increasing the chances of multiple sales.
IntuiFind also allows customers to conduct searches in which they set specific parameters and categories based on size, price and configuration specifications, an attractive feature for Net market makers, or distributors on the Web. Such searches enable users to compare similar products from different vendors with one request, protecting buyers from the terminology and structural inconsistencies common to combined multivendor purchasing catalogs. For example, a search for “black pens” will serve up all possible variations, including terms such as “black ballpoint,” “pen, blk” and even “black pen.”
“For a Net market maker, the buzzword is comparative shopping,” said Cohen. “IntuiFind aggregates the information easily, so as a shopper, you can compare.”
In addition, the software supports user-specific catalog views that offer buyers easier access to the parts of the catalog most relevant to them. For instance, purchasing agents might have full access to the catalog, while customer service associates wouldn’t see manufacturing equipment data.
IntuiFind also offers translation engines that enable consumers to use their own language to search a catalog created in another language. The feature makes for a multilingual shopping site and is ideal for companies targeting a global audience. The software supports 13 languages and crosslingual translation.
Mercado integrates the IntuiFind software package into a company’s existing infrastructure in about four weeks. The cost starts at about $50,000 for the software, $50,000 for deployment and implementation and $10,000 for maintenance.
Mercado not only courts business-to-consumer sites, but also targets business-to-business sites and Net market makers with large, complex catalogs.
In recent months, Mercado has added Outpurchase.com, a Palo Alto, Calif. aggregated catalog site, and USOPNET.COM, the U.S. Office Products’ e-commerce site based in Chicago, to its 51-customer base. Other customers include construction-and-mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, Peoria, Ill.; video e-store Blockbuster.com, McKinney, Texas; software provider Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.; and interactive agency Organic, San Francisco.