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Finding Content – Parametric Search Technology

A practical guide, and outline of functionality and issues to consider if you sell an extensive inventory of products, or want to extract business intelligence from your extensive content silos.

Parametric Search and Navigation

Mark Sprague's Parametric Search PrimerParametric search, also known as guided or product search, is a technology approach that combines the best of browsing and searching into a singular experience that gives consumers complete control over the outcome. The best vendors provide merchandising tools that allow product managers to continuously fine tune the consumer’s search experience.

These search tools are also work very well as business intelligence (BI) overlays for large content repositories. BI applications are fairly straight forward to define, process and deploy.

Business Benefits

Parametric search benefits everyone:

Customers – Customers get contextually organized results sets that they have complete control over. They never get a null results set.

Vertical Managers – Managers have contextual control over, and can tune in near real-time the consumer search experience based on customer behavior.

Sales / Customer Service – Employees can mine information in real-time for alternative products based on similarity or price when engaging a customer by phone.

Customer Benefits

Parametric search and navigation offers customers excellent contextual buying / advertising / research experiences by allowing them to navigate information by category and attribute. Customers find information by keyword query to start the experience, then by guided navigation to continue the search experience – or by the combination of interactively using keywords and navigation. Customers control their experience by:

  • Navigating by category, and attributes of categories
  • Navigating, filtering and sorting by attribute
  • Editing the bread crumb to navigate
  • Searching within results
  • Filtering by text
  • Sharing searches
  • Saving searches
  • Signing up for email alert notification for price changes and new product introductions

Vertical Manager Benefits

Support for merchandising includes real-time analytics that support the defining of offers, the tuning of search and navigation, and the customizing of the consumer experience, as well as supporting SEO.

Merchandising Tools

A multi-user module with a single tool set to support near real-time:

  • Up-sell, Cross-Sell and Down-Sell
  • Create bundles (complementary offers)
  • Offer product substitutions
  • Create offers, featured items and promotions tied to search terms or navigational events
  • Manage promotional content
  • Execute A/B testing
  • Execute Multivariate testing

Real-Time Fine Tuning of Search Results

Call Lexington eBusiness ConsultingA single interface and tool set to exploit customer behavior and search engine functionality.

Customer Information:

  1. Capture complete customer search history
  2. Enable buyer-based rules
  3. Present custom catalogs based on price, category and special offers

Category manipulation:

  1. Option to display or not display categories
  2. Manipulate the order of categories displayed in search results
  3. Define and add new attributes for categories (in real-time)

Attribute manipulation:

  1. Option to display or not display attributes (facets)
  2. Manipulate the order of attribute display in search results
  3. Enable for both searching or sorting search results

Fine tune search and navigation:

  1. Define synonym relationships
  2. Define navigational phrases
  3. Define ranking of search results
  4. Import new dictionaries
  5. Support for multiple languages

Analytic Information for Fine-Tuning Search Results

Utilizes a series of tools to track user behavior, providing the vertical manager insight about search results to include:

  • Top consumer browses
  • Top consumer searches
  • Number of times a consumers received Null results
  • Number of times a short results was received (one or two results)
  • Number of poor relevancy / ambiguous queries executed
  • Number of products / content seen by consumers
  • Products seen by price
  • Top performing business rules
  • Conversion rates
  • Promotions statistics
  • Load statistics
  • Query statistics (trending up / down)

Individual and collective customer behavior can be tracked to include information about categories viewed, attributes navigated on, search term history, word frequency usage and null results seen.

Business Rules

Search engine business rulesBusiness rules can be defined by vertical managers that trigger a defined action. They can also define schedules,  such as starting or stopping a campaign. Rules can modify attribute weighting (e.g., color) based on category, product or context. Rules can help define offers, and can be:

  • Tied to search terms
  • Tied to a navigation event (categories)
  • Tied to the viewing of information
  • Tied to individual pages
  • Tied to inventory
  • Tied to customer preferences

Product Functionality

The product should support many types of search to give consumers control over the presentation and experience. This would include question analysis and the refinement of linguistic information working in conjunction with relevancy, precision and relaxation mechanisms.

Search Retrieval

Types of searches that should be supported:

  • Wild card search
  • Fuzzy search
  • SKU / Item number search
  • Geographic search
  • Spatial search
  • Distance search
  • Category search
  • Phonetic search
  • Attribute (parameter) search
  • Image search based on pantone
  • Natural Language
  • Auto Suggest (results display as you type)
  • Search in a foreign language and return English search results
  • Ambiguity resolution; offer ambiguous results as navigation choices (i.e., for the search term Bond return: financial Bonds vs. chemical Bonds vs. James Bond as navigational choices)

Manage Search Results List

The consumer will have the ability to slice and dice search results if you enable searching within results; enable sorting of the search results by facets, categories, price or popularity; and enable the elimination of selected search results so they can re-execute the search.

API Support

API’s should be available to engage consumers to encourage return visits. These will include saved searches, sign up for email alerts, book marking a search and share a search with a friend.

Relevance / Precision / Relaxation

These mechanisms are triggered by the lack of results or the lack of quality results. Managers can set thresholds for increasing quality results by manipulating word frequency, adjacency and proximity. Managers can also define the qualities of any associations, implement did you mean? suggestions, and expand any product or document attribute to generate more search results.

Back-End Tools

Extensive data file import supports:

  • Structured data RDMS, SQL, Oracle, Access
  • Flat files (CSV, TXT etc…)
  • Crawler (HTML, XML, Flash, Documents etc…)
  • Extensive data connector support (to process data to common format)
  • Taxonomy, dictionary, thesaurus support
  • Auto-classification…and more

Find Out More

“Mark’s expertise and experience with search engine technologies and content strategy was instrumental in developing the Relay Technology platform.” Evan Smith MD, VP Engineering.

If you are interested in finding out more about optimizing the Enterprise using Search Technologies send me (Mark Sprague) an email at: Mark@MSprague.com, or call me now at: 781-862-3126 

Lexington eBusiness Consulting

About Lexington eBusiness Consulting

Mark Sprague’s 25 years of product development experience, which includes expertise in Search Engines, Information Products, SEO platforms and Social Networking applications provide in-depth expertise to help you refine products and services, and improve your websites performance by:

  • Developing a superior data-driven SEO strategy for your website.
  • Understanding your customers’ search behavior and normalizing it to your content strategy.
  • Understanding how search engine technology practically impacts SEO and content strategies.
  • Understanding how search technology impacts content in a social networking environment.
  • Developing a superior user experience based on sound information architecture, usability and coding standards.

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Lexington eBusiness Consulting
Mark Sprague,  CEO
580 Lowell Street
Lexington, MA 02420

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