No company more than Google understands the kind of traffic the holiday season begets. Search engine users hammer Google, Yahoo and Bing with searches of popular e-commerce sites to search for deals.
Girding itself for the holiday e-commerce rush, Google Nov. 5 launched Google Commerce Search to let online retailers power their online stores with Google's search technology. Google will host this enterprise search product on its own servers in the cloud to assuage customers' concerns about handling holiday traffic spikes.
To date, many retailers implement their own search technologies to help consumers find products on their sites. But, apart from e-commerce giants such as Amazon.com and eBay, which have plenty of engineering talent to build quality search services, most retailers hurt themselves by creating inadequate search technology for their sites. Users are more likely to abandon such sites without making a purchase.
Google is launching the service to save the e-commerce world from this problem, aiming to boost the online retailer conversion rate, which is just 3 percent. Google believes this rate could be five to 10 times higher, Nitin Mangtani, lead product manager for Google's enterprise search team, told eWEEK, after speaking to several retailers and searching their Websites.
"Search is far away from where the user expectations are on the majority of retail sites," Mangtani said.
Google Commerce Search pledges Google's usual subsecond response time to customer queries at a time when the market standard is 2 to 5 seconds per search. Google also leverages a proprietary ranking technology to analyze the products in each data feed and serve the most relevant match.
The idea is to get searchers to find products faster, which will boost sales for online stores such as Birkenstock USA, which uses the software on one of its online properties.
Google Commerce Search includes parametric search, sorting, spell checker, stemming and synonym suggestions, all table stakes to helping users refine their searches.
Good stemming features are important. When users search an online store for a product, their query may not match what is in a catalog. Google Commerce Search recognizes that there are five to 10 variations of a query to help surface the correct product.
Mangtani demonstrated a number of these features on the Google Store, which is powered by Commerce Search. Mangtani showed how to whittle down searches for T-shirts by size, color, cost, as well as T-shirts for children, adults, etc. See a video demo here.
Google is welcoming all online stores, but a natural target are the e-commerce stores that already feed their catalog data to Google for the company's Google Product Search service. Best Buy, Sears and Toys R Us are listed on this site, and Google believes Commerce Search will appeal to them.
"They don't need to give us another feed or integrate another technology," Mangtani said. "We can integrate their feed and power search on their Websites with all of these additional features and full control of the parametric searches."
Google Commerce Search is also integrated with Google Analytics, so retailers can measure changing conversion rates through Commerce Search integration with Google Analytics on their Website.
The hosted solution starts at $50,000 per year with 24/7 support, but prices will vary based on query levels. Companies requiring more query support will pay more.
Google comes to the e-commerce search vertical at an interesting time. Smaller companies such as Endeca, Vivisimo, Coveo and Microsoft's Fast enterprise search division duke it out in the market, but now they will have to contend with the goliath in search.