Increasing product and service visibility through front-end semantic web
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Increasing product and service visibility through front-end semantic web

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  • Today I’m going to talk about The current state of ecommerce and product discovery on the web the tools available to web developers to increase visibility to products, services and locations highlight a couple of live examples of how we are using semantic web (goodrelations, rdfa) to address real world business needs I’ll wrap up with a look at what we can do with a rich web of semantic product data
  • It probably comes as no surprise to anybody in this room the impact that ecommerce has had over the past decadeAnd continues to growBy 2013, some 229 billion dollars will be spent online in the US alone, and $1 trillion, “cross-channel” shopping, or using one channel, like the web and ultimately completing a purchase in another channel, like a brick and mortar store. There’s a lot of activity in the ecommerce space.All this activity also means we have a lot of consumer products to choose fromThe little barcodes you see on nearly every product your purchase are utilized 10 billion times a daySimply put, we live in a world with a lot of stuff---------------
  • With all this “stuff” to choose from and millions of places to get it from, people have naturally come to rely on the web for product discovery.A majority of people are using the web during their buying process before they ever step into a physical storeTo make sense of all of this, humans have turned to machines – primarily search engines – to assist in the search for goods and services
  • Search engines do a pretty good job – if you know exactly what you’re looking forFor example, this manufacturer and model nameIf you were to do a simple diagram of the user path to product information, it would probably look something like thisPretty much a straight path to relevant product details. If the user doesn’t find or like what the result is they return to search results and start the process over again
  • But what about things that are a little more undefined? Don’t have an exact model or brand name?I like to tell this story when I talk to friends about how I got into this whole semantic web thingA couple years ago my wife and I had a refrigerator that was dyingAnd at the time I thought I knew a thing or two about finding products on the web, so I volunteered to do the researchI didn’t have a specific model in mindI did have a list of requirements:BlackFrench doorBottom freezerTwo most important:Inside water dispenserHeight – had to fit in our older kitchen
  • Like most other people, my search started at a search engineInstead of typing in specifics, I entered a few product attributesIf you were to map out a diagram of what happened after that, it would look a little like thisGeneric appliance pageGeneric refrigerator pageSeveral pages of sorting by product facetsFinally get to product detail – but even when you do get to this stage, more often than not the product does not fit your needsForces you to go back a step and re-sort by product facetsOr back to search engine results where you start this process all over againTook a tremendous amount of time and was extremely frustratingPlus I lost a lot of credit with the wife Unfortunately, searching on key product attributes doesn’t tend to return very favorable results
  • As a web dev of many years I this experience puzzled me and it changed my view of shopping and doing product research on the web But when you look under the hood, and you look at the enormity of the web as illustrated in this slide, we are asking search engines to do a very large taskBut we haven’t been doing much to enable search engines to learnI had spent a great deal of my career coding very visually rich user experiences – things like product selection tools, microsites, traditional visual web marketingWhile these can be great for human consumption, they lock valuable machine data in silosTo provide more visibility to the products and services locked up in these silos, many companies use SEO and SEM techniques – keywords, and linking strategiesThere are some in the SEO world that claim to have found the “silver bullet” or “secret sauce” to product visibilityI read a recent article saying that Google changed it’s organic search somewhere between 350 – 550 times in 2009. So if someone truly has a secret sauce, they must be really busy tweaking the recipe.Personally, I believe true product visibility and true SEO can come from displaying the rich product data – making it accessible to both humans and machinesWhat could be providing a better “base” of product data – an easier way for machines to learn about he billions of products available to us as consumers
  • Set a personal goal to find a way using code, to provide
  • What I discovered – and what many of you know already, is the tools are available now for everyday developers to start populating a very rich web of dataFor the most part we don’t need to reinvent the wheelBy simply adding these technologies to our HTML – something millions of people are coding a publishing every day, we can provide enhanced visibility to our products goods and servicesI’m very happy to be able to showcase how we are applying semantic web techniques to satisfy real world business needs
  • Stores still critically important part of our businessBut with more people using the web for product discovery, they are also using the web to find out where to purchase these productsWhich is interesting – for most retailers, one of their most vital assets, their store data – is locked up in a store locator application – little data silos, inaccessible to machinesSo three years ago we decided to try and create a space on the web for all of our stores, so we publish a web page for every store
  • Looked greatBut after a year, pages were not meeting our expectationsIn fact most of them were not findable on the webSo we took a deeper dive into the solution
  • These stores are like little bundles of very rich dataNameAddress data (location)Store hoursGEO dataAll really valuable
  • Took our preexisting implementation and turned it from individual store pages to store blogsWe asked for some help from our store employeesGiving 2 employees in every store the ability to alter and publish store data through a very simple formWhen they hit publish, what they see is very visually rich data for customer consumptionAnd w/o knowing it, they are also publishing rich semantic store location data using GoodRelations via a basic custom application and templating systemOver time, we’ve realized several benefits from thisHarnessing human-generated input and turning it into machine-readable data. We made semantic web accessible to everyday store employeesEvery store has an identity on the webRemoved valuable store data from silos publishing it in an open format for everything to consumeSaw a healthy increase in our search traffic 30%. Our intent was not SEO, but we found a significant increase in search numbers – without keywords strategies, marketing or advertisingStores make up between 3-5% of overall traffic every monthNearly 40% of all traffic comes from organic searchWe feel like semantics and markup played a big part in this
  • Move on to a product exampleNot sure if everyone is familiar with open box productsProducts returned to the store – doesn’t work exactly as the customer wanted, trading up a model, etcFully functioning products with significant markdownsRepresents a significant challenge to our stores – some have as many as 500 open box products in store - no visibility on the web. Our stores acted as data silosNot unique to bestbuy, as an industry we struggleAverage return rate for electronic devices 11-20%Cost to the CE industry: $13.8 billion (2007)
  • Once again we called on our local store employees to start giving more visibility to these local productsWe asked them to do three thingsOne – to enter in a SKU of the open box productMarked down priceReason for the markdown
  • When they publish, they create local product detail pages for all their open box productsAnd again, w/o knowing, they’re also populating the web with rich product details made available semantically using RDFa and GoodRelationsAnother example of human-generated semanticsWith code we can create a relationship between the open box product and the store where it livesCurrently rolling this capability to all stores, anxious about the results
  • So now I’ll start the sexy part of my presentationWhat do you hope to get out of this? Where’s the return on investment?SemWeb to me is an enabler – it’s a disruptive technologyAnd when we publish product data to an open accessible web, amazing things can happen
  • Growing link between SEO and semantics as shown by Google’s Rich Snippets and Yahoo’s! search monkey. Many studies show revenue gains with better SEO and product visibility. Semantic web could start a whole new type of SEO.I’d bet that many people here have spent time working on projects providing data feeds to various partners, vendors -- places like search engines, product comparison engines, price comparison engines. What if we could reduce or eliminate the number of these proprietary feeds, making a single authoritative source for both visual and machine readable data?Current advertising and marketing work by creating one message for millions to consume. With large amounts of open data available in a semantic web, we can tailor marketing messages to the individual – creating millions of messages for individual consumers based on their product needsI know my product merchant friends would die for close to real-time reporting of product trends across the entire web to fuel their forecasting – this would enable efficiencies As retailers our role could extend beyond being just salespeople and into customer advocates – going back to our open box example – what if we could query a web of open data for all open box or clearance items? Retailers and manufacturers could use this data to indentify poorly performing products and work to improve them on behalf of their customers. Essentially we would be improving customers lives by providing products that work, while decreasing the amount of product returns the company takes back
  • It’s no secret that primary product margins are extremely thinAnd if you’ve spent any time in a store you’ll see the focus on selling the complete solution – not just the primary productHistorically, web sites aren’t very good at attaching additional products to primary purchases – basket and cart counts are pretty lowBy creating rich relationships between products (even products in completely different categories!), we can create a deeper visibility to additional products – with the goal of increasing attach rate for retailers, and provide more complete solutions to customers vs just a single product
  • We have a huge opportunity to create better informed consumers by populating a semantic web with all the product details we know and making that information portable and accessibleWell informed consumers are more likely to purchase, less likely to return products, and respond favorably when they are informed
  • There are some really exciting things happening right now that show the power of semantic webOne of my favorite examples was tweeted some months agoAnd it almost sounds like a command captkirk would give from the starship enterprise
  • And the result is everything available on the web – at that time mostly best buy data – related to johnny cashNot a real sexy or fancy display of data – but my mind races at the possibilities of how we could start presenting this data to our customers and aid their product discoveryAnd I believe these results are better than what I could find even from directly querying my enterprise product database
  • Let’s look at what we could do in the very near future with a rich semantic web serving as a backbone of data to apps like AR apps
  • And my result would be the open box products – without me having to step foot into the storeI believe we are inches away from making apps like this a reality – all built on a rich web of semantic product data

Transcript

  • 1. Triplifying commerce: Increasing product and service visibility through front-end semantic web
    Jay Myers
    2010 Semantic Technology Conference – June 23
  • 2. Billions of products with UPCs *
    * According to George Laurer, inventor of the UPC. Also find more online at GS1.org
  • 3. Product discovery happens on the web
    67% of US consumers used the Net at some point in their buying process
    One offline buyer out of two surfs the Web before walking to his favorite retailer
    … the majority (of web searchers) will start by entering information into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo!
    How to Stimulate Consumers to Buy Online Making the Most of the Internet and Offline Retail Worlds
    by Kim Le Ouoc, JaapFavier, Forrester, Nov 2008
  • 4. Specificity yields the best results
  • 5. A personal journey
  • 6. Query for attributes
  • 7. Only 32 percent of retailers display consistent baseline information on the product detail page across products within a given product category *
    Valuable product details siloed in machine inaccessible tools
    Opportunity: web can deliver depth of data not achievable in traditional channels
    Forrester, Nov 08
    “Internet Splat Map” by jurvetson
  • 8. Goal: to provide more visibility to products, services, and locations to humans and machines
    “Fortune Telling Robot” by Paul Keller
  • 9. The tools are available now
    <html>
  • 10. Use case: brick and mortar stores
    “Best Buy on Black Friday” by cjc4454
  • 11.
  • 12.
  • 13.
  • 14. Use case: local open box products
    “MSI u100 in shipping box” by stevendamron
  • 15. Human-driven semantics
  • 16.
  • 17. Let’s imagine the possibilities…
  • 18. Business benefits
    SEO/ product visibility
    Reduce number of proprietary data feeds
    More intelligent marketing – customer centric
    Business prediction models/ forecasting
    Opportunities to go beyond selling
  • 19. Product relationships
  • 20. Better informed consumers
    Purchases start with a well-informed consumer, end with a purchase
    Decrease in returns
    Establishing trust through providing open, findable information
    Lower Prices, Better Devices, and the Democratization of the TV Market
    by Nathan Safran, Abe Garon, Forrester, June 2009
  • 21. “Internet! Show me products on the Web related to Johnny Cash”
    Via @manusporny, @mfhepp, April 19, 2010
  • 22.
  • 23. “Device! Show me open box products at this store”
  • 24.
  • 25. Let’s build a web of data together@jaymyershttp://jay.beweep.com