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How Walmart Uses Site Search Technology for ‘Social Commerce’

The venture demonstrates the fundamental value of the Cloud

The CCN has now started a Meet Ups group to organize a regular schedule of networking sessions for entrepreneurs and corporate users to learn more about Cloud Computing.

Each session will feature one or more presentations from experts on various Cloud topics that will illustrate the value of the technology.

Cloud Search Portal

The first of these is Efrem Habteselassie, Founder of one of Canada’s most exciting Cloud start-ups, Cloud Search Portal.

As the name suggests the venture demonstrates the fundamental value of the Cloud – A hosted version of very powerful software so that you can access it in an on demand, utility manner, harnessing the benefits without having to be troubled with the challenges of installing and managing it all yourself.

In this case the powerful software is Search technology, like that of Google, but in this case based on the Microsoft Sharepoint FAST system.

Social Search, Social Commerce

A great example of the value of this technology is described in an article about Walmart in this month’s FAST Company magazine.

Finally (!) setting out to master e-commerce Walmart has begun to embrace the new technologies required to compete with Amazon who has been eating into their core markets online.

The executive team realized they lacked the skills for this domain, and so simply began acquiring start-ups to fill the gap. One, Kosmix, specialized in Site Search and analytics technologies, and was bought because their existing web site search feature didn’t work very well at all.

This is the first and essential point. A Search feature on your site can be powered by the built-in version that comes with e-commerce software, or you can use a dedicated version. The difference? One is putting a lawnmower engine into your new Ferrari, the other lowering in an F15 jet engine.

There is a world of difference between Search platforms and what they can do for your online business, as Walmart learned. Like many they took this for granted and used the standard version, but found that when site visitors typed in ‘smartphones’, they’d be shown links to a couple of cell phone chargers, not the iPhone.

In short it simply didn’t work very well, and as this simple example illustrates, this can dramatically impede the ability for the site to perform it’s core function: Connect visitors with products they want to buy.

Walmart solved the problem by buying an entire start-up. Kosmix had developed advanced Search technologies for Amazon, and not only could it address this fundamental issue, but also offer a variety of other commerce-driving features.

social-commerce1In this Web 2.0 age the critical theme is “Social Commerce” – The technology can not only index all of that site, but it can also search across social media, analyzing content from Facebook and other sites to determine what your friends and family are interested in, and from this make recommendations for purchases on the Walmart site.

This other FAST Company article, the Walmart Version of Search, provides an excellent detailed review of these technologies in action.

As you can imagine these features make online shopping much easier for consumers and thus drive more sales. Wouldn’t it be great to have this for your online venture?

Of course it would and there is the principle benefit of Cloud Computing – You don’t have to buy your own start-up for $300m to access it, indeed you don’t even have to buy the software or servers. You can now rent the same capability for a fraction of the price.

Making it possible for SMEs to compete on the same terms as Walmart = The value of Cloud Computing.

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