For e-retailers, site search was once simply a word typed in a box that generated a list of links to the requested products-but not anymore. The newest versions of site search technology are finding a new role in site content management, says Brian Sullivan, senior vice president and general manager, search and content solutions, at WebSideStory Inc.
Sullivan says the advance in thinking about the role search can fill in site operations is rolled up in the concept of active navigation, a feature of WebSideStory’s site search product for the past six months. “Start thinking of search as something more than someone coming to your site and asking a question via a search box,” he says. Now, retailer users of technology such as WebSideStory’s are using the application to construct pages quickly based off their content.
For example, it can be time-intensive and difficult for online retailers to build brand-specfic pages on their site and keep them accurately updated. “Our product takes an inventory of all the content-the products-the retailer has available,” says Sullivan. The hosted application can be set up to crawl the retailer`s inventory catalog every time a product from the brand is added or dropped.
“For us to generate a page that shows all the things they sell in a particular brand, or one that shows all the brand products available today as opposed to yesterday, is very easy,” says Sullivan. Some retailers are also using the site search function as a quick way to create e-mail newsletters, by using search to populate preformatted, branded templates with content.
Sullivan adds that these examples show a content management problem being solved by site search functionality, something he views as a developing trend. “The line is blurring between what people call a content management problem and a search problem,” he says.