February 23, 2011, 1:36 PM

A&M Industry Supply cleans up product data to boost site search

The e-commerce site operator reduces clicks and product categories.

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Finding the exact type of pipe fitting for a factory, chemical plant or mine can be daunting enough, but try doing it on an e-commerce site such as the one operated by A&M Industrial Supply where the size of products often was expressed in the past in multiple ways—1 inch, for instance, could be rendered as 1” or 1 in.

Standardizing product specifications for the 17,000 to 18,000 SKUs carried by the company was one of the main tasks of a redesign effort that kicked off nearly a year ago, and which focused on improving A&M’s site search. The task involved cleaning up the product data for items sold on the site in order to produce a more efficient product index that, in turn, would lead to better site search for consumers. “Our content was fragmented and truncated, and not indexed properly, so it could be very difficult to find things,” says Tom Richards, A&M’s senior manager of information technology.  

The company outsourced the grunt work to FindWatt, which took A&M’s product data and cleaned it up—for instance, coding products in a such a way that a customer looking for a 2-inch bronze fitting isn’t instead shown all products that are 2 inches in size. FindWatt also came up with a better product index that helped shoppers find products after two or three clicks rather than four or five, and consolidated product categories with too few items, also saving time and trouble for consumers.

Richards says the work has led to increased hits for many products, though he gave no details about sales increases. He says he guided the project by submitting to FindWatt raw product data and indexing options for 20 to 40 SKUs at a time, with FindWatt providing him in return various options for improving site search for those items.  He says he has to keep a sharp eye on the work because he knows the market A&M serves. “Findwatt are not product experts, they are content managers,” he says.

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