June 14, 2012, 1:21 PM

Tool retailer lets mobile shoppers speak their searches

Travers Tools Company implements a voice search feature into its mobile site.

Lead Photo

Consumers visiting the mobile site for Travers Tools Company Inc. searching for a specific drill bit now need only ask for it.

The retailer recently launched an updated m-commerce site that enables consumers to speak their site searches. The service, from site search provider EasyAsk, lets shoppers touch a microphone icon then say what they want into their smartphone to see a list of results.

"The industrial supply business is very competitive and what sets us apart is our industry knowledge and our ability to provide the right tools and parts for our customers,” says Bruce Zolot, president, Travers Tools. “EasyAsk search helps us ensure that our customers find what they are looking for quickly on our site and now just as easily on our mobile site. Shoppers can speak what they want into the search box and see what they want immediately."

Shoppers can use their Apple Inc. iPhone 4S or a smartphone using Google Inc.’s Android operating system to speak their search queries. Consumers see a microphone icon next to the search box that prompts them to speak into their device.

“A consumer might be in a hardware store and see a tool they want,” an EasyAsk spokesman says.  “Maybe they think it costs too much, or they want to see if they can get a better deal online. They pull out their Android or iPhone and go to Travers Tools and touch the search box microphone icon. They say ’Jet bandsaw‘ or ’Jet bandsaw over $1500.’  They can speak their search as they would describe it to a salesperson– the more info, the tighter the search results. The list is short and accurate, which is critical on smartphones with little screen space.”

EasyAsk uses what it calls natural language search—software and algorithms provided by EasyAsk  that seek to understand what the consumer wants to buy and returns appropriate search results, the company says.

This natural language search engine can better understand the intent behind shopper requests than other search engines, EasyAsk says. “Try ’not stripe dress shirts under $80‘ for example,” the spokesman says. “Keyword-based search engines would return stripe shirts for $80 and possibly underwear and dresses. People can get around poor search on a desktop, but won't on a mobile device.” 

Travers Tool, No. 826 in Internet Retailer's Second 500 Guide, already uses EasyAsk for its e-commerce site. The site search tool on the retailer’s desktop e-commerce site supports multiple search methods, such as the ability to view results within a category and narrow the results to specific items using a single results page, and also recognizes synonyms for search terms common to the metalworking industry. The results also reflect the current pricing and inventory amounts.

Travers began using the EasyAsk site search technology after consumers began telling the retailer they couldn’t find items on its e-commerce site as easily as they could in its print catalog. Given that the site offered a search box, those complaints represented a clear sign that that the search tool, which was supplied with its information management software, wasn’t working.

The EasyAsk system connects to Travers Tool’s back-office system that manages the flow of inventory and tracks product costs for the retailer’s more than 100,000 SKUs. This ensures that shoppers get up-to-date inventory and pricing information.

"Keyword-search back-ends won't cut it," says Craig Bassin, CEO of EasyAsk.  "Even Google understands this. They're in the process of evolving closer to natural language with semantic search. If your search box can't understand the intent behind shoppers' requests now, you'll be irrelevant when that request comes from a mobile device. Mobile users can't navigate as easily and will quickly abandon the site if it requires multiple searches. They either see it and get it, or move on.”

 

 

 

 

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