May 30, 2013, 11:27 AM

MarketLive updates its site search tool for e-retail sites

The e-commerce platform aims to help specialty merchants compete with Amazon.

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In the latest update to its e-commerce platform, vendor MarketLive Inc. has added new features that help retailers tie content and products together in site search results. The vendor, which plans to highlight the update at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013 next week in Chicago, says the move aims to help its clients—primarily North American-based retailers, including Cost Plus World Market, Party City Corp. and Title Nine—differentiate themselves from Amazon.com Inc. and others.

Amazon is No. 1 in the new Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide. Cost Plus is owned by Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., which is No. 210, Party City is No. 230 and Title Nine is No. 337.

“For specialty retailers to compete, content is becoming more and more critical,” says MarketLive CEO and president Mark Pierce. “The search engines are providing higher rankings to sites that have authenticity, which comes from unique links and unique content.” Inspiring shoppers with content also drives online sales, he says.

The new functionality allows MarketLive customers to similarly tag products and content and set how they appear together when a customer is browsing by content or searching for specific products, he says. For example, under the “Inspiration” tab on the home page of Cost Plus World Market, which has been testing the new feature, a shopper can find not only featured products but links to articles about summer cocktail recipes or how-to projects like building a home terrarium. Beneath the main recipe or instructions in those articles, the retailer lists products featured in, and related to them, such as cocktail glasses or moss vase fillers. Likewise, a product search for lamps returns a page with a mix of lamps for sale and images with links to gift lists, a link to sign up for World Market’s rewards program and a link to the Inspiration section of the site.

In tandem with the content updates, MarketLive also announced its platform now features updated site search functionality that automatically adds in navigation refinements, such as color, style, gender and price, to search results based on the product information retailers enter about their merchandise. That enables a shopper searching for a boy’s pirate costume, for example, to quickly narrow her results by available costume sizes and price by selecting the appropriate boxes in a left-hand menu on the product page. That functionality helps shoppers find products quickly and saves retailers the effort of manually updating the navigation options with their changing merchandise, Pierce says.

“Not having to deal with a programmer to move merchandise around on the site or to set up discounts that apply to a family of products makes it possible to get things done quickly and easily,” says Christine Dover, a research director for enterprise applications and digital commerce at research and advisory firm International Data Corp. “MarketLive provides a lot of functionality for the mid-size retailer without the heavy lifting required of the big guys, such as Oracle and IBM.”

MarketLive has been doubling its investment in research and development every two years, Pierce says. In the past year and a half the company also increased its budget for building new technology from about 20% of revenue to 30%, he says.

“They brought in a new leadership team last year, along with some sizable investment, and are putting the money to good use,” Dover says of MarketLive, which hired senior executives in marketing and product management last October. “They've certainly improved the frequency of product updates and the number of features.”

Pierce says MarketLive releases about four new platform updates per year.

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