September 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Getting It Straight

(Page 2 of 2)

At Overstock, a team of merchandise workers checks details like product dimensions and attributes against an approved product sheet before adding items through a browser into a web-based product management system. That system feeds product data into a new Product Data Optimizer from Mercado Software, which supports Overstock’s site search and navigation feature.

The Product Data Optimizer enables Overstock to identify and manage more product attributes-i.e., details on color, size, fabric-while planning online cross-selling and other types of merchandising displays. “Your guided navigation is only as good as the product attributes it includes,” Byrne says.

The Product Data Optimizer software engine is designed to identify effective ways to categorize products, providing for a more useful search and navigation experience for shoppers, Byrne says. Without it, it would take an army of workers to identify common attributes for Overstock’s product lines, he adds.

“If we feed the optimizer data on 1,000 rugs, it finds a good way to classify them,” Byrne says. “It comes up with the most logical ways to structure buckets of products, such as rugs grouped by size.”

The optimizer application, accessed by a web browser, is typically monitored by two or three merchandisers who can override if necessary the automatically generated product groupings from appearing in search results.

Broad effect

Although Byrne won’t comment on the specific impact of using the Mercado Product Data Optimizer on conversion rates or sales, the system has proven to be one of the most effective Overstock has deployed, he says.

While the Mercado application ensures more useful data for use in managing online product content, the Teradata data warehouse helps keep up accuracy and a single version of the truth in non-product-specific data like sales and conversion rates.

The overall effort to clean product data, Byrne says, has supported better use of several other applications. For example: Omniture Inc.’s web analytics, SiteSpect Inc.’s multi-variable page testing tool, Aggregate Knowledge’s merchandising and site navigation tool, the Kefka personalization tool from Acxiom Corp. and personalization technology from ChoiceStream Inc. “Accurate data makes all these applications more effective,” Byrne says.

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