eBiz News: Capitalize on Next-Generation Search

Personalized search TheFind.com proves popular, Adobe and eBay partner up, Hostopia announces upgrades and online jewelry sales outshine other categories.
This week in e-commerce news, the personalized search engine TheFind.com posts traffic numbers proving that the "discovery" search trend is gaining momentum, Adobe and eBay release a tool that lets you edit Web content offline, Hostopia announces upgrades and online jewelry sales continue to outshine other categories.

"Discovery" search, or offering shoppers more guided queries resulting in personalized results, was pegged as a hot trend for this year, according to a recent Forrester Research, Inc. report. Launched in October 2006 and still in beta, TheFind.com bills itself as a discovery shopping search engine that "delivers a comprehensive, relevant and visually compelling shopping experience optimized for lifestyle products."

According to the company, TheFind.com crawls the entire Web, using its "Product Ranking Engine" technology to rank more than 150 million products from more 500,000 stores, based on market supply and demand indicators. The result is that any search will return a custom-catalog that consumers can browse.

Next-Generation Search Gaining Popularity
Since TheFind.com launched, unique visits to the site have grown by 540 percent, from 141,625 visits in November to a run rate of 900,000 in March 2007, according to the company. Based on this run rate, it is predicting that TheFind.com will surpass 1 million monthly visitors during the month of April, just six months after the company launched.

Additionally, TheFind.com is already experiencing more than 5 million page views per month, which the company says indicates that consumers are highly engaged with the site and integrating it into their everyday shopping routines.

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Additional traffic highlights since launch include the following:
  • The weekly average session duration on TheFind.com is more than six minutes, according to the Internet traffic research company Hitwise.
  • Visitors to TheFind.com are highly engaged with the site, averaging five page views per session.
  • Traffic has grown by 100 percent since the month of January; in March traffic to TheFind.com was 2.6 times that of December.
  • The site is averaging a monthly traffic growth rate of 35 percent so far this year.

TheFind.com also announced new content distribution partnerships with the Glam Network, SheFinds.com, PopGadget.net, among others, and added sponsored CPC (cost-per-click) ads that are clearly marked and placed within its search results. Finally, the company introduced features such as "Find Similar Items," "Shop by Color," "Related Searches" and "Hot Searches" to enhance the personalized shopping experience.

Adobe's Apollo in Orbit
In other news, Adobe recently released a tool that's designed to let Web developers create rich Internet applications (RIAs) that allow users to access Web content offline and drop it onto the desktop or into other applications for modification. Code named Apollo, the application is still in the testing phase.

Apollo provides people with direct access to Internet applications (including those built with HTML, JavaScript, Flash and PDF) without the need to open a browser, offering a familiar desktop application experience. With Apollo, people can launch applications directly from their desktops and interact with them offline.

When a network connection is available, newly created or changed content can seamlessly synchronize. In upcoming versions, Apollo's integration with the desktop will allow people to drag and drop items, such as image files and other media assets, directly into Apollo applications.

Adobe and eBay have already teamed up to create a desktop application that will be available for installation directly from the eBay Web site. Some uses, for instance, could involve sellers setting up item-for-sale profiles complete with pictures taken from within the program using a webcam, according to industry reports. Another example offered by industry watchers could involve buyers dragging and dropping the details of a watched auction to the desktop and opening it in Excel to calculate the average cost of everything in the list.

Max Mancini, senior director of Disruptive Innovation, eBay, said in a statement: "Our work with Apollo is an example of one of the many ways eBay is delivering a fun, immersive experience outside of the browser. In this case, the eBay.com marketplace is brought straight to users' desktops with improved caching, real-time product availability notifications, and auction updates."

Give Me a K.I.S.S.
In other news, Hostopia just rolled out the latest release of its EasyStoreMaker Pro, version 3.0, mirroring Yahoo Web Hosting's announcement Monday of Site Solution, aimed at making site setup easier for newbies.

Enhancements in EasyStoreMaker Pro 3.0 include a wizard that takes a non-technical user through the steps of setting up an e-commerce store, complete with product display information, shipping options, tax and currency settings and more. Store design and setup is simplified with the inclusion of a library of pre-built storefront templates. Other features include a CSV import/export function to facilitate setup of large product SKU data files, a free bundled SSL certificate and a "product showcasing" feature that helps promote sales and/or featured products.

EasyStoreMaker Pro version 3.0 is immediately available to all Hostopia wholesale customers who in turn can offer the updated application to their clients through Hostopia's hosting control panel interface, Website OS.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Finally, new data from the diamond trade group IDEX Online Research states that jewelry sales in the U.S. reached $2.45 billion in 2006, up nearly 20 percent from 2005. This echoes stats from comScore that showed the growth of online jewelry sales out pacing all other retail categories for the 2006 holiday season as compared to the year before.

Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.

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