EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2366 - September 09, 2010     4 of 6

Sovoia Provides Search Widget to Fashion Stores on eBay

By Greg Holden

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As you probably know, it's not difficult to find clothing online. But it can be difficult to find clothing in just the right size, color, and style. Any online store that can present options from many clothing manufacturers and improve the user experience will have an advantage over the competition in this field, which is becoming increasingly popular with fashion-conscious Web surfers.

"Faceted search" of the sort you see on eBay and Amazon.com can help shoppers fine-tune their browsing and let them comparison shop at the same time. Faceted search is the ability to choose attributes such as color, gender, or width from several drop-down menus before the site actually does the searching. But on both eBay and Amazon.com, you have to burrow into the site or do at least one keyword search before you get to the faceted search options.

Obaidullah Khawaja believes he has a better option with the Sovoia Search Widget. It's a faceted search utility that's showing up on the home pages of some stores in eBay UK's Fashion Outlet area and is an alternative to the usual keyword search.

You can see the Sovoia Search Widget in action on the Superdry eBay UK store. You have the choice of browsing through categories of Superdry clothing on the left side of the page, and on the right side, you can use the search widget. Choose men's polo shirts, size L, and you immediately see that 402 options are available. Click Find Now, and you can start browsing through them. Superdry's store has three drop-down lists; others have four, five, or as many attributes as space allows.

Khawaja, who lives and works in Pakistan, believes the search widget boosts sales on the sites that use it. "It's all about simplifying product discovery," he says. "Our clickthrough rates are phenomenal - as high as 12 percent." He says the clickthrough rates are higher if the widget is positioned on a gateway or landing page, such as a storefront category page, as opposed to a search results or item detail page.

The key to making the search engine work, however, is providing it with good data. That means including specific details about each of the items in your product catalog, but also making sure the data conforms to eBay's product categories.

"Without good data you can't have a flawless user experience," says Khawaja. "Retailers sometimes enter sizes like S, M, L, and XL for T-shirts, which is fine. But they can't do the same with jeans - eBay does not accept that data, but looks for numerical waist sizes such as 28, 30, 32, etc. Suppose the vendor uses S, M, L, and XL for jeans. The end result for a customer is that a size-based keyword search will probably not show their jeans, or the jeans will have blanks in the "size" box in our widget.

In order to collect data in formats that conform to eBay's item specifics, Khawaja has developed the Data Analyzer, a dashboard that matches the data already captured by a merchant and identifies data that doesn't not conform to eBay's specifics, as well as data that does conform and can be added as a search category by the widget.

Sellers can typically add this functionality to their stores for $45 to $100 per month. The exact cost depends on the amount of customization involved. Khawaja urges smaller sellers to contact him because "some very aggressive discounts" are available as well.

He doesn't go so far as to say the Sovoia search widget actually provides a "better" experience than entering keywords in a search box, however.

"It's a different experience that aids in "product discovery." I think the mental model for keyword search is very different from the one for our widgets. With search, people already have a good idea of what they are looking for - they enter keyword(s) and expect instant gratification. With our widgets, people may have a good idea of what they want but are also interested in exploring their options and seeing what sort of selection is available. Our widget is best suited for a scenario where I'm looking for a used car and don't want to spend more than $15,000 and also don't want the car to be older than a 2007 model. This is where our widget offers a really awesome user experience."

About the Author
Greg Holden is AuctionBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.


About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.


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