If you've ever searched online for a product and been confronted with an enormous quantity of search results that all seem to be the same item, then you'll understand the reasoning behind an eBay patent tiled, "Removal of listings based on similarity."
"Hurray," shoppers may think, a solution to search overload where the first 10 pages of search results are listings for the same item, perhaps by the same few sellers.
But simplifying the search experience by the practice of hiding some (or many) listings is fraught with risks - not only for the shopper, who may miss the item they really wanted - but for sellers whose items may never see the light of day in search results.
Here's information from the "Background" section of the patent:
"With the large volume of listings of goods, services, and the like available for purchase on the Internet, a user can very easily become overwhelmed with a presented number of listings. For example, a user may search for an item for sale and be presented with thousands of listings."
Here's an excerpt of the patent citing an example of a shopper searching for tickets to purchase:
"In some embodiments of the present disclosure, some listings will be culled, removed, truncated, or otherwise excluded from the list of results presented to the user based on similarity to another listing that is displayed to the user. For example, if two tickets were retrieved as meeting the search request of the user, and both tickets were on the same row with one being fifteen dollars less than the other, only the less expensive ticket may be presented to the user because of the superiority in price of the less expensive ticket. The more expensive ticket may be excluded from the view of the user.
"By removing listings from query results, a number of benefits may be achieved. For example, a user may have a shorter list of more pertinent listings for their review and selection, increasing the likelihood of the user purchasing from the listings."
The idea that a shorter list of more pertinent listings increases the chances of a sale seems sound. But what factors should go into such an algorithm?
Thinking of your own experiences, let us know the pros and cons of a marketplace eliminating similar listings from search results - is it a good strategy? And, presuming eBay and other marketplaces are already engaging in such practices, how good a job are they doing?