Tag Archive | "Amazon"

Western Union CEO on Amazon Partnership: Buy Globally and Pay Locally

Western Union has partnered with Amazon to white label their cross-border money transfer platform. “Amazon engaged us to use our platform to service their customers in a better way in order to give access to the millions of customers who don’t have an access today to buy online and pay,” said Hikmet Ersek, the CEO of Western Union. “In the future, they will have the capability to buy globally and pay locally.”

Hikmet Ersek, President, CEO, Western Union, recently discussed the new partnership with Amazon, competition with Zelle and Vinmo, and the overall health of the business:

Western Union Digital Business is Growing Very Well

Our digital business is growing very well year over year. We are now in 50 countries with our digital business sending money to over 200 countries. We pretty much cover the world with digital. Our digital growth is very strong. Our retail money transfer business has been stable. In some countries, we have been a little bit slower like in the Middle East, but we had very strong growth in Europe and US outbound business. Our US domestic business has been a little bit slower than we thought. Generally, I would say that we had a very stable solid quarter and we are very excited about the future.

You Can’t Send Money From Your Mobile

US to Domestic there has been some competitive environment. Nothing changed like last quarter. We have certain customers that like to pick up cash immediately. Nobody can beat that. You can’t send (cash) money from your mobile. We pay out in cash immediately. There are also competitors like Zelle and Vinmo who have been capturing some market share there with their zero fee environment. That has definitely been US dominated but is only a small part of our business, seven percent of our revenues. We are more focused on the outbound business, global cross-border business. That has been growing very well.

Western Union is White Labeling Platform to Amazon

Amazon has engaged us, over the years we have been building a cross-border platform, which is unique. We are moving transactions in 132 currencies globally and we do about 32 transactions every second. We have a network of 550,000 locations. We are reaching out to about 4 billion accounts globally. This is a unique platform where today we serve our customers with this platform.

Companies like Amazon engaged us to use our platform to service their customers in a better way in order to give access to the millions of customers who don’t have an access today to buy online and pay. In the future, they will have the capability to buy globally and pay locally.

The Amazon partnership is for us very exciting because now suddenly we are opening our platform to new customer segments, white labeling to other organizations like Amazon. Today, we are serving our existing customers with our branded transactions. In the future, we will be able to serve huge organizations like Amazon, or Amazon will engage us with other organizations, to engage our platform and to use our platform to serve their customers.

Paying Amazon Has Been a Real Obstacle for Some

“There are people in the world who want greater access to Amazon’s huge product selection but paying for those purchases has been a real obstacle for many customers,” said Hikmet Ersek, president and CEO of Western Union. “We’re leveraging our money movement platform to make it easier to shop global and pay local. By facilitating the complex foreign exchange and settlement process, we’re opening up more consumer choices and access to online shopping for tens of millions of potential new Amazon customers.”

Forrester Research estimates that cross-border shopping will make up 20% of e-commerce by 2022, with sales reaching $ 630 billion. Choice, quality and cost are the main motivations for consumers to shop online from overseas, but there are challenges and concerns about the lack of payment options for consumers who prefer to pay in person or consumers who are not comfortable using online payment methods.

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SearchCap: Bing features, Amazon sponsored ads and link building

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



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Advertising on Amazon? Take our survey and win a ticket to SMX!

Five minutes of your time could earn you an All Access Pass to any SMX conference in the U.S.



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SearchCap: Take our Amazon survey (please!), SMX Advanced session recap & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



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Elite SEM acquires CPC Strategy with an eye toward growing its Amazon practice

The e-commerce-focused agency has more than 125 employees and a proprietary retail search advertising optimization platform.



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How to Win Some Local Customers Back from Amazon this Holiday Season

Posted by MiriamEllis

Your local business may not be able to beat Amazon at the volume of their own game of convenient shipping this holiday season, but don’t assume it’s a game you can’t at least get into!

This small revelation took me by surprise last month while I was shopping for a birthday gift for my brother. Like many Americans, I’m feeling growing qualms about the economic and societal impacts of putting my own perceived convenience at the top of a list of larger concerns like ensuring fair business practices, humane working conditions, and sustainable communities.

So, when I found myself on the periphery of an author talk at the local independent bookstore and the book happened to be one I thought my brother would enjoy, I asked myself a new question:

“I wonder if this shop would ship?”

There was no signage indicating such a service, but I asked anyway, and was delighted to discover that they do. Minutes later, the friendly staff was wrapping up a signed copy of the volume in nice paper and popping a card in at no extra charge. Shipping wasn’t free, but I walked away feeling a new kind of happiness in wishing my sibling a “Happy Birthday” this year.

And that single transaction not only opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t have to remain habituated to gift shopping at Amazon or similar online giants for remote loved ones, but it also inspired this article.

Let’s talk about this now, while your local business, large or small, still has time to make plans for the holidays. Let’s examine this opportunity together, with a small study, a checklist, and some inspiration for seasonal success.

What do people buy most at the holidays and who’s shipping?

According to Statista, the categories in the following chart are the most heavily shopped during the holiday season. I selected a large town in California with a population of 60,000+, and phoned every business in these categories that was ranking in the top 10 of Google’s Local Finder view. This comprised both branded chains and independently-owned businesses. I asked each business if I came in and purchased items whether they could ship them to a friend.

Category

% Offer Shipping

Notes

Clothing

80%

Some employees weren’t sure. Outlets of larger store brands couldn’t ship. Some offered shipping only if you were a member of their loyalty program. Small independents consistently offered shipping. Larger brands promoted shopping online.

Electronics

10%

Larger stores all stressed going online. The few smaller stores said they could ship, but made it clear that it was an unusual request.

Games/Toys/Dolls etc.

25%

Large stores promote online shopping. One said they would ship some items but not all. Independents did not ship.

Food/Liquor

20%

USPS prohibits shipping alcohol. I surveyed grocery, gourmet, and candy stores. None of the grocery stores shipped and only two candy stores did.

Books

50%

Only two bookstores in this town, both independent. One gladly ships. The other had never considered it.

Jewelry

60%

Chains require online shopping. Independents more open to shipping but some didn’t offer it.

Health/Beauty

20%

With a few exceptions, cosmetic and fitness-related stores either had no shipping service or had either limited or full online shopping.

Takeaways from the study

  • Most of the chains promote online shopping vs. shopping in their stores, which didn’t surprise me, but which strikes me as opportunity being left on the table.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the number of independent clothing and jewelry stores that gladly offered to ship gift purchases.
  • I was concerned by how many employees initially didn’t know whether or not their employer offered shipping, indicating a lack of adequate training.
  • Finally, I’ll add that I’ve physically visited at least 85% of these businesses in the past few years and have never been told by any staff member about their shipping services, nor have I seen any in-store signage promoting such an offer.

My overarching takeaway from the experiment is that, though all of us are now steeped in the idea that consumers love the convenience of shipping, a dominant percentage of physical businesses are still operating as though this realization hasn’t fully hit in… or that it can be safely ignored.

To put it another way, if Amazon has taken some of your customers, why not take a page from their playbook and get shipping?

The nitty-gritty of brick-and-mortar shipping

62% of consumers say the reason they’d shop offline is because they want to see, touch, and try out items.RetailDive

There’s no time like the holidays to experiment with a new campaign. I sat down with a staff member at the bookstore where I bought my brother’s gift and asked her some questions about how they manage shipping. From that conversation, and from some additional research, I came away with the following checklist for implementing a shipping offer at your brick-and-mortar locations:

✔ Determine whether your business category is one that lends itself to holiday gift shopping.

✔ Train core or holiday temp staff to package and ship gifts.

✔ Craft compelling messaging surrounding your shipping offer, perhaps promoting pride in the local community vs. pride in Amazon. Don’t leave it to customers to shop online on autopilot — help them realize there’s a choice.

✔ Cover your store and website with messaging highlighting this offering, at least two months in advance of the holidays.

✔ In October, run an in-store campaign in which cashiers verbally communicate your holiday shipping service to every customer.

✔ Sweeten the offer with a dedication of X% of sales to a most popular local cause/organization/institution.

✔ Promote your shipping service via your social accounts.

✔ Make an effort to earn a mention of your shipping service in local print and radio news.

✔ Set clear dates for when the last purchases can be made to reach their destinations in time for the holidays.

✔ Coordinate with the USPS, FedEx, or UPS to have them pick up packages from your location daily.

✔ Determine the finances of your shipping charges. You may need to experiment with whether free shipping would put too big of a hole in your pocket, or whether it’s necessary to compete with online giants at the holidays.

✔ Track the success of this campaign to discover ROI.

Not every business is a holiday shopping destination, and online shopping may simply have become too dominant in some categories to overcome the Amazon habit. But, if you determine you’ve got an opportunity here, designate 2018 as a year to experiment with shipping with a view towards making refinements in the new year.

You may discover that your customers so appreciate the lightbulb moment of being able to support local businesses when they want something mailed that shipping is a service you’ll want to instate year-round. And not just for gifts… consumers are already signaling at full strength that they like having merchandise shipped to themselves!

Adding the lagniappe: Something extra

For the past couple of years, economists have reported that Americans are spending more on restaurants than on groceries. I see a combination of a desire for experiences and convenience in that, don’t you? It has been joked that someone needs to invent food that takes pictures of itself for social sharing! What can you do to capitalize on this desire for ease and experience in your business?

Cards, carols, and customs are wreathed in the “joy” part of the holidays, but how often do customers genuinely feel the enjoyment when they are shopping these days? True, a run to the store for a box of cereal may not require aesthetic satisfaction, but shouldn’t we be able to expect some pleasure in our purchasing experiences, especially when we are buying gifts that are meant to spread goodwill?

When my great-grandmother got tired from shopping at the Emporium in San Francisco, one of the superabundant sales clerks would direct her to the soft surroundings of the ladies’ lounge to refresh her weary feet on an automatic massager. She could lunch at a variety of nicely appointed in-store restaurants at varied prices. Money was often tight, but she could browse happily in the “bargain basement”. There were holiday roof rides for the kiddies, and holiday window displays beckoning passersby to stop and gaze in wonder. Great-grandmother, an immigrant from Ireland, got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the few dollars in her purse.

It may be that those lavish days of yore are long gone, taking the pleasure of shopping with them, and that we’re doomed to meager choosing between impersonal online shopping or impersonal offline warehouses … but I don’t think so.

The old Emporium was huge, with multiple floors and hundreds of employees … but it wasn’t a “big box store”.

There’s still opportunity for larger brands to differentiate themselves from their warehouse-lookalike competitors. Who says retail has to look like a fast food chain or a mobile phone store?

And as for small, independent businesses? I can’t open my Twitter feed nowadays without encountering a new and encouraging story about the rise of localism and local entrepreneurialism.

It’s a good time to revive the ethos of the lagniappe — the Louisiana custom of giving patrons a little something extra with their purchase, something that will make it worth it to get off the computer and head into town for a fun, seasonal experience. Yesterday’s extra cookie that made up the baker’s dozen could be today’s enjoyable atmosphere, truly expert salesperson, chair to sit down in when weary, free cup of spiced cider on a wintry day… or the highly desirable service of free shipping. Chalk up the knowledge of this need as one great thing Amazon has gifted you.

In 2017, our household chose to buy as many holiday presents as possible from Main Street for our nearby family and friends. We actually enjoyed the experience. In 2018, we plan to see how far our town can take us in terms of shipping gifts to loved ones we won’t have a chance to see. Will your business be ready to serve our newfound need?

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Amazon Q3 ad revenues surpass $1 billion, up roughly 2X from early 2016

Amazon’s CFO said that advertising revenue is growing “very quickly.”

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SearchCap: Google Search Console beta, Amazon Echo Show & link building mistakes

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google Search Console beta, Amazon Echo Show & link building mistakes appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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How to Build Your Own Free Amazon Organic Search Rank Tracker

Posted by n8ngrimm

Do you want a free tool that tracks your organic search rankings in Amazon? Yes? You’re in luck.

I am going to show you how to build your own organic search rank tracking tool using Kimono Labs and Excel.

This is a follow-up to 
my last post about how to rank well in Amazon, which covered the basic inputs to Amazon’s ranking algorithm. It received a lot of comments about my rank-tracking prototype in Google Docs; the Moz community is overflowing with smart people who immediately saw the need for a tool to track their progress. As luck would have it, something in Google Sheets broke the day after I published, so I had to replicate the rank tracking tool in Excel using the SEOTools for Excel plugin. The Excel tool is a low-setup way to record your progress, but if you want to track more than a few terms, it is very laborious. I’ve since built a more (but not completely) automated, scalable way to track rankings using Kimono Labs to scrape the data and Excel to run the reports.

(Shout out to Benjamin Spiegel for turning me on to Kimono Labs through an excellent Moz post.)

Pros and cons of rank tracking

The death of
Google rank tracking has been widely reported, so I feel compelled to review why Amazon rank tracking is both useful and a terrible KPI.

Amazon rank tracking is great because…

  • You get feedback on your content optimization. How else are you going to determine if your content changes actually produce a positive effect?
  • It can provide a possible explanation for increases in listing traffic and sales. Amazon doesn’t provide traffic source data so you’re often left guessing about the source of changes.

Amazon rank tracking is a terrible KPI because…

  • You have no way of assigning a monetary value to a rank. Amazon does not report on search query volume, you don’t know how well your users convert for each keyword, you don’t know the click-through-rate at each position, and you don’t know what percentage of users use organic search vs. other methods of finding your product.
  • Many factors besides rankings will drive your success on Amazon. Inventory outages, winning the Buy Box, and a good seller rating will impact sales drastically and directly. You can even assign revenue and profit numbers to some of those attributes.

So use rankings as a leading indicator of traffic and sales improvements and to see if your changes are making a difference.

Overview

To build our rank tracking tool, we’re going to

Build the scraper

Extract structured data from an Amazon search

Kimono Labs has some great documentation on using their tools. If, at any point, you get lost or want to do something slightly different from my scraper, you can find
their documentation here. I’m going to show you the fastest way to copy my existing scraper so you can get up and running as quickly as possible.

After you
create an account with Kimono Labs and install their bookmarklet or Chrome extension, the first thing you need to build a scraper is a URL to start scraping. I’m using this search in Amazon as my start URL: http://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=juicer. It’s a basic keyword search for the word “juicer.”

Click on the Kimonify bookmarklet, then click on the data model view.

Then click on Advanced

We’re going to make two properties.

To make things faster, you can copy the Xpath I use to identify the listing title and the ASIN (Amazon’s unique product identifier) from here:

Listing: div > div > div > h3 > a
ASIN: div > div.prod.celwidget

Next we’ll select which attributes to scrape from the elements we identified with the XPath. For the Listing property’s attributes, we’ll select the Text Content and href then click Apply.

For the ASIN attribute, we’ll select id and name. Deselect the other attributes that are selected by default, then click Apply.

So long as Amazon hasn’t changed the number of results they display by the time you are reading this, the two yellow circles at the top of the toolbar will say 15. That means that for each property defined, Kimono Labs has identified 15 different instances on the page. Does your screen look like this? If so, click Save.

Give your scraper a fancy name, tag it if you want, and decide how often you want it to run. I set mine to run daily. Kimono Labs will store a new version of the data every time it runs so if you don’t record it one day, the older data will still be there. I could have it scrape hourly but then it’s more laborious to go back through the data and find the version I want to save.

Click on the link to view your scraper. To verify that the data is gathering correctly, click on the Preview Results tab and select the CSV endpoint. You should see the title in the Listing.text field, a link to the listing in Listing.href, the ASIN in ASIN.name, and the rank in ASIN.id.

Finally, to make sure that Kimono Labs is gathering and saving data correctly, go to the API Detail tab and switch Always Save to On.

Then go to Pagination/Crawling and make sure crawling is turned on.

Congratulations! You just made a scraper that will record the ranking of every product for the keyword “juicer” every single day!

Which types of searches do you want to monitor?

There are many types of searches in Amazon. You can search for a keyword, brand, category, and any combinations of those. I’ll explain the URL parameters used to generate the searches so users can track whichever ranking is most important to your business. You will use these parameters to construct your list of URLs to crawl in Kimono Labs.

To start with, this URL can be used as a base for all Amazon searches: 
http://www.amazon.com/s. We will add the parameter name-value pairs to the end to construct our search.

Name Example Value Description
field-keywords Juicer Add any keyword that you want to track
field-brandtextbin Breville Add any brand name. It must exactly match the brand name listed for the product in Amazon.
node 284507 Amazon’s ID number for a category. You can look through this list of
Amazon’s top-level category nodes, download the most relevant Browse Tree Guide for every node, or simply navigate to the category and find it in the URL.
page 2 If you want to scrape beyond the first page, you’ll need to list a new URL for every page you want to scrape.

As an example, here’s the search for the keyword Juicer, with a brand name of Breville, in the Food & Kitchen category, page 2.

http://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=juicer&field-brandtextbin=breville&node=284507&page=2.

Here are a few notes that will be helpful (even critical) as you construct your searches.

  • Place a question mark (?) before your first parameter
  • Separate subsequent parameters with an ampersand (&)
  • You cannot search for a brand by itself; it can only be used in conjunction with a keyword or a node. I don’t know why.

Once you create every search URL, add them to the “List URLs to Crawl” field in Kimono Labs on the Pagination/Crawling tab.

Transform and store the data in Excel

Now that we’re scraping and storing rankings data for your searches every day, we want to display the data in a useful format. You could talk to a developer to hook into your Kimono Labs API, or you can download the data as a CSV and store it in Excel.

I’ll use this Excel template to transform my data into a more readable format, store the data, and create reports.

Transform

First, download the data from your Kimono Labs endpoint or results preview.

Paste the data into cell A2 of the Excel file. If the data ends up filling only the first column, go to Data >> Text to Columns. Select Delimited, click Next, select Comma, and click Finish. Your data should end up looking like this.

I use the table on the right to transform the data in a few key ways. I’ll explain each.

ASIN: I don’t transform this data; I just copy it as is. If it shows a number instead of an alphanumeric string, that’s an ISBN. It’s probably a book, movie, or cd that’s ranking

Title: Again, I’m not transforming the title, just copying it over.

Keyword: The keyword is included in the Listing.href on the left as part of the URL. I made a really long formula to extract just the keyword and replace plus symbols with spaces.

Date: This uses Excel’s TODAY() function which simply returns the current days date. If you’re adding data that is from a previous day, replace this date with whichever date is correct.

Rank: I remove the “result_” from the beginning of the ASIN.id field on the left and add one since the rankings start at zero.

Store historical data

If you continue adding data day after day, you can begin to see a change in rankings; copy the data from the table on the right (not the headers).

Then go to the Historical sheet and paste values at the bottom of the table. You just want to paste values, not formulas:

The table should automatically expand to include the new data. If not, click on the corner of the table and drag it down to include the new data. Next, click on the Data tab in the ribbon, then click Refresh All; the pivot tables in the Table and Graph sheets will now include the new data.

Build some useful reports with pivot tables and charts

In the Excel Template, I added a Pivot Table and Pivot Chart that you can use to report on the Data. The Historical data sheet has six days of rankings data. You may want to skip this section and just watch Annie Cushing’s videos on creating
pivot charts and pivot tables. Once you are comfortable with pivot charts and tables, you can look at the data however you want.

Here are a few useful rankings charts and tables I use to look at rankings data. I’ve included the visualization as well as my settings in the screenshot.

All ranked keywords for a product over time

This chart displays all the keyword rankings for one product over time. I use the ASIN to filter the chart instead of the title, because the title for a listing can change over time but the ASIN won’t. This product ranks for both of our keywords and has moved around slightly throughout the six days we’ve tracked (there are no rankings on 7/31 and 8/1 for “masticating juicer” because I was not scraping data for this keyword on those days).

Two competing products for one keyword

This chart compares two products for one keyword. If you are monitoring a key competitor or have multiple products for your brand, this is a useful view. I used the filters to select the keyword “juicer” and the two products.

Rank by day

To quickly pick out which products improved or lost ranking over a time period, I use a table. In the row labels I group each rank by keyword then ASIN. I add Title below ASIN so I can recognize which product is moving up or down.

To the right of the table, I added a formula to subtract the rank on 8/2 from the rank on 8/5 (=G7-D7). To make it more obvious which products improved and which did worse, I added conditional formatting to highlight negative numbers with red and positive numbers with green.

Is there another view you’d like me to demonstrate? Ask me in the comments.

Limitations

This system for tracking and reporting rankings is not perfect.

You must manually download the data from Kimono Labs to Excel to run a report. That’s a bit clunky. This process could be automated with some code.

Kimono Labs is still in free Beta so stability is an issue. Scraping, as a general rule, fails fairly often and I’ve experienced spotty page loading. They allow you to scrape and store an impressive amount of data for free though. If you know of a better, free tool be sure to let everyone know in the comments.

Excel itself is a limitation. If you get beyond 500,000 rows of data it will start to crawl. That may sound like a lot, but if you want to track 5 pages of results for 100 keywords every day, you will generate 8,000 rows of data per day. Excel is not a long-term solution.

My company is working on a rankings tool that will address all of these limitations, but it is a couple months away. If you want an email when it’s ready, fill out the form
here. For now, I’m living with the limitations of this system and getting some great insight.

Questions?

This post has a really long list of steps so if you have an issue, let me know via email (my first name @dnaresponse.com) or in the comments.

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How I Wish Amazon Reviews Worked

Posted by Dr. Pete

This is not a post about SEO. It is, however, a post about the future of search. This surprised even me – when I started writing this piece, it really was just an idea about building a better review. I realized, though, that finding relevant reviews is a useful microcosm of the broader challenge search engines face. Specifically, I want to talk about three S’s – Social, Sentiment, and Semantics, and how each of these pieces fit the search puzzle. Along the way, I might just try to build a better mousetrap.

The Core Problem

Product reviews are great, but on a site as big and popular as Amazon.com, filtering reviews isn’t much easier than filtering Google search results. Here’s the review section for the Kindle Fire:

Kindle Fire on Amazon - 10,859 reviews

That’s right – 10,859 reviews to sort through. Even if I just decide to look at the 5 stars and 1 stars, that’s still 7,208 reviews. If I could click and skim each one of those 7,208 in about 5 seconds, I’ve got roughly 10 hours of enjoyment ahead of me (if I don’t eat or take bathroom breaks). So, how can we make this system better?

(1) The Social Graph

These days our first answer is usually: “SOCIAL!” Social is sexy, and it will solve all our problems with its sexy sexiness. The problem is that we tend to oversimplify. Here’s how we think about Search + Social, in our perfect world:

Search/Social Intersection = Sexy

Unfortunately, it’s not quite so magical. There are two big problems, whether we’re talking about product reviews or organic search results. The first problem is a delicate one. Some of the people that you associate with are – how shall I put it – stupid.

Ok, maybe stupid is a bit harsh, but just because you’re connected to someone doesn’t mean you have a lot in common or share the same tastes. So, we really want to weed out some of the intersection, like Crazy Cousin Larry…

Search/Social Intersection minus Crazy Cousin Larry

It’s surprisingly hard to figure out who we actually sit at the Crazy-Larry table. Computationally, this is a huge challenge. There’s a bigger problem, though. In most cases, especially once we start weeding people out, the picture actually looks more like this:

Real Search/Social Intersection - Very Small

Even with relatively large social circles, the actual overlap of your network and any given search result or product is often so small as to be useless. We can extend our circles to 2nd- and 3rd-degree relationships, but then relevance quickly suffers.

To be fair to Amazon, they’ve found one solution – they elicit user feedback of the reviews themselves as a proxy social signal:

20,396 people thie review helpful

This approach certainly helps, but it mostly weeds out the lowest-quality offerings. Reviews of reviews help control quality, but they don't do much to help us find the most relevant information.

(2) Sentiment Analysis

Reviews are a simple form of sentiment analysis – they help us determine if people view a product positively or negatively. More advanced sentiment analysis uses natural-language processing (NLP) to try to extract the emotional tone of the text.

You may be wondering why we need more advanced sentiment analysis when someone has already told us how they feel on a 1-5 scale. Welcome to what I call “The Cupholder Problem”, something I’ve experienced frequently as a parent trying to buy high-end products on Amazon. Consider this fictional review which is all-too-based in reality:

The Cupholder Problem (fake review)

I’m exaggerating, of course, but the core problem is that reviews are entirely subjective, and sometimes just one feature or problem can ruin a product for someone. Once that text is reduced to a single data point (one star), though, the rest of the information in the content is lost.

Sentiment analysis probably wouldn’t have a dramatic impact on Amazon reviews, but it’s a hot topic in search in general because it can help extract emotional data that’s sometimes lost in a summary (whether it’s a snippet or a star rating). It might be nice to see Amazon institute some kind of sentiment correction process, warning people if the tone of their review doesn’t seem to match the star rating.

(3) Semantic Search

This is where things get interesting (and I promise I’ll get back to sentiment so that the previous section has a point). The phrase “semantic search” has been abused, unfortunately, but the core idea is to get at the meaning and conceptual frameworks behind information. Google Knowledge Graph is probably the most visible, recent attempt to build a system that extracts concepts and even answers, instead of just a list of relevant documents.

How does this help our review problem? Let’s look at the “Thirsty” example again. It’s not a dishonest review or even useless – the problem is that I fundamentally don’t care about cupholders. There are certain features that matter a lot to me (safety, weight, durability), others that I’m only marginally sensitive to (price, color), and some that I don’t care about at all (beverage dispensing capability).

So, what if we could use a relatively simple form of semantic analysis to extract the salient features from reviews for any given product? We might end up with something like this:

Sample Review w/ Feature Extraction

Pardon the uninspired UI, but even the addition of a few relevant features could help customers drill down to what really matters to them, and this could be done with relatively simple semantic analysis. This basic idea also illustrates some of the direction I think search is heading.  Semantic search isn’t just about retrieving concepts; it’s also about understanding the context of our questions.

Here’s an interesting example from Google Australia (Google.com.au). Search for “Broncos colors” and you’ll get this answer widget (hat tip to Brian Whalley for spotting these):

Denver Broncos Colors (Google.com.au)

It’s hardly a thing of beauty, but it gets the job done and probably answers the query for 80-90% of searches. This alone is an example of search returning concepts and not just documents, but it gets even more interesting. Now search for “Broncos colours”, using the British spelling (still in Google.com.au). You should get this answer:

Brisbane Broncos Colors

The combination of Google.com.au and the Queen’s English now has Google assuming that you meant Australia’s own Brisbane Broncos. This is just one tiny taste of the beginning of search using concepts to both deliver answers and better understand the questions.

(4) Semantics + Sentiment

Let’s bring this back around to my original idea. What if we could combine semantic analysis (feature extraction) and sentiment in Amazon reviews? We could easily envision a system like this:

Reviews with Feature Extraction + Sentiment

I’ve made one small addition – a positive or negative (+/-) sentiment choice next to each feature. Maybe I only want to see products where people spoke highly of the value, or rule out the ones where they bashed the safety. Even a few simple combinations could completely change the way you digest this information.

The Tip of the Penguin

This isn’t the tip of the iceberg – it’s the flea on the wart on the end of the penguin’s nose on the tip of the iceberg. We still think of Knowledge Graph and other semantic search efforts as little more than toys, but they’re building a framework that will revolutionize the way we extract information from the internet over the next five years. I hope this thought exercise has given you a glimpse into how powerful even a few sources of information can be, and why they’re more powerful together than alone. Social doesn’t hold all of the answers, but it is one more essential piece of a richer puzzle.

I’d also like to thank you for humoring my Amazon reviews insanity. To be fair to Amazon, they’ve invested a lot into building better systems, and I’m sure they have fascinating ideas in the pipe. If they’d like to use any of these ideas, I’m happy to sell them for the very reasonable price of ONE MILL-I-ON DOLLARS.

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