Google Commerce Search

Google’s introduction earlier this week of its “Google Commerce Search” tool–a site search tool designed to improve user experience and boost conversions by employing proper spell checking techniques, keyword stemming, synonyms–has brought a ton of attention to the site search world.

For that we’re happy. We’re also happy (a cynic would say relieved) that Google’s v1.0 launched with many of the features that our Nextopia customers have already been using for years. While its search technology certainly doesn’t break any new ground, the simple fact that Google entered the market is obviously newsworthy.

We welcome Google’s foray into this space. It reinforces the same message that we, and our competitors, have been preaching for year; GOOD SITE SEARCH IS CRITICAL TO MAXIMIZING SITE CONVERSION! Google’s presence in the market should raise awareness and help encourage retailers understand the ROI opportunity from implementing site search.

At the same time, are we concerned that Google is now a potential competitor? Absolutely! This is, after all, one of the biggest, most profitable technological and entrepreneurial successes of the past decade. Google is a powerhouse in many Internet and communications markets and only a fool would dismiss the Mountain View company.

Still, two observations are important. First, the price. With a starting annual price of $50,000, Google is targeting the peak of the online retailing pyramid. That is not the typical Nextopia customer, many of which pay our starting price of just $995 per year. In contrast to the top 100-200 retailers who might be able to budget $50,000, Nextopia is affordable enough to be used by virtually ANY website.

Second, the launch timing is frankly strange. It is almost inexplicable when you figure in the pricing. Why introduce a really expensive product seven weeks before Christmas when the target market is almost solely comprised of the type of companies that require six months to select a retailing technology and implement it? It would have made much more sense for Google to unveil this at say, the Internet Retailer conference in June, give prospects a month or two to evaluate it, and then a couple of months for implementation.

The pricing and launch date notwithstanding, how well does the product work? Our engineering team took a detailed look at the Google Store (googlestore.com). The search is pretty good, but the team found a few irregularities. Without getting into specifics (after all, why give our competitors the benefit of our eight+ years of site search engineering experience!), it definitely appears that Google’s offering is missing a lot of the functionality retailers need to sell effectively and efficiently. What could be the reason?

A common Google practice is to release products and services with a “Beta” qualifier. The theory is throw it out in the market and allow millions of users to bang on it, using it in ways the developers never dreamed of. After a couple of years of refinement, Google will typically remove the Beta qualifier from those services that have actually proved useful. So, while it is clear that this search product is still in the early stages of development (another cynic might say it was perhaps rushed out a little early), we have no idea whether it is a Beta version or not. If Google continues to support this product, we’ve no doubt that it will adjust and improve it over the coming months and years.

But without knowing the future, we’ll concentrate on the present and enjoy the spotlight that has been cast for now on the site search industry. It’s great to have Google following Nextopia’s footsteps.

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