September 17, 2013
Although often overlooked, site search plays a vital role in your digital customer experience strategy. It helps improve customer self-service, increase sales conversion rates, and increase page views and site traffic. Accordingly, organizations are revisiting their site search technology decisions. They need site search tools that deliver more personal experiences to customers in ways including contextual results pages, promotions, recommendations, and dynamic browsing and navigation structures.
Our recent site search market overview examined 14 site search solutions, including commercial solutions from Adobe Systems, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Apptus Technologies, Attivio, Coveo Solutions, EasyAsk, Google, HP Autonomy, Mindbreeze, Nextopia, Oracle, SDL, and SLI Systems. We also looked at the open source solution Lucene/Solr. Some of our biggest findings were that:
- Search is more than processing queries. As site search technology has matured, vendors have started to branch out beyond core query processing to support overall trends like browsing and navigation, content presentation, customer self-service, product recommendation, merchandising, and local search.
- The search vendor market is consolidating. As search technology has matured and moved into adjacent areas, the vendor search landscape has matured and consolidated, with many independent vendors getting acquired like Fredhopper (acquired by SDL), Omniture (Adobe), and Endeca (acquired by Oracle). Other vendors have shifted focus; IBM has focused the Vivisimo product, for example, more on big data concerns. Despite this, some stalwarts and independent vendors remain on the market (e.g. Google, Coveo, Attivio).
- Open source poses a formidable threat to proprietary vendors. Perhaps one of the most interesting developments in the site search vendor landscape has been the rise of open source as a standalone search solution as a site search solution bundled into other digital experience technologies (e.g. web content management, eCommerce platforms). One retailer Forrester spoke with moved from a legacy search tool to open source because it believed that no vendor could provide the level of innovation and differentiation it was looking for. Indeed, the experiences of many large sites (e.g. Twitter, Zappos, Netflix) have been widely documented in case studies on leveraging open source search technology. While this doesn’t spell the end of proprietary vendors, it means that they must prioritize marketing self-service and invest more heavily in R&D.
- Technology is only one component for successful organizations. Certainly, misaligned technology decisions are hard to overcome. But you need much more than that to be successful. Content strategy, governance, and strategic vision and alignment will help contribute to successful projects. For example, organizations with poor content curation and content strategy should prioritize sourcing robust search solutions. This will allow them to support more business user interaction that helps change relevance rankings.
Our recent site search market overview dives deeper into some of these key trends and best practices. If you’re involved with site search initiatives at your organization and have some thoughts, please drop us a note in the comments below!