By Sonali Chowdhury
‘Advanced search’ is out, ‘intuitive’ is in… Bangalore start-up offers in-site search experience that benefits customers and online retailers alike
Online commerce sites are awfully complex shops to run. Most of them are multi-speciality, offering consumers swanky mobiles, rare books, tablet PCs and racy lingerie, all in one go. Now, locating a specific product is not easy, especially for customers who are choosy about what they buy.
Searching In Vain
A typical customer search begins and ends with the Google search bar followed by the in-site search option on the site. Often, that’s not good enough and the shopping spree ends in frustration. Enter two techies who spotted an opportunity in this customer quirk and decided to transform in-site product discovery through search and navigation.
Prashant Kumar and Pavan Sondur thus launched the Bangalore-based Unbxd Inc in October 2011. They had noted that most customers had an average-to-poor experience while shopping on e-commerce sites in India. This was because these sites rely on freely available open-source solutions, which do not offer sufficient customisation and personalisation.
Their product, Unbxd Commerce Search, is a search and navigation tool but the upshot is, it also benefits retailers by doubling as a merchandising tool and a customer research database. Search, navigation, landing pages and promotions are all managed through a simple dashboard on the site. Analytics provided by the dashboard enable greater insights into visitor behaviour. These insights are critical to enabling product managers to optimise conversions, or sales, from their websites.
Here’s how the Unbxd search tool works. When a customer types the name of a product in the search bar, the customised in-site search engine kicks in. It locates the product in the site’s vast catalogue and brings up relevant details on the screen. The engine now tells you about accessories you might be interested in buying along with the product; it also tells you what other people interested in the same product bought (or looked at); it points to suitable alternatives; and it also remembers your reactions, which can be used as feedback for future transactions.
Thus, the little white search bar transforms from a simple search algorithm into a powerful tool that combines cataloguing, marketing and customer research. And it does all this within seconds.
The start-up’s revenue model is based on a monthly fee depending on the volume of search queries served by the search tool on the e-commerce site. Thus, clients do not need to pay a large sum up-front to use the service. Payment is done on a monthly basis, based on the success in attracting more visitors to the site. This is a typical Software-as-a-Service, Pay-As-You-Go model.
Upping Conversion Rates
In a little over a year, Unbxd has built an impressive client list that ranges from online shopping portals to travel websites. “The search on the website has become more refined and facilities like auto-suggestion and spell-check have made navigation simpler. Conversion rates have gone up three times because the tool is an intuitive interface for users,” says Elita Rocha, Product Manager, TravelGuru.com.
Support For Clients
The start-up also provides constant support and customisation for the intuitive dashboard. “Search is a critical element for an e-commerce site. We wanted a dedicated team for the search engine when we came across Unbxd. We have been using their service for around two years and they are constantly improvising the search engine based on customer feedback. We have experienced a three-to-five times increase in the search volume,” reveals Ravi Kumar, CTO, Indiaplaza.com.
Taking On Goliath
The biggest challenge to Unbxd comes from the plethora of open-source scripts that claim to provide the same services for a nominal fee or even free! Google Custom Search and Lucid Imagination are online Goliaths that Unbxd’s David is up against. But Kumar and Sondur have confidence in their in-house platform. “While our focus has been e-commerce, the solution appeals to anybody who has items to be discovered on their site. For instance, job search sites, travel portals, classifieds, etc. fit into this category,” explains Kumar. With more than 350 sign-ups for their product, globally, the Unbxd story is set to unravel.
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