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Semantic Tech Checks In As The Holiday Shopping Begins

By   /  November 26, 2012  /  No Comments


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With Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday behind us, and Cyber-Monday right in front of us, it is clear the holiday season is in full force. Apparently, retailers – both online and real-world – are doing pretty well as a group when it comes to sales racked up.

Reports have it that e-commerce topped the $1 billion mark for Black Friday in the U.S. for the first time this year, with Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple taking honors as the most visited online stores, according to ComScore. Consumers spent $11.2 billion at stores across the U.S. on Black Friday, said ShopperTrak, down from last year but probably impacted by more people heading out to more stores for deals that began on Thursday night. The National Retail Federation put total spending over the four-day weekend at a record $59.1 billion, up 13 percent from $52.4 billion last year.

Not surprisingly, semantic technology wants in on the shopping action. Social intelligence vendor NetBase, for instance, just launched a new online tool that analyzes the web for mentions of the 10 top retailers to show the mood of shoppers flocking to those sources. The Mood Meter, which media outlets and others can embed in their sites, ranks the 10 brands based on sentiment unearthed with the help of its natural language processing technology. 

It produces word clouds with the 10 most positive and negative attributes about the brands being discussed. That group includes Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Amazon, Old Navy, The Home Depot, Sears, Toys R Us, and Kohl’s.

According to NetBase, the Holiday Shopping Mood Meter provides hourly updates related to the positive and negative sentiment it discovers being expressed about the brands. Amazon, Target, and Kohl’s, for example, recently were trending strong, while WalMart lagged far behind most other brands on the list, Sears being just a few notches above it.

NetBase chief marketing officer Lisa Joy Rosner, providing some behind-the-scenes coverage of why some retailers did better than others, based on NetBase’s analysis of social media conversations, indicated users liked Kohl’s Facebook page and prices, but disliked WalMart and Sears for reasons including opening their doors on the holiday itself.

Even if WalMart’s getting some bad word-of-mouth for that choice, the retailer looks to be getting some good ROI from another choice it made. That was building its own search engine, Polaris, which grew out of the semantic technology it gained with its  acquisition last year of Kosmix. Earlier this month, the retail giant’s CEO reportedly credited the search engine with driving a 10 to 15 percent increase in the number of customers who make a purchase on walmart.com after searching for a product.

Meanwhile, Cyber-Monday – today – presents the next opportunity for other companies that have taken some forward-looking steps into semantic technology to assess its impact on their sites. Best Buy, for example, under the direction of Jay Myers, has used GoodRelations and RDFa to enhance the description of products across its site and worked with schema.org to implement simple product reviews – and Myers has other ideas on how semantic tech can go even further to better serve Best Buy’s own insights and its customer needs, too (see this story for more details about its semantic efforts and their success to date around SEO, for instance).

Indeed, the company’s new CEO, Hubert Joly recently stated that Best Buy needs to make online sales a priority, as the retailer struggles against online competition from Amazon and big-box competition from WalMart and Target. Best Buy announced last week that third-quarter earnings from continuing operations were down 97 percent from a year earlier. In a recent interview, Joly said that his goal was to boost Best Buy’s share of U.S. online sales to 18 percent, from 7 percent – and that in fact online sales in the quarter had climbed more than 10 percent to $431 million, even as total revenue fell 3.5 percent to $10.75 billion.  He’s also discussed the need to improve the customer experience both in-store and online in order to increase revenue.

Cashing in on Cyber-Monday would be a big bonus: The NRF estimates that 52 percent of all shoppers — or 130 million — will spend more than $1.2 billion on this day alone.

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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