Jay Myers at Best Buy has been working with semantic technologies for a number of years.
Traditional retailers like Best Buy are looking for opportunities to survive and grow, as competition increases and margins grow ever-narrower. Semantic Web and Linked Data solutions are part enabling transformation, even inside traditional offline retailers.
Back in 2007, Jay was a developer inside Best Buy. At the time, microformats like hProduct offered an opportunity to describe consumer products in a reasonably structured fashion. But the structure of hProduct made it difficult to extend and modify basic descriptions, leading Myers toward the GoodRelations ontology. By enhancing the structure behind store descriptions, Best Buy saw a 30% increase in traffic to individual store websites.
Best Buy used GoodRelations and RDFa to enhance the description of products across their site.
More recently, the company spent a week working with schema.org to implement simple reviews of products on the site. Myers reports that pages marked up with schema.org "grew at a far faster rate" than non-marked up pages. Over seven weeks, they saw a "couple of hundred percent" increase in visits, as well as a "significant" increase in revenue.
Across Best Buy, other developers are "now actively engaged" in working with the data that appears on the site. They are "not just thinking about presentation [of web pages], but about publishing data."
Technologies like "RDFa, microdata, microformats open new doors" for the way in which businesses like Best Buy operate. The web site becomes an API, whilst continuing to enable an ability to control the way in which data are presented to customers. Customers are able to delve deeper into products, and discover related products. The same data can also be used - perhaps via different interfaces - to augment employee knowledge of the products they are selling.
Structured data can also be used to "deliver hyper-personalisation" for visitors to Best Buy, recommending barbecues to shoppers visiting bestbuy.com from IP addresses in parts of the country that are currently warm and sunny, etc.
As Best Buy, corporately, struggles... can the company grab the opportunity here and invest adequately to seize a real competitive advantage?
For more on GoodRelations, see my 2010 podcast with Martin Hepp and Jamie Taylor. For more on schema.org, see this 2011 episode of The Semantic Link podcast, with special guest Ramanathan Guha of Google.