EasyAsk the answer for HP

Realizing there’s more than one way to ask for a printer, a laptop, or other electronic gadgets, Palo Alto, CA-based computer manufacturer/marketer Hewlett-Packard Co. implemented new Website search technology last summer. “We really wanted to increase our merchandising ability and the ability to feature products within search results,” says director of customer experience Patricia Graca.

In August the company invested in EasyAsk Enterprise 9 search and information retrieval technology from Marlborough, MA-based EasyAsk. A key feature of the program, says Graca, is its ability to power searches initiated by conversational phrases, such as “laptops for under $1,000,” as well as its capacity for enabling searches in which the shopper uses a common synonym for a product rather than the category name the site has tagged the product with, say, “laptop” instead of “notebook.”

Before, Graca says, a shopper who typed “Laser Jet 1300” in the search box would be given a list of 126 printers. EasyAsk refines the search according to product attributes, such as printer memory, to drill down more efficiently. Now when a user types that same search term, just 45 items that all fit within the Laser Jet 1300 product category come up.

Moreover, the technology enhances each search by providing content related to the item being searched for. For instance, says Graca, a user who types in “printers” or “cameras” in the search box will not only get a list of items matching that category name; he’ll also get a list of ancillary details, such as tech support phone numbers and information, the accessories that match the various products shown on the page, and links to “upsell” items that are more deluxe that the products culled by the search.

EasyAsk extracts the information it needs from the company’s database of products, in which all products HP sells are listed along with price points and item attributes. “A big plus of the solution is its ability to map to our database,” says Graca. The software is programmed to give the customer whatever level of search ability HP wants its shoppers to have access to.

EasyAsk contributed to a 50% improvement in HP’s search conversion since its launch, Graca says. HP will not disclose how much it paid for the software, but Lisle Holgate, senior director of marketing for EasyAsk, says a company that invests in the technology has three pricing choices. The application service provider (ASP) model costs $2,500-$5,500 a month, depending on how many SKUs are featured on the site and how much revenue the site generates each month; the “perpetual license” approach requires a one-time payment of anywhere from $80,000 to more than $350,000, depending on the number of SKUs and how the company intends to use the software (for instance, in the call center in addition to online only); and the “nonperpetual license,” in which a company pays for the software over an extended period of time, typically three years at a cost of $50,000-$75,000 a year.

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