Bloggers enhance local shopping search results

Another application for blogs has been introduced on the local shopping search AskTheLocal!. The ‘prodblog’, provides the blogosphere’s opinion of each product listed on the search results page.

This adds a sense of certainty before tripping down to the local shop to buy a product. There are many shopping sites with some form of review link, but a blog is independent, and media rich e.g. bloggers can post photos or videos of how the product works in the real world. This means that bloggers from anywhere can comment on the products listed, and local shoppers in the UK will be able to compare the experiences in using those products before buying.

Due to the immediate indexing of a blog and because it is international, the comments will appear on other shopping sites that offer a prodblog link, and could be a good source of search engine traffic for bloggers in future.

You can try prodblogs by searching for a product on AskTheLocal! and then clicking the ‘See prodblogs’ link underneath the result.

To write about a particular product, use any of the main blogging engines e.g. Google’s Blogger and mention the product name in the title of the blog. This should appear on AskTheLocal! after a few minutes.


The AskTheLocal! voice of experience talks

She may be new to the AskTheLocal! team, but my niece Raina knows a good thing when she sees one.

UK local shopping search feed available for portals

Kiosks, wireless and web portals in the UK can now integrate a local shopping search into their offerings. Picture yourself in a shopping mall or on the High Street, and being able to find out where to buy the ‘nike shoes’ you are desperate for, using a computer kiosk or mobile phone. Instantly, pictures and prices of the item are displayed, letting you know which shops — closest to where you are standing — are selling what you are looking for, along with maps of how to get there. How convenient is that?!

Greg Sterling detailed on SearchEngineWatch the exciting possibilities this represents for portal owners, and the high conversion rates that can be expected.

The AskTheLocal! feed is available in XML on a shared-revenue basis. This means that whatever traffic driven by the portal resulting in pay-per-click revenue, will be shared between the portal and AskTheLocal!.

If, for example, the portal would like to list and search all shops in a particular shopping mall, the portal owner has two opportunities to generate an ongoing revenue stream. Firstly, the owner can convince the retailers to list their products on AskTheLocal!, which leads to an ongoing Referrer Royalty, and exposure throughout their local area for the retailer. Secondly, the actual access to this local information on a kiosk, or wi-fi home-page generates a further revenue share from the leads generated.

For the techies, here’s how you can try out the XML feed:

1. Carry out a search on AskTheLocal!
2. In the URL box, replace ‘’ with ‘’
e.g search for nike shoes as an XML feed

For more information please contact us.

Books on UK Retail

I was investigating books on UK retail. Here are some of the ones I found:

Smart Retail: How to Turn Your Store into a Sales Phenomenon by Richard Hammond
Start and Run Your Own Shop: How to Open a Successful Retail Business by Val Clark

An Introduction

Retailing: An Introduction by Paul Brittain and Roger Cox (Paperback – 11 Mar 2004)
Winning at Retail
by Willard Ander and Neil Stern

Principles of Retail Management

Principles of Retail Management by Rosemary Varley and Mohammed Rafiq (Paperback – 27 Nov 2003)

Retail Product Management

Retail Product Management by Rosemary Varley (Paperback – 1 April 2005)
Supermarket Wars by Andrew Seth, Geoffrey Randall

ECMOD show reactions

The ECMOD conference took place at Earls Court last week, and I attended. The show is Europe’s largest forum for the home shopping and multi-channel retail industry.

So what was I doing attending the event? We work at the other end of the spectrum – encouraging customers into retail stores rather than shopping online, or by mail order. Half of our user’s time is spent at home however, browsing the internet, and the other half is spent travelling down to the store to pick up an item.

I was there talking with web developers (someone cringed when I used the term ‘web developers’ but in my opinion they should just accept what they are in most people’s minds), and search engine optimization firms, who have relationships with retailers. The systems these people develop for online shopping are the systems which we link to.

The response was very encouraging to the concept of local shopping search in the UK.

Local shopping search saves our small shops?

Small retailers are under threat from the major chains in Britain, but local shopping search could level the playing field, and allow specialist services to continue to thrive.

From the Save Our Shops campaign, Hayling Island newsagent Nigel Swan, who represents the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, said ”It is also the worst-off in the community who are hardest hit when local shops close; elderly people and single mothers who cannot afford to travel and buy a whole week’s shopping.”

The problem is that it becomes much easier to say “let’s go to the major chain” because it is the safest choice if you’re not sure whether a shop will have an item or not. A local shopping search allows a very specialist item to be found in a local shop, and gives confidence that a trip to the retailer will be worthwhile before actually leaving.

Therefore, while our local shopping search does have major chains, we’re very much in favour of providing a life-stream for specialist retailers, and we therefore support the campaign.

More information can be found from the Lancaster University Managment School.

The Evening Standard have also been running a campaign along these lines.

Search engine barriers to entry

One of the myths that I can dispell about developing search engines is that there is a massive barrier to entry when it comes to hardware.

Google have 100,000s of servers running their search engine, so that’s what it takes to compete and enter the market – or so the argument goes. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

This forgets that Google only need this number of servers to run their search because they have a vast number of people searching on the site. The actual volume of traffic starts small in any start-up, and builds up on a growth curve – usually allowing the start-up to ramp up the number of PCs required as the traffic grows. Each individual index is actually fairly small, and sits across a few hard-drives only.

This is another popular myth – the volume of data is so high that hundreds of PCs are required to begin a new engine. I challenge people to do the calculation; how many bytes does it take to store each web-page? How many web-pages are required for a useful service? You may be surprised.

What I can personally confirm is that the hardest part about bringing a search engine to market is not the hardware, but the software. 90% of the software can be finished in a short space of time, but the other 10% can take years to complete to a satisfactory level. This is the real barrier to entry.

The story behind our local shopping search engine goes back several years. You can keep in touch with the story on this blog.