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Solution Spotlight: Searchandise Commerce Streamlines Merchandising Tactics

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Concept:
Searchandise Commerce, which was founded in July 2008, is aimed at taking merchandising tactics in the brick and mortar world and translating them to the Web. In physical stores, retailers vie for coveted spots, such as end caps or kiosks, to increase awareness and actively engage consumers as they conduct product research or commence the purchase process.   As product research increasingly begins on the Web, the analogy for premium positions are the top spots on search engine results pages or featured product zones on retail sites. With more online shoppers beginning product research on retail sites rather than on search engines, retailers can offer manufacturers an opportunity to boost their on-site visibility by applying the strategies of in-store merchandising, and combining it with the tactics of paid search. Searchandise Commerce is designed to enable manufacturers to apply cost-per-click bids to advance a product position within a search list, or any section where products are presented. Unlike traditional paid search solutions, all traffic stays on the retailers’ Web site.

The company addresses manufacturer and retail needs, in turn, offering the consumer a seamless shopping experience. When consumers conduct product searches on a retailer’s Web site, Searchandise is integrated transparently within the search algorithm. Searchandise Commerce solutions target retail eCommerce managers and manufacturer channel and brand managers.

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Team:
The team at Beverly, Massachusetts-based Searchandise brings a combination of extensive Web experience, enterprise and consumer development, mobile and agile development practices, as well as advanced quality assurance (QA) techniques.

The executive team has extensive experience in the retail, media and search industries. Searchandise Commerce’s CEO is John Federman, CFO/COO is Laurence Stock and CTO is John Puopolo. The management team represents a variety of established and startup companies including Google, eBay, Microsoft/FAST Search and Transfer, Art Technology Group (ATG) and Ziff Davis. The Board of Directors is comprised of media industry executives and venture-capitalists with portfolio companies in the digital media space.

Market Relevance:
The Web influenced $937 billion in U.S. store sales in 2009, a figure projected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2013, or about one-third of total retail sales, according to Forrester Research. There’s greater opportunity for manufacturers to brand themselves and their products like they do in-store through the practices of working with retailers vying for innovative display and prime product placement. Retailers obtain incremental revenue when manufacturers pay for placement.  In the online dynamic, the same thing happens, but it is virtual shelves that are monetized and placement is dictated by a complex algorithm, which combines elements such as popularity, margin, inventory — and for the first time, advertiser bid.

In addition to providing convenience to shoppers, a strong online presence can increase online sales and yield significant impact over offline behavior and ultimate conversion. 88% of consumers surveyed said they had shopped on a retailer’s Web site and 75% said visiting the store’s Web site helps them shop in-store, according to a study from NRF.  Credit Suisse Securities predicted that eCommerce sales will rise nearly 10% in 2010 to $144 billion.

Delivery:
Searchandise Commerce’s suite of services is designed to empower retailers and manufacturers to manage their own virtual shelf space. CommerceNet is the company’s growing network of retail and comparison shopping sites. HitList is the company’s primary solution that monetizes virtual shelf space.  For retailers, HitList is designed to enable the potential to monetize each and every click at the point of research and purchase. Retailers, via a completely automated process, accept advertiser bids and factor them into their search and browse algorithms as a value-added weighting factor — making every click a potential for profit. For manufacturers, HitList offers the ability to boost visibility and gain increasing clickshare, or the amount of clicks in a given category, while consumers have their wallets open and are making critical buying decisions. The company recently announced the availability of HitList Mobile, which applies the online concepts to the mobile Web.

Searchandise Commerce works directly with manufacturers identifying which products to promote, campaign timing, setting bids and optimizing performance across the network. The bid feed is ingested into SCOPE – Searchandise Commerce Operating Engine – and is matched with retailer inventory across the network. When a bid is attached to a product represented in the network, it is integrated into the retailer’s sort algorithm and impacts product placement accordingly. Due to the nature of the technology, there is minimal effort or IT involvement for either the retailer or manufacturer.

Proof Points:
Leading manufacturers and retailers including TomTom, Buy.com, Ritz Interactive, PriceGrabber.com and several large mass merchants and consumer electronic providers are using Searchandise Commerce’s solutions. The company has been recognized by industry leaders including winning the AlwaysOn East 100 Award in 2008 and 2009 and named a finalist in the 2009 MITX Technology Awards, and most recently, as a Startup to Watch in Mass High Tech. Searchandise Commerce is also an Endeca partner.


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