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June 13, 2011 – Searching for an Internet solution

June 15, 2011
Filed under Features

A Google shopping search for “motorcycle helmet” pulls up a list of lids from a variety of brands and retailers. Somewhere on that list pops up a popular brand’s motorcycle helmet, extra small in matte black. The search says it’s available at six stores.

After clicking on the helmet’s title, a consumer finds another page with an option to click on “details.” Which details are available? Only the brand and part number.

Another search of a Nikon D90 digital camera shows the body of the camera available at 85 retailers, and the “technical specifications” list 16 pages of information on the product.

There’s a noticeable disparity between the information given about the camera compared to the details provided on the helmet. A consumer looking for details on a Nikon D90 would be armed with a plethora of specifications about the camera before shopping any retailer. The helmet shopper, on the other hand, would be left with merely a brand name and part number. It’s a problem in the industry Edgenet wants to fix.

Edgenet is a 20-year-old company that is new to the powersports industry. It started in hardlines, working with companies such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s, and has since branched out into several industries.

“It really positioned us as a place that we don’t look at it as [only] hardlines,” said David Williams, vice president of marketing for Edgenet. “We only look at it as retail and how suppliers and retailers can reach out to customers.”

Its online search program, Ezeedata, is now being offered to powersports aftermarket manufacturers, distributors and OEMs, while other programs are available for dealers.

“The basis of our company is basically connecting manufacturers and retailers,” Williams said.

Ezeedata helps solve the search engine issue of not having enough information available for products. The goal of the program is to make the product more appealing to consumers, so they’ll buy. Reports say 90 percent of customers shopping for a product will search for information online before making a purchase, but most don’t stay on the Internet to buy.

“We’re seeing 52 percent of people are doing that research and then going to their nearest store. That’s why this technology is so important for our dealers and this industry,” said Craig Cervenka, an industry veteran who joined Edgenet in January as senior manager of business development.

Ezeedata helps manufacturers and distributors boost their product descriptions on search engines. To do so, Edgenet has partnered with Google and Bing, which collectively hold 90 percent of search engine marketshare, Williams said.

On any product in its search engine, Google requests only six pieces of information: identification, title, link, price, description and condition. On average, products include 37 pieces of information, while those in the Ezeedata system average 107 attributes.
The manufacturer or distributor is required to enter the data through a Web interface or data feed spreadsheet, however systems have been put in place to ease the data entry component. Ezeedata can scan an image of a product and automatically enter some of the information.

“We can reduce your workload by up to 40 percent,” Williams said.

After the data is entered, it undergoes numerous checks and is scored based on being complete and accurate. Units, parts and accessories are judged in part from a powersports make, model and year table provided by the Automobile Aftermarket Industry Association. The more accurate information a company supplies, the better the score.

“The system actually points out if there’s a gap in your information. The system is completely automated in that way,” Williams explained.

After the score is given, the supplier will be able to improve the information and compare the quality to others.

“A supplier can see their average score and the average score of their competitors without naming them,” Williams said. “They can see almost immediately in a graph in the system where their information lands on a quality scale.”

A call center in Atlanta is also available for users needing personalized assistance.

Before Edgenet entered the powersports industry, it made sure it had the resources to enter the new segment. Edgenet has been in the automotive industry for two years, working with retailers such as AutoZone.

“A lot of people in this organization are powersports enthusiasts, and a lot of those people are the ones that have built that secret sauce for this industry,” Cervenka said.

Edgenet studied the industry’s specializations and products and figured out how everything would fit into the company’s system.

“Before we ever start into a new vertical, we look at understanding what the vertical means at the very core of what product and retailers and suppliers are in the industry,” Williams said.

Though the company has yet to announce any partnerships with major powersports companies, it is in talks with OEMs and aftermarket manufacturers and distributors.

“We’re actually having some extremely high-level discussions with some very prominent companies in our industry,” Cervenka said.

Besides its Ezeedata system, Edgenet also provides other data resources for dealers, manufacturers and distributors. Dealers can work with the company to learn which suppliers have the best information in search engines, so they can consider carrying those products. Edgenet can also provide custom feeds for clients, which include private pricing information.

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