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Is Walmart's Semantic Search an Amazon Killer?

Posted on 9.03.2012

Amazon may be far, far ahead in the race towards all-time e-commerce glory, but Walmart is leveraging some powerful technology to cut into its lead - namely on-site search.

Walmart's Labs project/division unveiled a new search engine for Walmart.com which uses semantic search technology, enabling the retailer to anticipate the intent of a shopper's search and deliver more relevant results. Going by the name Polaris, Walmart.com has already seen an (approximate) 10-15 percent increase in shoppers completing a purchase after searching using the new search facility.

“Search is a crown jewel for any e-commerce company to own,” said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce. “Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to owning technology that is fundamental in giving our millions of customers anytime, anywhere access to the products they want at the lowest prices.”

Polaris is based on the Social Genome project, a platform that "connects people to places, events and products giving Walmart a richer level of understanding about customers and products" according to the announcement at Walmart Labs. The new Polaris search engine at Walmart uses advanced algorithms including query understanding and synonym mining to determine user intent when delivering results.

“With Polaris, we are giving users the ability to connect with the items they want but also surface items based on their interests and likely intent,” said Sri Subramaniam, vice president for @WalmartLabs and head of the Polaris initiative. “This is the start of what we imagine search to be as we continue to deliver products to accelerate Walmart’s global e-commerce efforts.”

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