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Mercado Software Introduces Intelligent Catalog Builder

Mercado Software Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif., www.mercadosw.com) believes it has the solution to inaccurate and limited catalog searching, a program called Mercado Catalog Builder, designed for use with Microsoft Windows NT Server and Site Server Commerce Edition. The intelligence in Catalog Builder comes from IntuiFind, a technology built by Mercado to define and exploit relationships among catalog data to simulate how humans associate sometimes-disparate information.

Menachem Cohen, CEO of Mercado Software, says this catalog is not only better than, but would be of very good use to, the most successful e-commerce sites online today, such as Amazon.com or Reel.com. The difference, says Menachem, is the IntuiFind technology.

IntuiFind creates three capabilities in Web searching. The first is a parametric search that lets customers search the catalog by product features. Customers can choose based on specifications such as size, price and availability. There's also a categorical search that lets users sift through categories to nail down a more specific search.

The most useful, however, is the associated search that lets customers use any free-form queries they like. Not only will the search understand misspelled words, but it will return items associated with the query. The example Mercado uses is a search for "red wamen's coats." Although "women's" is misspelled, the search will bring back all red women's coats, along with associated items such as raspberry windbreakers, maroon blazers, and vermilion overcoats.

When ENT searched Reel.com for Star Wars, only items with the exact words came back. Using Catalog Builder, says Mercado, the search would bring back The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, and then possibly continue on to movies directed by George Lucas or staring Harrison Ford. Those items would be ranked in order of the most typical association.

The IntuiFind technology in Catalog Builder is also able to search phonetically, so if a user enters a word such as "industree," although the word is mispelled, Catalog Builder knows "ee" sounds like "y" so it will search for "industry." Menachem says the technology also allows users to input different languages.

"You can have the best products, security, shipping, and basically give your products away, but if people can't find them they won't buy them," says Menachem. "We want to make the Web shopping experience the same as shopping in the regular stores." The current version of Catalog Builder can catalog up to one million items. Menachem says the next version, expected out next year, will be able to catalog five million.

Mike Scott, high-technology chairman for Locator Online (Alexandria, Va., www.locatoronline.com), a directory of available used metalworking equipment and machinery dealers, says his company uses Catalog Builder for their 30,000 cataloged items. "It integrates completely with our backend," says Scott. "We looked into things like Yahoo and Excite and the code is too bulky."

"I haven't heard anyone claim to have this kind of technology," says Chuck Shih, an analyst for the Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.). "As far as catalog vendors are concerned, this is very different." Although Locator Online's Scott says Catalog Builder integrated with his backend database, Shih says administrators have to rebuild the catalog. -- Brian Ploskina, Assistant Editor

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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