Yahoo Adds Sorting to Product Search

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Yahoo Inc. rolled out a new search feature yesterday for its shopping section that lets customers sort products by features, as it gears up to take on e-commerce giants eBay and Amazon.com.


The new tool, SmartSort, gives Yahoo Shopping users the option of narrowing a broad category of products by setting a price range and then gauging the importance they put in certain product attributes.


For example, a search for an MP3 player asks users to rate the importance of song capacity, brand name and size. Shoppers gauge brand attributes by using a sliding scale from "not important" to "most important." The recommended products automatically refresh as the criteria change.


"We've taken advantage of this product database we have and streamlined the search for users," said P.K. Van Deloo, a senior brand manager at Yahoo Shopping.


The feature comes less than a month after Yahoo, Sunnyvale, CA, relaunched its shopping site to focus on product comparison. Product search makes Yahoo a direct competitor to comparison-shopping sites such as Shopping.com, BizRate and PriceGrabber while also putting Yahoo on a collision course with e-commerce powers eBay and Amazon. Google is dabbling in product search with its Froogle product search site.


Yahoo Shopping offers results based on relevancy from a database of advertisers that pay to have their product listings included and unpaid listings from Web crawls. Yahoo earns a commission each time a user clicks on an advertiser's listing.


SmartSort is available for nine product categories: MP3 players, digital cameras, personal digital assistants, desktop and notebook computers, cell phones, televisions, DVD players and digital video recorders.


"It turns the shopper into their own best sales rep," said Matthew Berk, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "This just allows you to make tradeoffs [in product attributes] yourself."


Yahoo developed SmartSort out of its algorithmic search technology. The company invested heavily in search in the past year, adding search technologies through its acquisitions of Inktomi in December and Overture Services in July.


Van Deloo said Yahoo's advantage is the combination of its search technology and a product database exceeding 50 million items. He said the size of Yahoo Shopping put it far ahead of smaller comparison sites, while its deep search focus gave it the edge over eBay and Amazon. Recently, Amazon started a subsidiary called A9 to improve its e-commerce search capacity.


Yahoo plans to move SmartSort into several other product categories in the next few months.


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