Some time ago, one of the world’s biggest shopping chains started to suffer in profits. Walmart was struggling to keep up with the digital revolution, and they needed to come up with something new. And that is exactly what they did! They brought in Abhishek Gattani, who go to work on entering Walmart into the digital revolution. He achieved that, and the associated 10% to 15% increase in the number of people who completed a purchase online, by inventing a new type of search engine, specifically for Walmart.
The new technology used what is known as “semantic search technology”. This uses algorithms that are similar to those used by Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, but that go beyond that as well. Essentially, the technology helps an online shopper to find the things they want when they search for them, while at the same time also showing them things that they may also like. Walmart implemented Gattani’s invention back in 2012 and, today, it is used by online stores all over the world, including online shopping networks such as Amazon and eBay.
Back in 2012, however, Walmart didn’t know how to get a search engine that was fit for purpose. eBay had announced that they were getting rid of their Voyager technology, opting for Cassini instead. This was a huge development, since Voyager had served eBay very well for more than a decade. Walmart was getting increasingly worried, but that was when they came across Gattani.
Gattani brought a team of experts together and, within just 10 months, was able to create a completely new search engine that blew everything else out of the water. Together with other members of the Walmart Labs division, responsible for technology and research, he elaborated the Social Genome project that Walmart had already started. Essentially, this takes publicly available online data, social media information, and its own proprietary data. Put together, this helps to identify relationships between different entities, all of which was added to the Social Genome.
Walmart Labs was set up after the giant retailer acquired Mountain View, CA’s Kosmix, who had come up with a new social media technology that organizes and filters content within huge social media networks so that it is relevant to its users. Gattani put things such as synonym mining and query understanding together in an effort to understand the intent of a user. If a customer searches for something generic, they are shown different categories and products that they may be interested in, while at the same time also linking them to any relevant items on sale.
Walmart instantly rolled out Polaris and, within just a few months, they saw a 10% to 15% increase in the number of people that complete a purchase after they had searched for it through Polaris. Gattani wasn’t finished yet, however, and instantly got to work on optimizing his development for mobile devices and for the international e-commerce sites. Some say Gattani saved Walmart, and he probably did.