August 7, 2017

Self-learning synonyms

Couch or sofa, sneakers or sports shoes, sweater or hoodie. Synonyms are a major challenge for e-commerce search technology. Manually maintaining lists of synonyms is a lot of (boring) work, and the list is never complete. It is therefore good to know that our systems learn synonyms directly from your visitors.

A necessary evil, that is a positive way to describe "synonyms". Because, although lists of synonyms are extremely important, it requires a lot of effort to make and maintain them. People find new ways to refer to products all the time. Besides that, synonyms are shop dependent, that means that when people search for a "sofa", this should match to "couch" in shop A, but to a "divan" in shop B. Synonyms are unmistakably important though. Every time a synonym is not present, it will lead to a "no results" page for that query and those searchers are quick to leave the webshop, taking their money with them....

To ease some of the work for webshop owners, our latest version of the self-learning search engine now also contains self-learning synonyms. What does that mean? It means that the system automatically learns to assign synonyms based on the search behavior of your visitors. You actually solve three problems in one go: (1) we learn the specific synonyms that your visitors use; (2) we learn to match these to your specific product descriptions; and (3) we do this fully automatically! Sounds too good to be true?

No it doesn't. Check the following examples of automatically extracted synonyms. They're in Dutch, but we can do the same for any language, since the methods are language independent. People searching for a pennyboard get to see skateboard results. Searching for tabouret shows kruk. Do you prefer a knuffelbeer, then you're probably also ok with a teddybeer. Or a kinderbed instead of a autobed. We could list more Dutch examples here, but if you're interested in those you should check the Dutch version of this blog post.

Do you also want to get rid of some boring work, and have our system automatically assign synonyms based on visitors' behavior? Get in touch with us and we'll tell you all about this feature of our self-learning search engine.