Predictive search produces double digit growth

Walmart is touting another e-commerce win by the smart people working at its Silicon Valley research and technology hub known as @WalmartLabs.

The latest development is a new search engine (code name Polaris) built from the ground up that anticipates a shoppers search efforts to produce the most relevant offers. The search engine took 10 months to complete and uses something called "semantic search technology," to anticipate the intent of a shopper’s search. The result is an approximate 10% to 15% increase in shoppers completing a purchase after searching for a product using the new search engine.

Over the past few months, Walmart.com has migrated its site over to Polaris and it is now fully powered by the search engine, according to the company. Polaris is also used for mobile search and will expand to power the company's international e-commerce sites over the coming months.

"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."

According to Sri Subramaniam, vp of @WalmartLabs and head of the Polaris initiative, the new search engine gives users the ability to connect with the items they want but also to surface items based on interests and likely intent.

"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," Subramaniam said.

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.  The new search engine uses advanced algorithms including query understanding and synonym mining to glean user intent in delivering results. Polaris focuses on engagement understanding, which takes into account how a user is behaving with the site to surface the best results for them. It delivers a new and intuitive results page when browsing for topics instead of giving a standard list of search results allowing shoppers to discover new items they may not have considered.

The folks at @Walmart labs have been busy during the past 12 months churning out a wide range of digital initiatives that are helping Walmart narrow the gap with Amazon.com. In the past year, the group has created Shopycat, a social gift finder; Classrooms by Walmart, a program to make back-to-school shopping easer; Get on the Shelf, a crowdsourcing contest to unearth new products for Walmart; and Social Media Analytics, tools that use social chatter to select items to be carried by Walmart.