Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), one of the most valuable names in worldwide retail, is seeking to increase its reach in the online retail sphere, with an enhanced search experience developed inside the company. The new software, called Polaris, after the North Star, was developed by @WalmartLabs, and signals a new effort by the company to improve the service it offers to online customers.
The engine replaces an older model developed by Endeca Technologies Inc., a company which was acquired by Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL) in November of last year. The new engine will return results that are more helpful to users and is hoped to increase sales by making it easier for consumers to find exactly what they are looking for.
Since the service has come into use in the United States, the company has seen an increase of ten to fifteen percent in search conversion, the amount of searches that go on to become actual purchases. The company hopes to use its new found online competence to compete with the giants of the industry, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY)
The software was developed by a team of 15 engineers working for @WalmartLabs, a section of the company formed in early 2011, after the acquisition of the Mountain View California based company, Kosmix. The team was led by the Vice President in charge of @Walmartlabs, Sri Subramaniam.
Subramaniam reported that this is the first online search engine that has ever been developed by a brick and mortar retailer, and is comparable in power to the engine used by Amazon. Speaking about the new engine, Reuters reports the Vice President had said “Retailers embracing e-commerce have to very quickly turn into tech companies, and search is the crown jewel of this.”
The new search engine is Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)’s first major foray into the domain of web design, but it is clear a lot more should be expected from the engineers at Walmart Labs. The company’s newest sector is not likely to sit on its laurels after a single victory.
This release also marks another interesting period in the development of online shopping. If Walmart’s online experience proves fruitful, online sales could provide a major portion of the company’s revenue. That would make it the world’s first truly hybrid megastore, operating in both the real and virtual worlds.
Online retail is not the only area in which the company is seeking to challenge Amazon and other major internet players. The firm also operates a video on demand service to subscribers on its Vudu platform. Wal Mart is clearly unwilling to be left behind by the revolution in retail and content, though their attempts seem, as of yet, to be simply following in Amazon’s footsteps.
That does not mean there isn’t change ahead. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is still the number one retail company in the world, while Amazon comes in at just number 28. The capital and ambition available to the firm is staggering, and projects like a new unique search engine demonstrate the direction the firm hopes to head in.