Monday, August 27, 2007

Idea: Store finder autodiscovery: the commercial application of OpenSearch

When I visit the website of a chain store, I often want to locate my nearest branch. I find it very frustrating that these links are regularly hard to find (try a few sites yourself and you will see that ease of use varies a great deal).

When a company invests in having a local presence, it makes sense that these should be easy to find from the company website. I think that the people behind these chain store retail web sites need to get together to adopt a common approach to make life better for customers (and ultimately better for themselves).

I do not think it would even be necessary to invent any new standards; all that is needed is an agreed common approach. First off, this facility is a search engine so OpenSearch could be used.

Secondly, to avoid having to redesign all commercial websites this facility should be accessible via autodiscovery. This should probably be in the form of an auto discovery link (OpenSearch is designed to work like this).

Finally, the results will include geographical references so OpenSearch Geo extension could be used.

So far I have concentrated on store location, an area which I think could bring the biggest immediate benefit to companies and be easiest to implement. If OpenSearch could be used for product search also then this would facilitate true unaffiliated and consumer led price comparison websites.

As a web developer sitting safely in the head offices of your chain store right now you might be thinking:

Why should I bother with this? This semantic web stuff is all very nice in theory but it has no real world applications.

Imagine what would happen if your competition implemented this and you did not? Somebody running a DIY help site could then do a DIY branch finder/Google Maps mashup that included the opposition but not your stores! Browser plugins could automatically detect the store finder facility on an enabled website.


ismjml said...

hi there,

these days, I use Google Maps "Find business" function to find the local business. This lets me decide which of the local branches I need to goto if there are more than 1.

But beware, even though you precisely give where you're located, the distance of these stores in the search results are NOT accurate initially.


Note: Comment imported. Original by Anjan Bacchu website: at 2007-08-27 14:55

ismjml said...

Thanks Anjan,

I suppose I am looking for something like the Microformats type of behaviour. When a page contains hCard information the Operator plugin detects it and says "hey, this page contains contacts". I want something that is in the code of the page that says "hey, this page contains a branch finder". Something like MDC's Autodiscovery of search plugins but for geographical branch finder searches. Of course if a site makes this facility available for browsers to use, it is also available for mashups to use.

Note: Comment imported. Original by markmc website: at 2007-08-31 16:51