While this is not in the announcement, it seems Bing has enabled product clustering on all product types, including hard and soft goods. This is really exciting news! I have recently discussed the opportunities such approach could have for shopping engines, and I’m quite happy that Bing follows this way (even if the quality of clustering could be improved). For now, this enables Bing to provide true price comparison and product reviews (low coverage for now) on soft categories.
Bing introduces category browsing pages available from the shopping homepage. I’m dubious about those pages: while it is a common pattern for CSEs to expose their taxonomy through such pages, I wonder what benefits Bing users could see in those, especially as the search and browse experience seem disconnected. I.E: in the Bing Shopping section, if going to the “sunglasses” category or searching for “sunglasses”, you land on different pages… Moreover, those pages are only available from the Bing Shopping homepage – are there really a lot of users landing on this page?
On the search result pages, some adjustments have been done on the product display, putting more emphasis on the price information.
Search result page at Bing (Apr’10):
Search result page at Bing (Jun’09):
Bing has introduced some interesting changes on user reviews. A bar chart is used to represent the distribution of ratings; it also acts as a navigation item, to filter reviews by ranking. This is similar to the feature Google Product Search launched late last year, but using a bar chart instead of a stacked bar may be more understandable for users…
A nice addition: when refining reviews by features (i.e: “Image Quality”), Bing now displays an extra information (“21 positive reviews | 4 negative reviews”) that also participates to the navigation.
Overall, those changes greatly improve the navigation among user reviews! The only drawback of the Bing proposal compared to Google Product Search is the coverage: it seems Google is able to surface more reviews per product, even for popular ones.
Here is how Bing defines its new xRank score (in beta form for now):
Product xRank keeps track of notable products and puts them in order for you. We count things like web searches, product page views, and purchases made in digital cameras, laptops and game consoles.Then, we compile our findings into an insightful ranking formula that shows you the most popular products. Use Product xRank to keep track of what’s hot and what’s not! Note: We don’t track every product in the world yet, but we’re working on it.
For now, xRank is not deeply integrated into Bing Shopping, but is available on dedicated category pages… Those pages (only three categories are covered for now – digital cameras, laptops and game consoles) display:
This Product xRank seems a similar initiative to the BizRank recently introduced by BizRate. But Bing has the benefits to rely on web data, not only internal data as BizRate. In both cases, while those scores could bring value, I feel shoppers need more explanation to understand what they really mean… Giving insights like the key numbers used in the algorithm (number of reviews, average score, product page views…) could improve confidence in those scores.