Decision Engine goes beyond search to help customers deal with information overload
Microsoft Corp. today unveiled Bing, a new Decision Engine and consumer brand, providing customers with a first step in moving beyond search to help make faster, more informed decisions. Bing is specifically designed to build on the benefits of today’s search engines but begins to move beyond this experience with a new approach to user experience and intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions, focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition or finding a local business.
The result of this new approach is an important beginning for a new and more powerful kind of search service, which Microsoft is calling a Decision Engine, designed to empower people to gain insight and knowledge from the Web, moving more quickly to important decisions. The new service, located at http://www.Bing.com, will begin to roll out over the coming days and will be fully deployed worldwide on Wednesday, June 3.
The explosive growth of online content has continued unabated, and Bing was developed as a tool to help people more easily navigate through the information overload that has come to characterize many of today’s search experiences. Results from a custom comScore Inc. study across core search engines show that as many as 30 percent of searches are abandoned without a satisfactory result. The data also showed that approximately two-thirds of the remaining searches required a refinement or requery on the search results page.
“Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don’t do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO. “When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web. Bing is an important first step forward in our long-term effort to deliver innovations in search that enable people to find information quickly and use the information they’ve found to accomplish tasks and make smart decisions.”
Stefan Weitz, a director on the Microsoft Search team, discusses how Bing was developed around users’ needs, focusing on four key areas: speed, relevance, previews and multi-media.
A New Approach to Internet Search
Based on the customer insight that 66 percent of people are using Internet search more frequently to make complex decisions,* Microsoft identified three design goals to guide the development of Bing: deliver great results; deliver a more organized experience; and simplify tasks and provide insight, leading to faster, more confident decisions. The new service, built to go beyond today’s search experience, includes deep innovation on core search areas including entity extraction and expansion, query intent recognition and document summarization technology as well as a new user experience model that dynamically adapts to the type of query to provide relevant and intuitive decision-making tools.
Great search results.
Relevant search results are still a top priority for people, yet Microsoft studies show that only one in four search queries deliver a satisfactory result. Bing helps identify relevant search results through features such as Best Match, where the best answer is surfaced and called out; Deep Links, allowing more insight into what resources a particular site has to offer; and Quick Preview, a hover-over window that expands over a search result caption to provide a better sense of the related site’s relevancy. Bing also includes one-click access to information through Instant Answers, designed to provide the sought-after information within the body of the search results page, minimizing the need for additional clicks.
Organized search experience.
More and more customers are regularly spending time with search engines, engaging in complex, multi-query and multi-session searches. Respondents also said an organized search experience would be twice as useful in helping find information and accomplishing tasks faster. Bing includes a number of features that organize search results, including Explore Pane, a dynamically relevant set of navigation and search tools on the left side of the page; Web Groups, which groups results in intuitive ways both on the Explore Pane and in the actual results; and Related Searches and Quick Tabs, which is essentially a table of contents for different categories of search results. Collectively, these and other features in Bing help people navigate their search results, cut through the clutter of search overload and get right down to making important decisions.
Simplify tasks and provide insight.
Microsoft’s research identified shopping, travel, local business and information, and health-related research as areas in which people wanted more assistance in making key decisions. The current state of Internet search isn’t optimized for these tasks, but the Bing Decision Engine is optimized for these key customer scenarios. For example, while a consumer is using Bing to shop online, the Sentiment Extraction feature scours the Internet for user opinions and expert reviews to help leverage the community of customers as well as product experts in trying to make a buying decision. In Bing Travel, the Rate Key compares the location, price and amenities of multiple hotels and provides a color-coded key of the best values, and the Price Predictor actually helps consumers decide when to buy an airline ticket in order to get the lowest prices.
The new brand portfolio will include the following changes to existing Microsoft programs:
- Microsoft’s mapping platform, Virtual Earth, will now be branded as Bing Maps for Enterprise. More information can be found here.
- Technology from Microsoft’s April 2008 acquisition of Farecast is now a central part of Bing Travel. More information coming soon.
- Microsoft’s popular cashback program, now dubbed Bing cashback, with more than 850 merchants and more than 17 million products available, will be fully integrated into the Bing Shopping experience.
Microsoft is committed to building better tools to help people find the shortest distance from their initial search query to the point of making an informed decision. Bing is an important first step toward this long-term vision and a strong indicator of Microsoft’s commitment to move search technology forward for customers.
* Ipsos 2009; 1,156 participants