Argos is a British catalogue retailer operating in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and a subsidiary of Sainsbury’s. The company trades both through physical stores and online, with over eight hundred stores and eight hundred million website visits a year. It is one of the UK’s largest online retailers. Argos approached Datalynx in 2008, seeking help with the creation of a multimedia database of their printed and website catalogues. The goal? To create a database they could use for all media channels, including the printed catalogue and website. This would improve the management of the information, and significantly improve website users’ experience.
Each product in the Argos catalogue has significant attributes that a consumer looks for; for a kettle, these attributes might be weight, minimum fill volume, wattage, colour, material, type and shape, for example. Originally, this information was stored in free text, and each supplier to Argos could record this in their own way. Argos wanted these significant attributes to be identified for each product category, a categorisation scheme created, and the entire catalogue converted into a structured database.
LynxETL, Datalynx’s own product, is ideal for large-scale data migration projects. We used it to create an entity extraction and standardisation solution that processed the free text and identified the common attributes for each product. After validation of these product attributes by an Argos specialist, we then processed the data into a structured form for publication to the multi-media database. To ensure the quality of the machine-generated categories and subsequent converted data, a business review was required at each stage. We produced and hosted a framework to allow Argos staff to process the catalogue, review and publish it to the database. This hosted service provided enhanced security and faster access, all with no additional Argos infrastructure.
The catalogue was successfully categorised, converted and loaded to the multi media database. Our work significantly improved the Argos website search capability. It made searches for products quicker and easier, thereby improving customer experience and helping Argos on its journey as one of the UK’s most successful retailers.