Is there a better way to leverage AI to categorize product data?

Have you ever tried searching for a product on your favorite online shopping site, only to be disappointed when you couldn’t find the product that you’re looking for? Most product site search engines leverage accurate product categorization attributes to help narrow the search results for a user.

In this article we’re going to look at the impact that proper categorization has on search and how it’s now possible to automate product categorization with a machine learning model.

What is Categorization?

Categorization starts with a well designed product category taxonomy. The product taxonomy defines how each product type is related. The first couple levels of a product taxonomy contain broad category labels. For a grocery taxonomy, the top levels might be organized by departments within the store. It’s a logical representation of the way that a shopper would look for a given product in the physical store. A taxonomy is often referred to as a “Product tree”, with each product category referred to as a “branch” and each individual item referred to as a “leaf” on that branch.

Grocery taxonomy example:

  1. Meat & Seafood

    1. Fresh Meat

      1. Ribs

      2. Smoked Ham

      3. Specialty Meat

      4. Kosher Meat

    2. Fresh Seafood

    3. Packaged Meat

    4. Packaged Seafood

  2. Produce

  3. Deli

  4. Bakery

  5. Adult Beverages

  6. Beverages

  7. Floral

For a new product to be put into the online product catalog, it first needs to be categorized appropriately into the correct level of the product taxonomy. This is easy enough for a human to complete the product categorization, however, when you have thousands and thousands of products, this can be a tedious process.

Why is Categorization Important?

The science of search has evolved over the last two decades. Trying to determine the searchers intent from one or two words is not a simple process. We’re not going to dive into that in this article. However, in the specific use case of product search for an ecommerce website, most shoppers will generally include the object of their intent as part of the search input. In most cases this data can be used to quickly narrow the results set based on the product taxonomy. After all, the consumer isn’t looking for organic lettuce in the seafood section, nor would they be looking for seafood in the produce section. So one method to quickly close the search breadth is to narrow the search to specific sub-branch of the product taxonomy.

One downside to improper categorization is that improperly categorized products can become “lost”. When a product is mis-categorized on an improper branch of the taxonomy, the search engine may either (1) not find the product or (2) relegate the mis-categorized product to the bottom of the search results.

Don’t believe me? Try this: go to your favorite ecommerce provider, search for something, and then go to the last page of the search results. What do find there? Don’t let this happen to your product catalog.

In addition, the product category for a given catalog item can help define the product schema that should be employed to display the product information for the consumer on the product data page. The schema can also help define the meaning of generic product attributes, depending on the product type.

What is ATOM?

ATOM is the product categorization service from IceCream Labs. We developed ATOM as an API service which can be accessed automatically from your product information manager. ATOM takes a product title or description as an input and outputs the recommended product category for the item. ATOM is powered by a machine learning model that has been trained on millions of product records. It’s constantly learning as it processes new data.

With ATOM, you can properly categorize or validate a new product item before accepting it into your production product catalog.

To learn more about ATOM, or see a demo, contact our sales team:

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