Sony.com Search Rapid, Reliable, Large-Scale Search

Objective

To help visitors of Sony.com efficiently search for relevant information and products across all of the Sony Corporation’s web properties from one intuitive location.

Discovery

Interviews with key stakeholders initiated an extensive discovery process, ensuring that Sony and Metal Toad had a shared vision of the project outcome.

Solution

Metal Toad proposed a custom search solution that was scalable, reliable, and free from licensing costs or vendor lock-in.

Impact

A 40% increase in relevant hit rates, drastically reduced search page load times, and overall improved visitor satisfaction were reported within the first week of launch.
“Memory utilization in particular is very nice. No appreciable load (time), and the results are wicked fast.”
— Michael Ellis, Sony Systems Engineer

Sony is a company that inspires and fulfills our curiosity with groundbreaking technology, services, and content. This commitment has expanded Sony from an electronics business to a visionary music, movies, games, devices, and network services company.

The intensity of Sony's innovation and growth proved too great a challenge for the search feature of Sony.com, the company's portal to 16 websites and tens of thousands of pages. Search results were stale, poorly ranked, and simply not delivering the content that users demanded. Exasperating the challenge was the end-of-life of Sony's 3rd-party enterprise search solution.

Metal Toad strategists and architects (accompanied by our outstanding design partners at Sisu) undertook a competitive analysis of enterprise search solutions. While there were powerful products in the market, their closed-source and blackbox nature conflicted with Sony's objective of rich, meaningful, and finely tuned search results.

Ultimately, Metal Toad recommended the Custom Enterprise Search stack. This solution offered Sony full transparency into every line of code and every configuration file. The modularized code would enable years of sustained, iterative improvements. The Custom Enterprise Search stack starts with a finely configured implementation of Apache Nutch, a highly extensible and scalable search crawler. Nutch harvests websites into Cassandra, a distributed database system originally developed at Facebook. From Cassandra, relevant metadata is isolated and stored with multiple indices in Apache Solr. To enable a degree of manual curation on top of the organic results, Metal Toad engineered a gorgeous Django-driven administrative UX empowering Sony employees to promote keywords based on corporate marketing strategy while curating the organic search results for years to come. The final step was to create the customer facing Django interface that enables the site visitors to extend their searches across the entire breadth of Sony’s business divisions. 

Due to the increased relevancy of the search results to given keywords, members of Sony’s analytics team reported a 40% increase in successful hit rates within the first week of launch. The subsequent increase in qualified traffic to specific products within Sony’s online store contributed to overall improvements in visitor satisfaction. Visitor experience went from search page load times of 10-15 seconds down to a fraction of a second. One year after launch, the system has proven to be consistently stable with an untarnished uptime record and reduced maintenance overhead.

Design Partner:

Sisu, Inc.