118 218 Le Numéro is France’s leading telephone directory service provider. The company is a subsidiary of New York-based kgb, the largest provider of branded directory assistance services in Europe and the largest independent provider of outsourced directory assistance services in the United States. With a keen eye on the consumer market and an acute understanding of the Internet’s developing role in the directory assistance sector, 118 218 chose Exalead to power a dynamic online directory featuring simplified search, faceted results navigation, and an engaging mash-up of Web and database content. Launched in just 60 days, the site was an instant success, with traffic soaring to almost 3 million monthly visitors in the first year.
Background: A Market Opens
In 2005, the French government opened up the directory assistance market for competition. At the time, the market was valued at around 300 million euros, so independent service providers were anxious to move in and capture market share. Fifty-eight new information assistance numbers rapidly appeared (all six-digit numbers beginning with 118), and each service provider invested heavily to gain brand awareness and loyalty as quickly as possible. The winner among these early competitors was 118 218 Le Numéro, a subsidiary of kgb, the world’s largest independent provider of directory assistance and enhanced information services. With a popular, quirky advertising campaign and
high-quality service, dialing 118 218 for information quickly became a reflex
for French consumers.
The Need to Go Online
With the growing success of free online directories and emerging Internetto mobile information services, 118 218 rapidly became aware of the high potential value of its brand on the Web, and of the need to leverage this medium to diversify its offerings.
Yet launching a new online service at a reasonable cost, and within a reasonable time frame, represented a formidable challenge. 118 218 would need to attract a large number of site visitors, and to build loyalty among these users by offering an experience that was, at a minimum, equal to that of 118 218’s largest competitor. This competitor was an incumbent who had long operated within a quasi-monopoly environment, benefiting from a captive audience, long-established relationships with listed professionals, and a high quality database twelve years in the making.
However, given 118 218’s profitability and the popularity of its brand, the company decided to forge ahead with its Internet offering in spite of these challenges. Its strategy was to capitalize on innovative technologies, such as those offered by Exalead, to effectively level the playing field.
118 218 Le Numéro therefore went in search of a true partner to accompany it in developing its online service, a partner that could furnish an agile technology that could give life to all of 118 218’s ideas, backed by a team of professionals ready to share industry best practices and to bring new ideas to the table.
Dassault Systèmes Response
118 218 Le Numéro needed a solution that could be quickly deployed at a reasonable cost, and that provided the optimal balance between innovation, functionality, and ROI. Selection criteria included:
- Automatic spellchecking, spelling correction, and phonetic matching (without a dictionary)
- A single text box for launching queries
- Proximity search (for finding businesses near a specific location)
- Assisted navigation for results
- Compatibility with a mapping service
- Enrichment of database information with content from the Web
- Efficient indexation of, and query processing for, a database of more than 40 million businesses
- Capacity to process more than 40 queries per second (QPS)
- Efficient engineering and a distributed architecture to minimize resource requirements and control TCO
- Ability to process data updates without impacting performance
- Rapid to deploy (under 60 days)
- Easy development of new paid inclusion revenue models
- Support for the creation of innovative new SEO tools
- Support for the development of new services (for example, information requests/delivery by SMS)
- Advanced mash-up technologies to automatically extract and integrate database and Web content
After narrowing the field to two competitors, Exalead and Fast Search & Transfer, 118 218 Le Numéro chose Exalead CloudViewTM, the only solution that met all of 118 218’s requirements.
In fact, some of the criteria in the final call for offers were actually inspired by the specific capabilities of the CloudView engine. 118 218 CEO Bruno Massiet du Biest was confident from the outset that his company had made the right choice: “From the beginning, the power of Exalead CloudViewTM has served as the catalyst
for our new service, enabling us to realize our ideas in record time. It provides a powerful and flexible Web crawler, next generation HTML extractors, rich configuration tools, an open development environment, real-time indexing,
and more.” The Response
Users responded swiftly and very favorably to the fresh 118218.fr search experience. Site traffic quadrupled the first year, hitting 3 million monthly visitors by January 2009, a response that greatly pleased the 118 218 CEO: “The Exalead solution exceeded our expectations. We were able to launch an innovative, 24/7 service in less than 60 days, and we met our cost objectives, with a CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) of less
than 0.03 euro.”