[uf-discuss] hCard and Internet Retailers (Shopping Contact Information)

Junaid Nazir junaid.nazir at superstoresearch.com
Sun Oct 17 10:19:24 PDT 2010

We recently sent a message to the W3 mailing list for 'public
contacts', asking about what standards or guidelines were available to
unify and standardize the contact information for internet retailers,
as we noticed that there were significant variations in how websites
would list their contact telephone numbers and email addresses - some
opting to display them prominently on every page while other companies
had them buried in some obscure back-pages that were not intuitively
or easily accessible.

In reply, Michael Hanson from Mozilla Labs helpfully pointed out the
hCard microformat as the type of standard we described.  However,
there were some areas that we would like to clarify, as our experience
in the industry indicates that we could add to the microformat
standards to increase the quality and richness of the data.  For
example, the hCard format allows for a contact telephone number, email
address and similar contact points such as instant messenger handles.
However, high street stores and internet retailers will often have
multiple contact points, depending on the nature of the enquiry - such
as a dedicated line for sales, another for customer service and maybe
even more, for technical support - and it follows a similar pattern
for email addresses.  There are other variations in the type of
information being searched for - in our research we found that web
users were commonly searching for phrases such as 'Contact
ABC-Company' and 'XYZ-Company Head Office'.  The head quarters
telephone number for a company is usually always different from the
sales and customer support lines - we are not aware of any descriptive
classes in the hCard format to signify this distinction.  Users are
also commonly searching for 'store opening times' and the nearest
store for those chain companies that have physical premises

We are actively working with the product catalogues of some 500
internet retailers through our shopping search engine database at
http://www.superstoresearch.com and we have access to thousands of
more contacts in the shopping and retail industry - if we have some
agreed and suitable standards for the various types of contact
information, we could reach out to the internet retailers and put
forward the suggestion that they adopt such standards and implement
them on their e-commerce sites.  The benefit of such an exercise would
be that the availability of standardized contact information would
lead to the emergence of useful services and applications that made it
easier for consumers to connect with companies and brands, while
making the companies much more easy to discover via the automated
spider bots of such services.

There is a hCard creator script:


We could contribute to the project by dedicating some of our developer
resources on scripting an adapted version of the hCard creator that
was optimized for internet retail businesses - to help the
implementation of these standards.

However, before going forward with such an idea, we would need to know
if there are any suitable classes to differentiate between different
telephone numbers and email addresses (sales, customer service,
technical, head office, switchboard/operator) and further how to list
multiple addresses for a company (head office address, local chain
store differentiated by zip/post code) and if there is scope to
include 'store opening times' and for e-commerce sites: if they have a
'reserve & collect' service (where you can order online, but collect
in store without having to wait for a delivery).  We may ask internet
stores to provide such store opening times and 'reserve & collect'
availability, so it would be ideal if we could agree some standards
before compiling such information.

Best regards,

Junaid Nazir

SuperStoreSearch Team
Merchant Support

http://www.superstoresearch.com | Online Shopping Guide

Email:   junaid.nazir at superstoresearch.com
Phone:  0798 555 333 0

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