Comparison Shopping Engines
As an online retailer, comparison shopping engines are obvious places to get your products in front of the masses and see who bites first for that glorious first sale. Sites like Google Shopping, Shopzilla, Bing Shopping, Nextag and Pricegrabber have millions of shoppers searching for the best prices on online products – so surely you’re going to want to get some of those shoppers over to your online store.
Having your products listed in these engines can have a very quick response in terms of immediate business. Almost all of these shopping engines require you to “pay to play”. Regardless, we want to discuss these channels as something you should look into early on to get some business momentum.
How They Work
Generally, most comparison shopping engines work the same: you upload a CSV (Comma-Separated Value) file to their website feed – and they will put your products in their engine. This can be done by putting your products in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (or any spreadsheet for that matter) and saving it as a CSV file.
In these files you will specify typical product information such as:
- Product tile
- Image location
Depending on which shopping engine you are submitting to, they will have different requirements for how you should format your CSV file. It’s pretty easy, and you will get the hang of it in no time.
Once your product data is submitted and processed by the comparison engines, they will display your product on their website to a huge online audience of shoppers! Generally, when a shopper clicks on your listing, you are charged for the click and the shopper is sent to your website to hopefully make a purchase.
So yes – you are basically paying for window shoppers. But think of it as a highly targeted advertising campaign, where people have been filtered before clicking on your ad. And because they have been filtered, it’s a much better place to put your money than say in an untargeted website banner ad.
The Problem with Comparison Search Engines
Depending on your business strategy, comparison shopping engines might force you to do something you really don’t want to do, lower your prices.
This gets into a really dicey world and it’s important to understand three critical things before you ever go down this road:
- If you decide that you want to be the “low price leader” in your industry, you generally end up fighting a war racing to the bottom. The bottom being rock bottom prices. You can really hurt your business by restricting much needed cash flow.
- Your brand tends to highlight your unique selling proposition as the “cheap website”. And the problem with that is you will have many other competitors who are doing the exact same thing (having low prices) – resulting in a position where you don’t stand out.
- If you think about the type of users that use these shopping engines, they are typically bargain hunters, who are not always the best customers to have. All they tend to care about is who has the lowest price – and will jump ship to another competitor as soon as a “better deal” comes up elsewhere.
Is There a Way Around This?
In order to get the benefit of comparison shopping engines and still not go down the “cheap road” is to select certain products to be “fed” to these engines. There are two types of products you can do this with:
- If you sell something completely unique, that no other online shop sells – well then you’re in luck. Obviously add those items to your product feed, and don’t bother lowering the price on them.
- Select a few items that you don’t mind slashing prices on. Not all your items – just a handful. And every few months rotate them with new items. This way you can attract new customers that hopefully they will stay loyal for years to come.
Which Engines are Free and Which Ones Cost Money?
Free Comparison Shopping Engines
- The Find - In addition to showing product and price comparisons, The Find can help shoppers discover new products with personalized results.
Pay-to-Play Comparison Shopping Engines
- Google Shopping - Google Shopping is probably the largest and best known comparison shopping engine. Products submitted to Google Shopping will also be displayed on standard Google search results and are integrated with Google's pay-per-click platform, Adwords.
- Next Tag - Nextag has been in operation since 1999 and has as many as 30 million visitors each month. Nextag is consistently a top performer for traffic and conversions on CPC Strategy's quarterly review of leading CSE's. You can list products, event tickets, real estate, and even travel bookings.
- Price Grabber - In addition to presenting products on its site, PriceGrabber has a market research tool, Market Report, that allows retailers to track consumer purchase and product pricing trends. When you list your products on PriceGrabber, you'll also be listed on Yahoo Shopping which is a nice added bonus.
- Shopping.com - Shopping.com is part of eBay's family of companies and is another great channel for merchants to put their products in front of perspective buyers. Shopping.com also partners with The Find, another CSE on this list.
- Shopzilla - With about 40 million monthly visitors and a pedigree dating back to 1996, Shopzilla is one of the best choices for ecommerce merchants looking for some extra sales. This comparison shopping engine has an impressive 100+ million products listed.
- Become.com - Become is another leader in the CSE space, allowing thrifty shoppers to compare prices, read or write product reviews, and simply search for the best possible online shopping deals.
- Pronto.com - With about 70 million product listings sorted into various retail verticals and millions of visitors monthly, Pronto certainly merits consideration for any retailer's 2013 CSE campaigns.
- Amazon Product Ads - Amazon isn't technically a comparison shopping engine, but they work in a similar fashion. When you register for Product Ads you can upload your products manually or via FTP. Amazon will then create ads for your products using the information provided in your product file. When you set your budget, your ads will go live and you'll pay-per-click.
Which Engine Should You Choose?
Certain comparison shopping engines will have a better ROI (return on investment) for your business than others. The only way to know which ones will yield the best return is to try each one.
Certain sites will work better for the types of products that you sell over others. For example if one engine has a lot of competitors then you have a good idea that the targeted traffic you need is there. On the other hand, if there are no competitors there might not be the traffic you need, but you’ll get all the sales if there are any.
One thing to keep in mind is to not pull out early. It will take time and focus to understand these marketplaces. As you get more comfortable working with these engines, you will hone your skills on how to market and price your products.
Finally, realize that online shoppers may click on your listing, come to your site, leave and come back another day. So it’s important to understand that you might get charged a few times for the same customer to finally make a purchase which is why you should stick around for a while. Chances are they will come back to the same engine to find your website when they are ready to make a purchase.