Practical Ecommerce

Comparison Sites Can Help Boost Sales

Shopping comparison sites enable merchants to market to the masses, but stepping into a competitive environment like BizRate, PriceGrabber or Shopping.com can seem pretty daunting to the owner of a small ecommerce business. However, three entrepreneurs say getting out of the comfort zone and into the game is worth the effort.

Top Three Mistakes: Shopping Comparison Sites

Trying to compete primarily in terms of price. “Do not start by trying to be that ‘low-priced guy,'” Saldana said. “That is just the absolutely wrong way to do it.” Instead, he said merchants are better off when they provide a fair price, a great product description and great service. “It is not always about price,” Saldana said. Customers will respond “if they have the information and are armed with [an understanding of] exactly how this product is going to fill their need.”

Expecting too much. Ordonez advises merchants to maintain realistic goals as to how many sales will be converted from the new traffic. “Have a realistic vision of what comparison sites can do for you,” she said.

Going too fast. Mangum warns merchants to start slowly. “Try a site or two and see how it goes,” she said. “Try not to overspend on the site.”

Shopping sites allow merchants to “feed” them lists of products and prices. Those products are then displayed alongside the same products from other merchants when a shopper keys in a search term.

Many comparison sites operate in the marketplace, and new sites, each with its own attempt to build a more distinctive comparison shopping environment, frequently appear. Since many sites use a pay-per-click cost model, how can merchants know what sites will work best for them?

So far, the most realistic answer is trial and error.

David Saldana, owner of Mailboxixchange.com, has experimented with selling products through various comparison sites during the past 18 months. He determined that BizRate and Shopzilla work best for his business.

“We noticed BizRate has better search engine optimization, while some of the competitors use pay-per-click to generate traffic,” Saldana said. “Even some of our more competitive items show up really well at BizRate, and that allows us to know we are being put out in front.”

Some pros of comparison sites Comparison sites can serve as a powerful tool to link shoppers and products, and Cristal Ordonez believes the traffic generated by such sites offers real benefits to small merchants.

“They definitely increase traffic,” said Ordonez, president of Gigglingtoys.com, a site that uses 11 comparison sites to market its children’s toys. The environments allow small sites to feature products next to major retailers — and that’s a plus.

“That is important especially when you are a newcomer to the industry. I find them to be really effective for brand building,” she said.

Comparison environments also create an opportunity for a merchant to showcase many different products.

“Try to put up good variety of what you have out there,” said Candice Mangum, owner of Bodybangles.net, a site that sells body jewelry. “Things that you would never dream will [succeed] get clicks and convert. You just never know.”

Some cons of selling in comparison sites Shopping comparison sites generate an extremely competitive environment, and that can pressure profit margins. If you sell the same products as many others, it’s going to be more difficult to turn a buck.

In addition, though you’re likely to see increased traffic to your site when you use shopping comparison sites, it doesn’t mean you’ll get quality traffic.

“A lot of traffic is, of course, a good problem to have,” Ordonez said. “However, traffic that is not qualified seems to be our biggest challenge. Even though we might get a zillion hits today, most of those are not even remotely qualified because of the way those engines operate.”

Ordonez warned merchants to be aware that competitors can run up a merchant’s PPC totals since it’s hard to track fraud in the comparison environments.

A tip for success Saldana, Ordonez and Mangum have found success in shopping comparison sites by selling unique products from inventory.

“The marketplace is already saturated with products that you can drop ship, and it is going to be tough to make yourself stand out,” Saldana said. “We drop ship most of our products but the few products that we do not drop ship — that we know are not “drop ship-able” — give us a basic monopoly online because nobody else is willing to inventory this product. Nobody else offers it, but we do and it sells great.”

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Legacy User May 23, 2007 Reply

    Comparison shopping engines (CSEs) can be both effective in driving sales, but can also be be expensive on a CPA basis and can be difficult to manage. If you are new to CSEs, I suggest you try Google Product Search (formerly Froogle). It is the easiest site to launch on, and Google does not charge for being listed. If that works, then try other CSEs such as Shopping.com, Pricegrabber, Nextag, etc. Or, of course, if you already realize that you want to use CSEs as a sales channel, look at one of the respected feed companies who will launch a campaign for you.

    If you have already been doing CSE, but are getting marginal results, or if you are looking to streamline the inclusion/exclusion process, get real marketing costs, etc…try looking at a tool that you can take in house. ChannelAdvisor has a new tool that works pretty well.

    — *Jeff*

  2. Legacy User December 2, 2007 Reply

    Regarding the last comment stating that start using Froogle (Google Base) first to get experience with shopping comparison websites. The downfall with using Google Base is that if your drop ship your products and you use a data feed to upload your product information into Google Base there is a good chance that your data feed will be rejected by Google. It is stated in their policy that they do not accept data from ecommerce websites that drop ship their products.

    Now if you have a small inventory of products and you don't mind entering individual product information into their system then Google Base will work well with small inventories. But if you maintain a large inventory of products with data feeds, then you are better off to use Shopzilla.com, Shopping.com, PriceGrabbers.com and etc.

    — *Derek*