Practical Ecommerce

The PeC Review: WinBuyer Puts Competitors’ Prices on Your Pages

By some estimates, 94 percent of online shoppers will invest at least some time comparing prices before they make a buying decision. That comparison process often takes shoppers to as many as four different online retailers and a price comparison engine or two, but now one vendor is offering a widget that puts your competitors’ prices right on your product pages.

The idea behind WinBuyer’s Onsite Comparison Pricing (OCP) is simple. By showing shoppers your price and your competitors’ prices, you have the potential to stop them from wandering to another site in search of a better prices, and even when your price is not the lowest they may still buy for the sake of convenience. If prices are very similar, consumers often buy at the last store they visit during the comparison process. It is WinBuyer’s simple, gutsy idea and smooth execution of that idea that moved me to award the free service three and a half out of a possible five stars in this “The PeC Review.”

“The PeC Review” is my weekly column aimed at introducing you to the products or services that have the potential to improve your business. This week, let’s take a look at WinBuyer.

Video: WinBuyer in Action

A “Miracle” Idea

To a great extent, the WinBuyer OCP solution reminds me of the long popular 1947 Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street. In that film, the “real” Santa Claus ends up working at Macy’s Department Store in New York City, playing “Santa.” With a little girl bouncing on his knee, the real Santa suggests that the child’s mother go to archrival Gimbel’s to purchase some skates for the little one. Macy’s is very mad at first but there is so much positive feedback from customers that all of the Macy’s staff begins recommending competitors when those competitors are offering a better deal or a better product—and sales boom.

WinBuyer is working on a similar premise, which can be just as effective in online retail as it was in the movie. Put another way, you are offering a customer a further service, building more trust, and giving them a reason to come back again and again.

Oh, And You Can Still Get Paid

In Miracle on 34th Street, Macy’s boosted its business by building customer trust. But when a customer did go over to Gimbel’s store, there was nothing in it for Macy’s except goodwill. In the WinBuyer model, Gimbel’s would have sent Macy’s a revenue sharing check.

The WinBuyer OCP solution is tied into affiliate marketing, so when customers do decide to go elsewhere to make a purchase, WinBuyer will pass a portion—typically half—of the affiliate revenue back to you. This revenue sharing will in no way offset your sale, but it is another revenue source while you build trust and brand with your customers.

WinBuyer makes all of its money on the affiliate revenue, which is why it’s free to you. However, I would have preferred a business model wherein WinBuyer charged a small monthly fee, say $19.95, and offered a further service, like dynamic pricing, that ensured that my price was one of the lowest, but that is not the case.

A Price Advantage Does Help

This solution works best when you have the lowest price. Overstock, which is one of the leaders in online retail, often has lower prices on items and makes extensive use of the WinBuyer OCP solution on its site.

Simple JavaScript Implementation

The WinBuyer OCP solution is easy to implement; just add a line of JavaScript and you’re done.

Because it is so easy, you can do a lot of testing to see if the solution is really right for your store and your product line. For example, if you sell a niche product or service, the OCP solution probably won’t have any comparison data to share.

Summing Up

three and on-half stars
The WinBuyer OCP solution is a compelling way to build trust and loyalty with your customers. I especially like that the solution is easy to implement and easy to test, so that you don’t have to invest a lot of money or time into learning if it works for your business.

I do need to point out, again, that WinBuyer gets paid when you don’t make a sale, which does bother me a little bit. (Remember WinBuyers’ revenue comes from affiliate programs that only pay off when someone clicks away from your site.) But I still believe that the Miracle approach can be successful for some online merchants, which is why I awarded WinBuyer three and a half out of a possible five stars in this “The PeC Review.”

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Robert Farago November 30, 2009 Reply

    Yes, well, WinBuyer tempts e-commerce websites to join the Dark Side. To game price comparisons in their favor. From WinBuyer’s website:

    "The WinBuyer data aggregator analyzes any single product page on a merchant’s site and creates precise product matches, providing merchants with a list of competitors who sell the exact same product."

    A list, from which the WinBuyer customers can select those competitors whose prices are "worthy" of display. In other words, the WinBuyer customer can exclude competitors with lower price.

    There is nothing legally objectionable in this. And WinBuyer customers COULD choose to list lower prices and refer price-oriented buyers to these competitors for an affiliate fee (as described above). But what are the odds? The default option: list competitors with higher prices. C’mon. You know it’s true.

    The "what’s this" disclaimer included in the WinBuyer data (cut and pasted here from Overstock.com) tells you all you need to know on that score.

    "We have provided additional merchant listings to allow you to compare our pricing to that of other merchants. You may visit these sites to verify the pricing information presented. Though we believe the information presented is timely, there may be recent intervening price changes or promotions that are not reflected on our site. We assume no responsibility for the accuracy of the price and shipping information of these other merchants. Also, we have made no effort, nor do we represent, that the retailers listed comprise a comprehensive list of retailers where the identified product is being sold."

    I reckon WinBuyer software could certainly help e-commerce sites raise conversion rates. BUT the temptation for customers to use the widget "selectively" to mislead the customer on price will be too great to resist.

    Repeat after me: honesty is the best policy.

  2. ekeren December 1, 2009 Reply

    The WinBuyer policy doesn’t allow the misrepresentation of our pricing data by any of our merchant customers. Our application data can not be manipulated to display specific results in any way. However, we do allow our customers some control over application global settings based on their standard business logic and that includes setting up the range of available price results. Although, some of our customers may choose to limit the display to show only higher prices, we strongly advocate lifting those restrictions as we have found conclusive evidence that it ends up generating significant lift on those pages by increasing trust and loyalty of users.

    Eyal Keren
    VP Marketing, WinBuyer

  3. Robert Farago December 1, 2009 Reply

    Whoa! At first I thought you’d nailed me. "The WinBuyer policy doesn’t allow the misrepresentation of our pricing data by any of our merchant customers." Seems iron-clad to me. And then ". . . some of our customers may choose to limit the display to show only higher prices . . ." If that’s not misrepresentation of data (for a price comparison chart), at least form the customer’s POV, what is?