While I’m waiting to hear back from IAC, I wanted to post some initial thoughts on Pronto, IAC’s new price comparison tool. Yes, I know the site is in Beta and just launched last night, so I’ll try to be nice.
-As you know, I’m wary of downloadable shopping comparison tools, and I compared the current stable of shopping toolbars to MSFT’s Clippy back in October because the toolbars were intrusive: “…the shopping toolbars were always getting in my way. NexTag continuously popped-up or showed up in the left side of the browser window. Dealio faithfully dropped down price alerts in front of me and ActiveShopper did the same. The problem is that I’m a frequent browser and the idea of always seeing a notice to compare prices just pissed me off. Add that to the fact that I already have quick and easy access to Yahoo! Shopping (as well as Yahoo! Search, Yahoo! News, etc.) through my trusty and unobtrusive Yahoo! toolbar and Froogle (as well as Google Search, Google News, etc.) through my trusty and unobtrusive Google toolbar.”
One very nice thing about Pronto is that it sits in my system tray and simply changes color (from blue to orange) when a price comparison can be run or similar products are found (see the P below):
This is similar to how Southwest’s DING works (next to the time in the screenshot above). In other words, there are no intrusive pop-ups, drop-downs, etc. Smart. Pronto is there when you want it. To see price comparisons, I can then click on the icon and either get a ‘full Message Toast':
or a ‘mini-Message Toast':
I can then click on a link in the Message Toast to launch the Pronto window to see price comparisons.
-I’ve run a number of searches and so far I’m impressed with the comprehensiveness of Pronto’s database, but the actual price comparison experience has not been that great.
My first search was for a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P200, 7.2 Megapixel camera which I viewed at Circuit City for $299.99. This price was only accessible after I added the item to my cart. The price on the product detail page was $369.99, which was what Pronto picked up. So that’s the first problem with the service; I’m assuming that Pronto is not getting feeds from Circuit City and therefore listed the price incorrectly.
The real problem, though, came in the actual results that Pronto displayed for the digital camera:
The first merchant listed on Pronto is SonyStyle.com with a price of $70. Ha! The price on SonyStyle.com is $349.95. The second merchant listed is Accessoriesland.com which showed up as selling the camera for $135. I could not find ‘$135′ anywhere on the Accessoriesland.com page, which lists a price of $295. The third merchant is Outpost.com which showed up as selling the camera for $249.99. The price on the Outpost.com page is $349.99. The fourth merchant listed is FotoConnection and Pronto’s price was only $2 off from the merchant’s price. I’ll take it… so the fourth time’s a charm…but I’m alrealy a bit frustrated by my experience. And it’s odd to see a second listing for FotoConnection with another incorrect price (see the last listing on the screenshot above).
-In addition to price comparisons, Pronto also offers searches for ‘similar products’. Similar products seemed to come up consistently for book searches. On Amazon, for instance, I searched for a book I’m reading called Mr. China. Clicking on the icon which changed to orange and the Message Toast opened up the Pronto screen which produced books with ‘China’ in the title – I didn’t get the sense that Pronto is intelligently recommending similar (same topic) books…which makes the ‘view similar products’ tool useless for books.
-So I searched for a more well known book, John Battelle’s The Search. Again, I was prompted to view similar products. In the Pronto window I was shown ‘Sponsored Listings’ from BAMM.com and then a couple stores selling The Search followed by ‘similar’ books – which again had nothing to do with the topic of The Search. Ok, so not only did I not get similar books, but it was not a ‘clean’ experience.
-Pronto is only available for IE 6.0 at the moment. If I weren’t running this blog, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to open IE and download the tool. To limit spyware/adware/malware I’ve switched over (along with millions of others) to Firefox for almost all downloads.
-On every search, you can set a price alert which notifies you when a price has dropped below a level that you set. While this feature isn’t new in the world of comparison shopping, it’s presented well with a sliding meter.
Just wanted to get out some initial thoughts…