Pricefish Announces FishClips

February 27, 2006

Pricefish offers FishClips

I wish I had time to look at the smaller shopping comparison engines in depth because I think I’d find some innovative offerings.

Like this:

Pricefish is now offering FishClips to all merchants. FishClips are audio files which merchants can create and then display next to their listings. Some examples can be found on this Sony Cyber-shot product page (scroll down and look for the headphones icon). The clips on this page include general store information highlighting benefits like security, service, and selection. However, merchants can actually create separate FishClips for every product.

As Mark Dresner, President of Pricefish explained, “in a sea of sameness, anything merchants can do to differentiate themselves can increase conversion rate. We have several merchants using [FishClips] on a global basis, but the way we set it up, they can have a different mp3 for every listing. Think of how this applies to apparel and jewelry; merchants can produce a 10-15 second commercial for each product and have a better chance to convert.”

The press release says that FishClips is the “first in a planned series of multi-media offerings. Pricefish.com believes that this new feature will deliver increased sales for online retailers and create an enriched and rewarding experience for shoppers.” In other words, expect further FishClips in the form of videos such as those found on CNET.


Google Payments & Unified Shopping Carts

February 27, 2006

Google Payments is finally here. Greg Yardley and Scot Wingo (thanks for the heads up, Scot) both were quick to pick up on it, so check out their sites if you want to get the foundation. The official Google blog and official Google Base blog also put in $0.02 on the topic.

While Google Payments should be applauded (feared?) for many reasons, one potential impact on the shopping comparison engine world is that I see a unified shopping cart for Google Base/Froogle as one logical step forward (once the Google Payments system has been fully rolled out). Amazon is the only shopping comparison engine (yes, Greg, you’ve convinced me) which offers this functionality, and I think it could be a game changer for Froogle.

As I mentioned last week in my post about eBay express, I’m disappointed to hear that Shopping.com (SDC) is not going to be involved with eBay express beyond providing catalog/organization technology.

I was hoping to hear a plan for rolling out the eBay express platform to SDC, allowing a user to add a sweater from Macy’s, hat from Nordstrom, and shoes from Zappos to a unified cart for checkout. I purposely give the example of the apparel category because I think the category begs for innovation on the shopping comparison engines, but unification obviously works for the electronics category – think digital camera and accessories, computers and accessories, ipods and accessories and many other areas (anywhere there is an upsell opportunity).

PriceGrabber has smart functionality which allows a registered user to see if it’s cheaper to buy all products from one retailer as opposed to from multiple retailers, but the multiple retailer route forces the consumer to go from store to store to store. A unified shopping cart technology from Google Payments or eBay express would simplify this process.

Google and eBay have a great advantage over the other shopping comparison engines because no one else has a payments system (except Yahoo! with Yahoo! Wallet). I’m sure Google Base/Froogle will exploit this opportunity ASAP, and I hope that SDC does the same.

As I’ve been discussing with a couple shopping comparison engines recently, one innovation I think consumers would welcome is a system where you can dress up a virtual mannequin (with your dimensions) with a pair of jeans from one company, shirt from another, and shoes from a third. The consumer could then save the mannequin and share it with friends to get feedback. Once settled on an ensemble, the user would then buy everything through a single cart. This example brings together social shopping and cart technologies – both areas which could help the shopping comparison engines become more sticky and therefore less dependent on pay per click engines.


Customer Service

February 26, 2006

A fairly large company, let’s call it ABC Inc., in the internet marketing space (not comparison shopping) called me on Friday to get feedback on the service they provided me (I was a client of this company most of last year)

I didn’t have a good experience with ABC Inc. and have started recommending that retailers not work with the company.

Because of this, I welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback. Maybe the company would address my concerns, and I’d change my opinion. Unfortunately, the call did not go that smoothly.

There was a simple survey asking me to rate the company in a variety of areas from 1 – 5. That part was fairly painless. The poor guy on the other line then asked if there was anything else I wanted to say. So I went off…I gave him one concrete example of a poor experience. I then volunteered another example (which turned into a fairly lengthy tirade). I was about to discuss another poor experience, but the guy quickly said ‘have a good weekend’ and basically hung up.

Nice to know the company cares enough to get my feedback…but considering that the guy wasn’t open to listening to all my issues, I don’t get the feeling that he really cares. Not a good experience. Oh well, there are 1 or 2 other major players in the area which I will recommend to merchants. Just as with Thomas Hawk’s PriceRitePhoto experience, you never know who you’re talking to. Companies should be a lot more careful.


Jobs – Webloyalty, LetsTalk, Shopzilla, Shopping.com (University Program), PriceGrabber (France)

February 26, 2006

A smattering of job opportunities…

-Webloyalty – Director, Online Media Buying
Webloyalty.com is seeking an outstanding candidate for Director, Online Media Buying. This position is responsible for all aspects of campaign management including: identifying prospects, negotiating and closing deals; developing and implementing marketing campaigns and test strategies; monitoring and optimizing campaign performance to meet targeted acquisition costs. A minimum of 4+ years of media buying (CPA/CPC/CPM), plus proven negotiating and analytic skills is required. Experience with SEO a plus. Send resume and salary requirement to ‘productjobs at webloyalty dot com.’

Webloyalty Grew 2005 Revenues 26% to Exceed $100 Million. Read the Webloyalty release.

-LetsTalk – Acquisition Marketing Manager
Identify and negotiate online advertising opportunities with online portals and niche sites, Develop comprehensive online marketing strategies and maintain annual marketing plans, Lead identification of new online marketing partners and act as an industry liaison to keep LetsTalk abreast of emerging technologies and trends in online advertising, Analyze existing campaigns and proactively identify opportunities to optimize performance, Contributing to creative strategy and advertising development, Work with agency partners as necessary, Provide media buying and planning services. Send resume to ‘jobs at letstalk dot com.’

-Letstalk.com – Database Marketing Manager
Develop email marketing plans (both trigger and bulk mail campaigns) to increase life-time customer value, user referrals, and provide support for community-building activities, Initiate and implement testing strategies to continually improve key performance metrics (opens, clicks, conversion rates, etc), Continually analyze campaign metrics and present findings to the marketing group, Identify market potential, estimate potential sales, and model return on investment for new email marketing initiatives, Provide day-to-day strategic, tactical and operational support for ongoing email marketing campaigns, Evaluate affinity marketing, advertising/sponsorship, and cross-marketing opportunities to increase revenue per user metrics,
Initiate and manage email tool development projects. Send resume to ‘jobs at letstalk dot com.’

Read the rest of this entry »


Brian Smith IM/Skype Contact Information

February 25, 2006

Ok, I’ve re-joined the instant messaging world.
You can always email me: ‘brian at comparison engines dot com’…
But I also welcome IMs/Skype calls:

Brian Smith
Yahoo! – brismi
AOL – brismiandrew
Skype – brismiandrew


Web 2.0 in Retailing – Fry’s

February 23, 2006

Fry's Electronics on Web 2.0 Technology on retail sites

Some quick thoughts from Fry’s (NOT Fry’s Electronics) VP of Sales and CTO, Rudy Pataro. This is not an interview (no direct quotes), just what I picked up from his brief talk.

Web 2.0 technologies – AJAX, RSS, etc. Tons of interest from start-ups, but in the retail space, there isn’t much excitement or traction. Why aren’t we taking advantage of those technologies?

3 examples of Web 2.0 technologies to think about:
-On site search. Why is it that when you do a search, you get multiple pages and have to go to page 1 then page 2 then page 3, etc. With AJAX, you can scroll through the items dynamically. Also, which products do you put on a particular category page? Why not put them all and allow your users to navigate through the information. (If anyone is interested in this concept, I have a friend working on this idea)
-Tagging. Consumers might tag products in a different way than you categorize them. Their tagging system is more helpful for them, and you should be open to it.
-Site management. Most people think of RSS from a consumer point of view. But if you’re getting all this syndicated content from a ton of sites, doesn’t it just become like email spam? From a retailer perspective, though, maybe RSS allows for a better way to handle inventory management.


Best Buy on Multi-Channel Retailing

February 22, 2006

etail 2006

When Best Buy speaks, I listen. The company seems to be ahead of the retailing curve in terms of producing an innovative customer experience. Back in September, I posted about Best Buy’s personal shopping assistants and kitchen design service. There’s been a lot of talk about the company’s in-store customer centric initiative. Over the holiday shopping season, the company pushed it’s in store pick up service with great success.

Sam Taylor, Best Buy SVP Online Stores & Marketing, discussed some of his strategies for success with multi-channel retailing. This is not an interview (no direct quotes), just what I picked up from his talk.

Sam equated the normal multi-channel retailing situation to a sandbox. Kids play nicely at first, but ultimately, some kind of conflict comes along. The secret is sharing. Analogy to your organization: Are people pointing fingers? Is there an internal channel conflict? Do you hear people say things like…you shouldn’t be on our P&L…there shouldn’t be online only promotions…or from the other perspective…we’re the younger, smarter brother, we’re growing faster, etc.

It’s about sharing:
1. Share the money.
-All the stores get credit for the revenue and profits from BestBuy.com.

2. Share the data between the different channels.
-For example, we break out web analytics by different customer segments on the web and share that data with the stores (for instance, on the web, BB can see a certain segment looks for Star Wars, WWE, Webcams, etc.). One store manager put this data to use and wrote: “We couldn’t be more pleased with the results. On the release of Star Wars, we put out titles from your list on a third table. We were 198% to revenue as well as one of the top stores in UPT. The ‘segment table’ has about 70% sell through strength.”

3. Share the experience and solution for the customer across the channels.
-For example, more than 50% of houses with multiple pcs don’t have a broadband network or can’t get the network to work. The BB response was the acquisition of Geek Squad – it addressed a real customer need. Geek Squad is the first 24/7 customer support task force. Founded in 1994 and acquired by BB in 2002. There are now over 10,500 agents in North America. In home, in-store and phone support – you have to be where your customers want you. From the website: “Geek Squad can set you free with a wireless network. Once set up, you can share your high-speed internet connection with every PC in your home. That means you can browse the web from your laptop in the backyard, print from your couch or e-mail work while still in bed.”

-Another example is the Magnolia Stores integration with Best Buy. Magnolia provides home theater product knowledge, service, and installation expertise. The company has over 1,300 installers in North America.

-In store pick up. Customer wins (no waiting for delivery, no shipping charges, convenient). Best Buy wins (40% higher average order value, 20% make additional in-store purchases, 65% are new to BestBuy.com, competetive advantage – the only store that offers in store pick up for movies, music, and games).

Related posts:
Locking in Your Customer – September 13, 2005


David v. Goliath at Shopping.com

February 20, 2006

Shopping.com and Small Businesses

Heath Terry from Credit Suisse asked the following question on the eBay conference call:
“I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about the impact of the US express launch on your plans for shopping.com, should we expect that at some point for shopping.com to be more integrated into eBay express and much as same way that you have done with half over the years…”

Meg’s Whitman’s response:
“Okay. So let me take the question about eBay Express and Shopping.com. We don’t actually foresee — at least in the next couple of years, an integration of the Shopping.com site and the eBay.com site and eBay Express. eBay Express is actually a new way to shop on eBay. It leverages Shopping.com technology in terms of the catalogs, and it’s really the first implementation of our new enhanced searching and finding technology, which we refer to Magellan, as in the past, and it has some really fun features, like a shopping cart for multiple sellers. So I could buy items from 4 sellers, put them all in the cart, and check out all at once. But fundamentally, the inventory is inventory on eBay that has been aggregated for convenience-oriented occasions. And that is all fixed price, largely new and in season, with the ability to check out really fast using PayPal. Shopping.com of course, is a shopping comparison site that’s primarily used by large retailers to drive new customers to their products. So the similarities are fixed price and new in season, and — but the rest of the site is really quite different. And we like having these 2 assets in our portfolio because we think they target different customers and different customer shopping occasions. So don’t look for an integration, at least in the next several years.”

My Comments:
-No integration of eBay Express and Shopping.com? Why not? I thought the point of the Shopping.com acquisition was to give eBay sellers another marketing channel to sell through as opposed to leaving the eBay community. eBay express listings – since they are 1) fixed price, 2) new products, and 3) organized through Shopping.com’s (SDC) catalog – make for perfect integration on SDC. Why wouldn’t you want to give your eBay sellers another marketing channel?

Let’s look at this from the other perspective. Why not take the Shopping.com listings and put them on eBay express? You already have the data feeds. eBay express adds its fancy little shopping cart for multiple sellers, and I’m suddenly able to buy from Best Buy, Circuit City, and my favorite eBay seller all in one place. Isn’t this where Gbuy is headed? Would be nice to see eBay/Shopping.com trump Google.

-Shopping.com is “primarily used by large retailers to drive new customers to their products.” What? What about the “thousands of small merchants across the globe” that advertise on SDC. Ok, I know some of them make up the far end of the long tail, and you’d rather concentrate your efforts on the IR 400s of the world, but it sounds like you’ve just written off a heck of a lot of merchants.

If you have 8,400 merchants (I have nothing to back up that number) advertising on SDC, you’re saying that only 5% of those merchants matter?

Comprehensiveness is one factor that makes a shopping comparison engine worthwhile. Yahoo! Shopping can say they have 90m products available because of the 100,000+ Yahoo! Stores. Shopzilla can say they have almost 30m products because they ‘cover’ over 70,000 stores. Are you saying that you’re happy with the aprx. 8,400 merchants (rough guesstimate)?

I hope not…and I don’t think that’s what you mean: SDC reduced it’s initial deposit (back in October) AND SDC offers to crawl merchant sites which “do not have the staff or the resources to handle [their] own product listings” (not all shopping comparison engines offer this for all merchants)…both actions which I think would encourage small businesses to market through SDC.

Just watching out for the little guys like Personal Protection Store, Snaptotes, iAllergy, and most of the merchants on your site that sell Blokus (searches for the Blokus game rose 152% last week)…without that long tail, shoppers would have had to head over to Yahoo! Shopping, Shopzilla, NexTag, PriceGrabber, Froogle, Smarter, or Become. That’s why the long tail matters: if a shopper can find a random item on your site, they know to count on your site for more mainstream items as well.

Small merchants matter. Meg knows this about eBay. She should know this about SDC, too.

BTW, Meg also said in the call “we distributed Skype headsets to all eBay power sellers and Shopping.com merchants with a tremendous response.” I really hope those headsets didn’t just go to large retailers!

Related posts:
Shopping.com Explains Travel & Mortgage – February 17, 2006
Amazon Marketplace on Shopping.com – February 6, 2006
Shopping.com Revenue Numbers – February 3, 2006
Another Stellar Quarter for Shopzilla – Revenue and Segment Profit Up – February 2, 2006


@ eTail 2/21 – 2/23

February 18, 2006

I’ll be at eTail 2006 this week. Would love to meet up with any readers…just email me at ‘brian at comparisonengines dot com’ if you’d like to chat.

The usual suspects in the comparison engine space are sponsoring: GSI Commerce, ChannelAdvisor, Performics, Shopping.com, Become, Channel Intelligence, PriceGrabber, and Shopzilla.

I’ve never understood why Yahoo! Product Submit/Yahoo! Shopping doesn’t show up at these events. The only thing that I can think of is that Yahoo! Store merchants make up the bulk of Yahoo! Product Submit clients and there is no outside sales force. Just a guess.


GSI Commerce Swings Back

February 17, 2006

A couple weeks back, I mentioned some stocks to pay attention to if you’re interested in investing in businesses that play the comparison engine game. One of those stocks was GSI Commerce (NASDAQ: GSIC).

The company announced Q4 2005 results after the bell on Wednesday, February 15.

On February 15 (before the earnings were released), the stock opened at $15.02 and closed at $15. Volume was about average at 287,900 shares traded.
On February 16 (with the earnings report out), the stock opened slightly lower at $14.50 and droped to $13.77 by the close. Volume was heavy at 3,318,880 shares traded.
On February 17 (today), the stock opened at $13.76 and closed at $15.19 (up 10.31%). Volume was again heavy at 1,025,145 shares traded.

This activity isn’t that odd, but in most cases you see people sell on the rumor (that the company will not meet expectations) and then buy on the news (because the stock has been oversold).

In this case, people sold on the news and then the next day bought on the exact same news.

GSI Commerce Stock Chart

BTW, in the investment opportunities post, I left out ValueClick (NASDAQ: VCLK) which owns PriceRunner and Marchex (NASDAQ: MCHX). I also left out a number of small private companies like Become.com, Smarter.com, FatLens, and Dulance.

Related Posts:
Investing in Shopping Comparison Engines – January 30, 2006


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