Organized Shopping is Back!

June 30, 2006

Sean O’Rourke from Organized Shopping is back on the case after a 6 month sabbatical (which included a marriage).

Definitely subscribe to the Organized Shopping RSS feed.


A (Data Feed) Business

June 29, 2006

SingleFeed has launched! SingleFeed is an online self-service data feed management, submission, and optimization company. No matter what level of experience you have with data feeds, we can save you time and money working with the shopping comparison engines. Learn to love your feed. SingleFeed.

I started ComparisonEngines with no business plan in mind. I wanted to blog and after using the shopping comparison engines, I thought the shopping comparison engine industry would be a great topic. Less than a month after starting the site, with the help of an acquisition or 2, traffic took off. While I’m not divulging unique user numbers, I’m now generating around 300,000 unique page views per month (and growing). At this point, I could probably put up advertising on the site and make a living…spend more time blogging…and make a better living. However, the majority of ads you see on blogs are from Google Adsense and Yahoo! Publisher Network, and I think making a living off of Google and Yahoo! would be a poor standard as I want to objectively write about both Froogle/Google Base and Yahoo! Shopping. Yes, there are other solutions (join someone’s blog network, sell advertising, etc.)…and yes, I think my audience now trusts me enough not to be biased, but I like the idea of maintaining my independence. I don’t ever want it to even cross anyone’s mind that I wrote something positive about engine X because engine X paid me.

That said, I have gone back and forth over the last year whether or not I should even accept meals from shopping comparison engines (call me naive, but I’m being totally serious). In the end, I view a meal as a great way to get to know people better and build a relationship. A meal is not going to get a company ‘covered’ in ComparisonEngines.com. An innovative concept or compelling story might.

But even breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday – Friday isn’t enough to live on. It’s time to develop a real business!

For about 9 months, I’ve dabbled with the idea of developing a data feed creation, management and submission business. I think ChannelAdvisor, Channel Intelligence, Performics, and many other companies provide incredible services, and I completely respect the work they do. I will continue to support these companies (and others) and send potential clients their way. However, these companies are set up to work with merchants who can afford a $1000 set up fee and a commission on the back-end (those are just sample numbers, contact the companies for exact rates). At the same time, there are 10s of thousands of small to medium sized businesses that I think could benefit from a self-service data feed creation, management, and submission solution. Something simple, inexpensive, and smart.

The channel management companies of the world could develop such a solution at any point, but I don’t see them going down-market in the near future. Their businesses are set up to make money from clients paying them $1,000, $5,000, or even 10,000+/month for a variety of services, not $89/month for one service. I’ve been open and honest with all the channel managment companies and for the most part these companies see me as a potential partner more than anything else.

So I’m moving forward with a new venture. In July, I’ll launch a private test version of a simple data feed creation, management, and submission service. My goals in doing so are to:

1) Assist merchants in getting up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible on multiple shopping comparison engines. Merchants will always have to spend time developing a feed, but I want to shift the majority of time spent on feeds away from creation/submission and towards opimization. I want merchants to learn to love their feeds.
2) Submit the perfect feed to each shopping comparison engine in order to cut down on the customer service resources needed to manage small business accounts. Small businesses are not always easy to deal with, and I’m sure most shopping comparison engines would rather dedicate resources towards helping a merchant get to the next level than helping a merchant (for the 3rd time) figure out why 65 out of 92 products aren’t listed in the right category.
3) Promote the concept of data feed optimization (DFO). Creating, managing, and submitting acceptable data feeds is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an incredible opportunity to educate and inform 10s of thousands of merchants how to succeed on the shopping comparison engines. Right now there are too many merchants who put up a feed and expect a 1300% ROI without doing any work. This is not how it works on the search engines and this is not how it works on the shopping comparison engines. By the way, DFO is nothing new. All channel management companies talk about it: Channel Intelligence through SellCast, Performics through FeedLab, etc.

I’ve thought a lot about how this new venture changes my relationship with the shopping comparison engines and my audience at ComparisonEngines. There are potential conflicts of interest, but after a year in the industry, I think I’ve built up enough credibility to effectively traverse a potentially slippery slope. And I trust that the shopping comparison engines feel the same way. In other words, I don’t expect any change in my coverage on ComparisonEngines. My goal is still to help you better understand the shopping comparison engine industry from a variety of angles.

As I get closer to launch, I’ll share more of the details of the new business….although I will also start a separate blog/vlog for issues more directly related to data feeds. Finally, I’m looking for merchants to poke holes (test) the service for a month before officially launching.

If you have any questions or are a merchant that is interested in testing the new service, please contact me anytime.

Thanks!

-brian


Google Checkout Launches

June 29, 2006

Check out (intended) Chris Sherman’s write up for SearchDay.

Scot Wingo, head of ChannelAdvisor has a lot of great commentary on eBay Strategies. ChannelAdvisor is an e-commerce solution partner of Google Checkout, along with Monster Commerce, Infopia, Shopsite, Mercantec, and Volution.

Also check out Philipp Lenssen’s coverage at Google Blogoscoped.


Guest Commentary by Harrison Zanuck – Jellyfish: Cash Back Shopping for the Masses

June 28, 2006

The views expressed in Guest Commentary pieces do not necessarily reflect those of ComparisonEngines.com.

Harrison Zanuck turned his passion for online shopping and savings into his first internet venture, evreward.com – a service which compares shopping rewards for 3,000 stores and services and 40 rewards programs. Offline, he is a film and television producer living in Los Angeles, CA.

The launch of new price comparison and rewards website Jellyfish has brought about a lot of talk about revolutionary new advertising models, grandiose visions of consumer empowerment and other “big ideas”. That’s fine for press releases and building buzz, but what really impresses me most about this service is the opportunity to bring cash back shopping to the mainstream internet consumer.

For me, the magic of Jellyfish isn’t its snazzy AJAX interface, 1000 stores or five million products. You can find all that elsewhere, and to be honest, you can find better price comparison engines – but none so well integrated into a rewards program. And that’s where Jellyfish’s promise shines the brightest.

This is a service I would recommend to my mother, grandmother, or any tech neophyte just wading into the sea of internet savings. The interface is clean and simple, you’re not bombarded by ads or e-mails, and no parasitic software is dangled in front of you. You simply type in a product and you’re given a price that’s better than what you’d pay at the store if you went there directly. For most people, that’s a powerful hook.

The second part of Jellyfish’s magic, and not to be underestimated, is its approach to merchant relationships. I think the talk about “empowering” may be more appropriate to this case, rather than to consumers, who are really just passive beneficiaries of Jellyfish’s new “Value Per Action” search advertising model.

I can’t claim to understand VPA, and certainly there’s a lot to be proven, but the big benefit I see here is that Jellyfish may very well change the tenor of the often tenuous tug-of-war between merchant and rewards program over consumer loyalty. Because this system gives merchants an opportunity to more directly influence sales with their ad spending, they’re more apt to consider Jellyfish a partner rather than hijacker when it comes to customers. Even if the value of this is more semantic than practical, by giving merchants some ownership of the process, they’re more likely to trust the referrals Jellyfish generates, leading to more competition for those referrals, and ultimately, better rebates for all.

If the current generation of cash back programs have missed the boat when it comes to the user experience and merchant relationships, Jellyfish seems well positioned to capture what up to now has been an under-exploited facet of the internet shopping landscape. There are other options, and it may not be a site I frequent personally (after all, it’s hard to build loyalty when many people are loyal to simply the lowest price or the biggest rebate), but Jellyfish is a good bet for the consumer who wants to save on most purchases, and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time shopping around.

To me, that’s the real hope in all the hype.


Beach Leaving Yahoo!

June 28, 2006

David Beach is leaving Yahoo! to join start-up Wink. Find out more about Beach and his decision to leave.


Google Base, Froogle, and Google OneBox

June 26, 2006

I spent 3.5 hours Saturday night creating and lightly optimizing a completely new data feed (or bulk upload) to get PersonalProtectionStore’s home security products up and running on Google Base. PersonalProtectionStore uses Yahoo! Merchant Solutions which enabled me to download a catalog and associated information, but it was not in a format compatible with Google Base (superfluous fields in the catalog, non-uniform field names) and the dowload brings with it special characters and HTML code which cause listing errors. Additionally, there are many fields Google Base makes optional which my catalog did not include. These additional fields help with data feed optimization (DFO).

Froogle feed submission used to take a couple days (and a couple iterations) to process correctly, so I was pleasantly surprised to see my feed accepted in less than an hour. More importantly, by the time I checked back early the next morning, my products (and images – this used to be a major issue with Froogle) were up and running. My feed of 153 products consisted of 30 errors which weren’t explained very well, but overall it was a smooth process. [It’s important to note that I’ve submitted hundreds of feeds to multiple engines. There are plenty of people on the Google Base Help Discussion Group having problems.]

Submitting to Google Base gets you listed on Froogle. Being in Google Base or Froogle potentially gets you in the Google Onebox product search results in a regular Google search (just under the Sponsored Links and just above the organic results). Here’s an example for one product in my PersonalProtectionStore feed:

google base results
(Google Base – click on image to view actual search result)

froogle results
(Froogle – click on image to view actual search result)

google onebox results
(Google OneBox – click on image to view actual search result)

While I’ve been critical of Froogle’s Spam problem, and I’m not sure what to make of Froogle’s recent update (more info soon), I did say in early April that it’s time for merchants to submit their feed to Froogle. My 3.5 hour experience only strengthens that argument.

For good or bad, many merchants are completely reliant on Google for sales, obsessing about optimizing their sites for better orgranic listings and feverishly spending on Google Adwords. Just don’t forget about submitting your data feed to Google Base.

If you’re having trouble with the feed, there are many companies which can help you out with feed management: SingleFeed (my company) ChannelAdvisor, ChannelIntelligence, Performics, Mercent, Vendio/Andale, Marketworks, RedZoneGlobal, MerchantAdvantage, etc.

Realted Posts:
Data Feed Creation, Management, Submission, and Optimization Service – June 29, 2006


Jellyfish PR, Search Engine Lowdown, Media Guerilla

June 23, 2006

Update: Jellyfish.com is now live. Here’s the WSJ article (subscription required). Here’s the company press release.

Jellyfish has generated buzz in the blogosphere and beyond through smart PR. Basically, the company seeded the influencers which I have a feeling led to an easier time working with the big boys (one of which has the ‘exclusive’ on Monday).

In a world where I get 20 irrelevant, canned, and absolutely annoying press releasey emails a week, Garrett French of Search Engine Lowdown delved into Jellyfish’s strategy with some help from Mike Manuel of Media Guerilla.

First, read Garrett’s interview with Mark McGuire to get a bit more background on the company…and check out some of the links on the ‘attention economy’.
Second, read Mike Manuel’s post about Do It Yourself PR and what he thinks of Jellyfish’s strategy.

Not saying that Jellyfish has all the answers, but seeding the influencers AND including them in the discussion seems like a solid foundation for a messaging campaign.


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