Ok, just talking about ShopWiki’s new color search tool is not enough. You have to experience it for yourself to understand the ‘cool’ factor of this funtionality. So go and test it out:
Go here (a search for a swimsuit). Click on the ‘Colors’ beta button. Then choose a color. Then another. Then another. Then another. Now try searching for ‘vacuum’ or ‘cell phone’ (think accessories like face plates) and use the color search tool. It’s not perfect, but you’ll quickly get the picture.
Seriously. Leave. But please come back.
When Kevin Ryan explained this feature to me over the phone, it didn’t sound like that big a deal. But then I played around with it and actually had fun shopping. Yes, I’m a guy, and I had fun shopping. Scary thought, huh? And when I played around with it in the press room here at eBay Live, I had a couple people peering intently over my shoulder.
So what’s the point? If you take a close look at what ShopWiki is doing, the color search tool is probably just the start of a flood of innovative ways to shop. Many shopping comparison engines are set up to quickly and efficiently monetize incoming clicks. If you look at the UI of most engines, there’s no Web 2.0 technology like Ruby on Rails or AJAX. There’s no sleek or simple interface like you’d see on SimplyHired or Kayak. And many of the current breed of shopping comparison engines are now owned by larger entities that are public or are going public so there’s not necessarily going to be a drive to take a step back and figure out how to innovate, but rather a full fledged assault on increasing revenue per visit.
On the other hand, there’s ShopWiki which built it’s technology with only a handful of engineers. There’s no client services team. There’s no sales team. This is in sharp contrast to some of the more established players in the industry who have 100+ developers on staff, 10+ client services professionals, a handful of sales people plus a small army in India to manually tag products in order to fix categorization problems. In other words, ShopWiki doesn’t have the cost structure that most others have. They also don’t have the revenue model which is a BIG issue yet to be resolved…I’m not forgetting this fact.
The point is that ShopWiki has the freedom to think about the activity of shopping search much differently than NexTag, PriceGrabber, or Shopping.com. I’m not saying that ShopWiki is correct in its approach and every other company is wrong, but this color search innovation is what comes from thinking about a better user experience. I have not seen new features like this on the more established engines in a while. And isn’t the shop by color feature a better way to search for a sweater than the current options out there?
ShopWiki has a long way to go. While the company claims to search over 120,000 stores, it’s odd that a search for ‘Cuisinart TOB-165 1500 Watts Toaster Oven’ on Shopping.com returns the same number of results that ShopWiki returns. And ShopWiki doesn’t seem to have the brand name stores that Shopping.com is listing like Amazon and eTronics. Wouldn’t you expect ShopWiki to cover all the stores on Shopping.com plus a lot more? Then there’s the normalization or SKUing up issue. ShopWiki is working hard on this effort but is tackling a very tough problem that Shopping.com has thrown years of manpower against and continually has to tweak and improve.
So where does this leave ShopWiki? Because of the potential for comprehensiveness, the low cost model, and focus on user experience, it’s exciting to think of the possiblities. Expect the company to continue to launch new features to create a more engaging shopping experience. Taken as a whole, this is one way (note, it’s not the only way) to build a loyal audience and not rely on the PPC engines. The more established players should pay attention.
ShopWiki Launches – April 19, 2006