Froogle Changes

July 31, 2006

Over a month ago, I was alerted to some changes on Froogle [thanks, Graham & Sean].

The standard shopping comparison engine look and feel where products are SKUd up or normalized is gone. No longer do you see a product associated with 37 sellers. Here’s the old look and feel in the Froogle Tour (they didn’t update it) and here’s a current search result for the ‘ipod nano white’.

In addition to that major change (don’t worry, we’ll talk more about it in a second), Froogle added a filter to allow for sorting by merchant rating and added a text link next to listings so users can view all listing from a particular merchant. More recently, Froogle added a local search box so you can find the ‘ipod nano white’ near you.

Now back to the most important change. Froogle is no longer SKUing up/normalizing its listings. This change makes absolutely no sense to me. Part of the beauty of most shopping comparison engines is the ability to see a standard picture and description for an item and quickly scan the merchants who sell that particular item. That’s no longer possible with Froogle. A consumer now has to scoll through pages and pages of non-normalized listings which makes it hard to understand if one product is like the next. In the search for ‘ipod nano white’, for example, every listing on the first page has a different product title and description. How does a consumer know he’s comparing apples to apples.

When I asked Google about this, they replied

“The changes you noticed were made based on user demand for a more simplified interface and product groupings.

In addition, we have recently added refinements so users can find what they want more quickly. These refinements tend to work better when the products are not grouped.”

Ok, that made no sense to me, so Google was nice enough to offer up Debbie Jaffe to once again field my dumb questions. My first interview with Debbie didn’t go very well. Here’s my June 30, 2006 interview…

I’ve tried searches from Baby Mozart to Cuisinart Blender to iPod Nano to Fondue Set. There no longer seems to be a focus on SKU association. This is a completely different experience than on any other shopping comparison engine. Even Windows Product Search Live, Shopwiki, and Pronto who crawl the web argue that a SKUd up experience is better for everyone involved.

Have you found out something different?.

“We’re constantly changing things. We’re looking at how people are shopping and responding to user feedback. We’re investing in ways users can have a better shopping experience more directly on Google.com. We’re excited about Google Base. We’ve migrated merchants to Google Base. You’re going to see changes in Froogle and other ways to invest in the shopping experience. We launched Google Checkout. It’s integrated into Google’s product search on Google.com. We’re integrating deeper product information and providing more information in the search results.”

Why did you make the changes?

“We saw a combination of feedback. We wanted merchants’ ratings as [a way to] get to information about products more quickly. We’ll continue to work through Google Base stuff, but we’ll go into more tests on Froogle and shopping on Google.com. We’re always testing.”

I’m not saying that it’s not solvable, but is SKU association and de-duping too hard? Many shopping comparison engines have manual labor in another country tagging products and checking feeds. Which obviously isn’t a solution for Google.

Because we don’t require SKU [information], we’re just not like other comparison search engines. It’s much broader. We’re approaching our 5th anniversary. With broadly structured information, Froogle has been a good solution. Google Base provides a better solution for merchants and a more integrated shopping experience on Google.com for our users to get the product information they’re looking for quickly.”

Related Posts:
Google Base, Froogle, and Google OneBox – June 26, 2006
A (Data Feed) Business – June 29, 2006
Froogle Submission Now Google Base Submission – June 1, 2006
Time to Submit your Froogle Data Feed – April 3, 2006


Think Different

July 31, 2006

Shopping comparison engines (besides Yahoo! and Google)…a lot of you are addicted to the pay per click engines (both for traffic and for revenue)…you’ve gotta start thinking differently about how to build your business. The PPC engines can always be a part of your marketing, but look at the bigger picture of shopping online. If you don’t, someone else will, and potentially kick your collective asses.

Come on, yYou’re about to freeze development for the holiday shopping season. Put a crack team of 8 of your best and brightest from various departments together to test out something completely different.
-Look at what Yahoo! Shopping did with Yahoo! Tech.
-Look at how local inventory information is integrated into CNET Shopper.
-Look at what Lucky Magazine is doing with txt 2 buy.
-Look at YouTube.
-Look at MySpace (where’s your style widget/plug in?).
-Look at what Stylehive is doing.
-Get some pop culture on your sites! Look at what celebrities are wearing. NYTimes Style section knows that the Cea Swim bikini is IN b/c Linsey Lohan wore it – twice! I can’t even find ‘cea swim’ on most of the shopping engines…although the bikinis are already on Stylehive.
-Talk to the hottest SOHO boutiques about a down ‘n dirty collaboration.
-Talk to some of your most progressive merchants – maybe they really wanted to test something out this holiday season but didn’t have the resources.

Another option:
-Hire 10 college interns – a mix of creative, cool, geek, hip – and have them come up with something for you.
-Run a ‘Future of Shopping Online’ contest. $25,000 shopping spree to the person/team that comes up with the most innovative shopping prototype using (or not using) your API.

And don’t be afraid to fall flat on your face. I think AOL Shopping’s attempt to create a different Back to School experience is horrible (fashion/music videos that don’t tell the viewer the brands/styles seen in the video, a mix & match section that doesn’t allow you to mix or match, a tie in with AOL’s RED that makes no sense, etc.), but I’m sure they’ll learn a lot from the experience.


Wal Mart – School Your Way

July 31, 2006

Love what Wal Mart is doing over at School Your Way.
-Over 670 user generated MySpace-esque pages (Hubsters). Sure, most of them are crap, but the concept is cool.
-User generated video contest.
-Wish lists – users can browse through tons of styles, add selected clothing to a wish list (pictures are saved, not just text link). Easily send to a friend/mom, print out the page, shop at Walmart.com.
-There are a number of polls. Hottest trend in denim? Worn & Torn. What decade will inspire your style? 1980s (retro). Must have eyewear? Oversized frames. Never leave home without gadget? Cell phone. T-Shirts? Vintage!
-Great merchandising with ‘Hot Trends’.

What else have people seen out there?


buySAFE Wins AlwaysOn CEO Pitch

July 28, 2006

buySAFE won the CEO Pitch Award at the AO Innovation Summit. You’ll be able to view CEO Jeff Grass’ presentation here later today soon.

Congrats to the buySAFE team!

Oh, and Jeff recently started up a buySAFE blog…just in case you don’t have enough to read. Steve Woda, buySAFE’s founder and SVP of Strategic Growth, has maintained his own blog since late last year.

Related Posts:
buySAFE Website Bonding – June 7, 2006
buySAFE Shopping with Confidence – February 12, 2006
Bringing Shopping Closer to Home – February 7, 2006
CEO 5 minute Pitches – Peerflix – July 21, 2005


Search Engine Strategies, eTail 2006

July 28, 2006

I’ll be at Search Engine Strategies (SES) on August 7. I’ll be at eTail 2006 in Philly on August 8. I’ll then be back at Search Engine Strategies August 9 – 10. Gotta love red-eyes.

I’ve been added to the Shopping Tactics session at Search Engine Strategies on August 9 from 11am-12:15pm. I’m not presenting, but available as part of the Q&A (last 25mins). I’ll also be at one of the ‘Bird Of A Feather Tables’ during lunch on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th day of SES.

Look forward to seeing everyone.

-brian


Alternatives For eBay Store Sellers

July 28, 2006

Since eBay announced the eBay Store fee increase, many eBay Store owners have emailed me looking for alternative online marketing channels. While I always say the first step for these sellers is to set up a website (and companies like HomeStead should be taking advantage of the eBay backlash), there’s an intermediary step that at least gets eBay Store owners acclimated to the shopping comparison engines…

Test out Amazon’s Marketplace, NexTag’s Store Program (NexTag, please think about putting up a page about this program – as is, merchants have to get to the second step of the sign up process before they see a very small link describing the program), and PriceGrabber Storefronts. These services do NOT require the merchant to have a website.

Amazon, NexTag, and Pricegrabber should aggressively be pitching these services to eBay users and offering special 3 month trial periods (in other words, get these sellers on board before the holiday rush!)

The fees for these ‘store’ solutions will throw eBay sellers for a loop as Amazon has variable pricing by type of product and NexTag charges a click fee (which means the merchant has to think about conversion rate). PriceGrabber is arguably the simplest to grok, charging a flat $1 + 4.75% commission for each product sold through Storefronts.

eBay Store sellers need to set up a website and test other online marketing channels, but if you’re freaking out about the fee increases, these ‘stores’ offer a quick and easy ways to get up and running off eBay without setting up a website.


AlwaysOn Stanford Summit

July 26, 2006

AlwaysOn conference going on now. Kara Swisher of the WSJ is up with a session about user generated media (YouTube, etc.). Here’s today’s agenda.

Watch the free videocast.


FatLens To Become TheFind

July 26, 2006

As reported by TechCrunch on Monday, FatLens will be re-launching as TheFind in September. Siva Kumar (President & co-founder) shared the news with me over the weekend, but as you know, I’m a bit busy right now. However, Siva stopped by my office yesterday, so I wanted to share the news.

Here’s what Siva shared with me…
“The new name and branding delivers on our expanded direction – comprehensive shopping search engine covering all of the shopping categories. The new site applies all of our learning from the year-long success of our proof-of-concept FatLens event ticket search engine and moves it forward to the next level.”

The purely data feed driven sites face a challenge in providing comprehensiveness. The crawler driven sites face challenges in identifying merchants, indexing all the products from those merchants, and creating structure out of unstructured data. The CPC driven sites face challenges in breaking away from their Google Adwords/Yahoo! Search Marketing addiction and offering up a better user experience.

Yes, the shopping comparison enigne industry is 11 years old, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Sign up to be notified when TheFind launches.


If Banana Republic Can Do It…

July 25, 2006

BananaRepublic.com (and Gap.com, Oldnavy.com) introduced shop by size. This feature seems to be available across the site for all men’s and women’s apparel and shoes.

Shop by Size

Obviously you could ‘shop by size’ prior to today, but now the filtering option is found sooner in the shopping process. In men’s jeans, for example, users can immediately refine results by waist and inseam using 2 drop down boxes.

Is this a better way to shop for clothing or are the normal refinement options (material, brand, wash type, etc.) on the shopping comparison engines good enough? Is this another Shopwiki feature in the making?


Stylehive Raises $2.62m

July 25, 2006

Social shopping/bookmarking site Stylehive raised $2.62m, according to PaidContent.

Related Posts:
From Download Squad: Dealplumber: a community-driven bargain site – July 20, 2006
From Silicon Beat: The locust swarm of bookmark sites – July 7, 2006
Kaboodling with eBay – June 10, 2006
The Shoposphere – A Closer Look at the New Yahoo! Shopping – November 15, 2005
Kaboodle – An Experiment in Social Shopping – October 27, 2005
Social Shopping – Increasing Clicks and Conversion – November 13, 2005


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