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.”
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