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


Shopzilla’s Q2 2006 Revenue and Earnings

July 24, 2006

From the Scripps earnings release:

At the company’s interactive media division, which includes Shopzilla and uSwitch, second quarter segment profit reached $16.5 million on revenue of $65.0 million. On a pro forma basis, as if Scripps had owned Shopzilla and uSwitch since Jan. 1, 2005, interactive media division revenue nearly doubled.

Rapid growth at Shopzilla and uSwitch is attributable to growing consumer acceptance of Internet search and price comparison services in the United States and United Kingdom. Shopzilla is a leading search and price comparison Web site for consumer products in the U.S. In the United Kingdom, uSwitch is a leading Web site for consumers who want to find, compare and switch essential home services.

Forecast – from the conference call:
-Segment profit for the interactive division up 8% y/y in third quarter, which is less than expected due to increased costs for European expansion, overhead, and technology. Willing to give up some margin this year on Shopzilla to make improvements.
-Segment profit of $65m still expected for full fiscal year, $50 – 55m of which is expected from Shopzilla
-uSwitch 3rd quarter is very low seasonally.

Don’t think Scripps broke out Q2 2006 numbers for Shopzilla and uSwitch. Will contact investor relations…or if someone from Shopzilla reads this, please let me know.

For comparison, Q2 2005 numbers for Shopzilla: revenue of $29.5 million and earnings of $7.6 million.

-Question on the call about integrating Shopzilla and uSwitch into other media divisions. Answer: Shopzilla is “working with everyone on cross-promotion. Integrating Shopzilla contextually across all Scripps web sites.” Also leveraging newspapers and TV stations. [Poor Tim Peterman, senior vice president, interactive media, he lost his voice and couldn't answer the question himself.]

Related Posts:
Scripps’ (SSP) Q1 2006 Results – April 25, 2006
Wall Street Wrong about Scripps (SSP) – March 16, 2006
Comments on the uSwitch Acquisition – March 16, 2006
Shopping.com Revenue Numbers – February 3, 2006
Another Stellar Quarter for Shopzilla – Revenue and Segment Profit Up – February 2, 2006
Scripps Provides 2006 Guidance for Shopzilla – December 5, 2005
Shopzilla’s Revenue Up. Earnings Down? – October 26, 2005


Proxy Errors, Merchant Center Down, and FTP Location Not Accepted. Oh My!

July 22, 2006

For the last couple days, I’ve tried to carefully document the sign up process of the top shopping comparison engines. Sadly, I can’t do it.

I’ve gone through 8 engines and run into problems in almost every case. No lions, tigers, and bears here, but ‘Proxy Error’, ‘Merchant Center Down’, and ‘FTP Location Not Accepted’ messages are just as bad.

No need to call out which sites had which errors. I’d just encourage every engine to set up a focus group to look at the sign up process…if I’m having this much trouble, I have a feeling that you’re losing potential customers.


Become Launches Filtering Feature Called Search Zoom

July 21, 2006

No longer do you have to weed through hundreds or thousands of search results to find a discussion forum or product specs for Aston Martin’s Vanquish. With Become, you can search for ‘Aston Martin Vanquish’ or any other product and then filter by Product Reveiws, Buying Guides, Discussion Forums, and Product Details.

As Jon Glick, Become’s Sr. Director of Product Search told me, “users can see what type of listing it is before going into it.” I think this is an extremely useful feature. My original search results for ‘Aston Martin Vanquish’ (yes, I’m obsessed) contained 171, 573 results vs. the 51 returns for discussion forums (which I really wanted). This is a search engine starting to answer my questions as opposed to just returning a bunch of irrelevant results.

So how does this work? Jon immediately went over my head in his explanation (all of you know how sophomoric my tech undertanding is), but here’s what I was able to grok. The 4 month project started with human input to define the parameters for a buying guide or discussion forum (a buying guide has characteristics X, Y, and Z while a discussion forum has characteristics D, R, Q, and Y). Then the machine learning takes over, looking at each and every page that Become.com crawls to try to put it in a bucket. But this has to be done in an efficient manner balancing precision and recall and this has to be done for all 4 filters. And then there’s the added issue that one web page can be both a product review and product detail page (think Amazon’s product pages). As a marketer, I have no idea how difficult this is to pull off, but it didn’t sound easy and I don’t see many other companies with a similar feature set.

What immediately came to mind when Jon explained Search Zoom was Kosmix’s filtering and personalization options. Kosmix also crawls the web, searching over 3.2b pages, and has what I’d consider advanced filtering options. The company also looks at individual web pages, not just the website as a whole.

So if I find the results from Become’s Search Zoom so helpful, why don’t the general search engines do this? Jon explained “If you’re a general purpose search engine, you can’t have 30 buttons across the top. As a vertical search engine, we just wanted to limit the choices to the decisions that people who need to make a buying decision need. We have a more constrained problem. We can help people in ways that Google as a general search engine can’t.”

With Search Zoom, Become has an extremely useful and easy to understand product which it should try to syndicate. As I mentioned last week in reference to Zillow’s partnership with Yahoo!, biz dev deals are an attractive alternative to spending millions on the PPC engines. First on the biz dev list should be Shopping.com. Become is syndicating Shopping.com’s price comparison listings to supplement its own…there’s already a relationship. Shopping.com recently added a ‘Buying Guides’ section…this could be 227x better with Become’s assistance.


Buy.com’s Shopping Comparison Engine

July 20, 2006

Thanks to a tip this morning, I discovered that Buy.com has entered the comparison shopping space…and it looked like a great implementation. Since I don’t follow Buy.com that closely, I’m not sure if this is really ‘new’, but it’s the first I’ve seen or heard of it.

Now notice that I said ‘looked’ in the first sentence above. Unfortunately, 8 hours later, all signs of the shopping comparison engine listings are gone. When I played around with the listings this morning, I noticed both PriceGrabber and Channel Intelligence (CI) in the click-out URLs. Unfortunately, neither company would comment for this post and suggested I contact Buy.com. Emailed Buy.com this morning, but haven’t heard back.

Obviously this looks like a win for PriceGrabber over Shopping.com and Yahoo! Shopping in the battle for partners/affiliates.

Supplementing the main results with shopping comparison engine listings is a smart move. I’ve been playing around with the site and there are a ton of products which are out of stock. Such a frustrating experience! And such a costly problem for Buy.com.

I’ll tell you more when there’s more to tell.

Now I’m just waiting for Amazon to realize the power of shopping comparison engine listings and bring their ‘used and new’ items to the forefront. Aren’t the Amazon Marketplace listings more profitable for Amazon than their own products which they have to warehouse and fulfill? Check out the listing and commission fees Amazon collects from it’s Marketplace sellers.


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