Yes, I’m having trouble receiving email. If you got a bouncedback from me, could you forward the bounced email to ‘brian at brismi dot com’?
Yes, I’m having trouble receiving email. If you got a bouncedback from me, could you forward the bounced email to ‘brian at brismi dot com’?
Sprenzy quietly launched last week. Sprenzy works off of Shopping.com’s API. The company was co-founded by Chuck Lai, who was formerly in charge of MySimon’s product development (MySimon is a Shopping.com partner, so Chuck is fairly familiar with Shopping.com’s capabilities). Launching a site using Shopping.com’s API is not a big deal, happens every day, but there are a couple features on Sprenzy that are important to take note of because they significantly improve the user experience.
-Preventing unnecessary page loads/refreshes. Sounds little, but using AJAX/dhtml provides a much more pleasant user experience than clicking on a link and having to wait for a reload and search a whole page for the next link to click on. Sprenzy elegantly helped me along my shopping experience. Here’s an example. I clicked on Personal Audio under Electronics and the green module came up:
-My Lists – while the functionality at Windows Live Shopping (you can just drag the product to the list), SortPrice (shop, drag, and drop) are a little better, Sprenzy’s My Lists ranks up there with Yahoo! Tech’s Save for Later function. These lists make the current list offerings from most shopping comparison engines look completely antiquated in comparison. Clicking the +My List button next to any product on Sprenzy automatically puts the product on a visible list on the upper right hand side of the page as opposed to the common alternative which hides the list behind some account page. Doesn’t it make sense that your wish list or window shopping list is right there in front of you?
-Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Did Chuck know I have a slight chocolate addiction? Ok, the feature here isn’t chocolate, but it’s a pretty good shopping blog featured on the homepage (yesterday’s post happened to be about chocolate). Good to know that people are setting their inner blogger free! Lots of original content on Sprenzy’s shopping blog which will get picked up by the search engines…and surprisingly is pretty interesting to read.
There are a number of other features to take note of, but those made my top 3 list. Check out Sprenzy’s corporate blog for more information…a corporate blog…you know, for announcements (like the merchant center is down (Shopping.com) or we rolled back to a previous index (Shopzilla)) or cool new features. What a concept!
More at Danny’s site.
Kaboodle released a number of new features today. I’ll get to the Shopping.com partnership this weekend, but I quickly wanted to let you know about Kaboodle’s new collage view. What a great way to view and share a set of products:
Stylehive Raises $2.62m – July 25, 2006
From Download Squad: Dealplumber: a community-driven bargain site – July 20, 2006
From SiliconBeat: The locust swarm of bookmark sites – July 7, 2006
Kaboodling with eBay – June 10, 2006
Social Shopping – Increasing Clicks and Conversion – November 13, 2005
Last week Yahoo! released 2 new shortcuts. The first (example above), for coupons was picked up by Adam Viener of Revenews and I mentioned it in a Search Engine Watch blog post. In that post, I said that the comments on Revenews seem to suggest that Coupon Cabin is providing the coupon codes, but Chris Saito of Yahoo! Shopping told me they “aggregate coupons/rebates from multiple sources but haven’t released specific partners.”
Chris also alerted me to a new ‘cheap’ shortcut (example above) for products which have been marked down in Yahoo! Shopping/Yahoo! Product Submit. Here are some examples: cheap digital camera, cheap mp3 player, cheap furniture.
As a consumer, I love both of these new shortcuts. The coupon shortcut saves me a ton of time clicking around multiple sponsored and organic links for valid coupon codes. The cheap shortcut gives me quick access to the sales rack at Yahoo! Shopping.
As a merchant advertising on the shopping comparison engines, including Yahoo! Shopping/Yahoo! Product Submit, I love that my sales have the potential for greater exposure through Yahoo!. If you’re a merchant, make sure you’re taking advantage of this new feature by filling out the ‘sale-price’ field on Yahoo! Product Submit.
According to comScore (found through Safa Rashtchy’s August 28th research note), “Yahoo! is the prior destination for six of the top ten e-commerce sites which reflects Yahoo!’s strong reach and prevalent usage.” These shortcuts are great moves by Yahoo! to control a bit more of the ecommerce pie.
Bob Tedeschi’s E-Commerce Report this morning focuses on back to school shopping. He highlights Sears’ SimplyCollegeYears.com, Walmart.com (funny that there’s no mention of theSchool Your Way wreck), BestBuy (the Blue Shirt video tips are short, fun and smart), and Yahoo! Shopping (which I picked as having the best back to school mercandising effort of the shopping comparison engines).
Bob’s main point was that everyone chose this year to focus on the college student’s back to school experience. Makes sense considering this snippet from his article:
“According to the National Retail Federation, college students were expected to spend $36.6 billion on furniture, supplies and books this year, a 6.3 percent increase over last year, and more than twice the amount that parents of K-through-12 students would spend on back-to-school shopping. College freshmen will spend $1,152 on average, the trade group said, and 29 percent of all college students will do their shopping online this year.”
Two things that Bob and I talked about which didn’t make it into the article:
-A lot of sites (not just Y! Shopping) are offering ‘profiles’ of students and items which might match the taste of those profiles. Target.com is a great example of this with their ‘What Species Are You?’ campaign (Laundrius Rookius, Noodelus Rex, Hyperus Organizationus, etc.). The company has also integrated this theme into their TV advertising.
-No one hooked up with MySpace or Facebook for a large back to school promotion. Surprising, no?
Ok, looks like I thoroughly confused some travel industry newbies yesterday warning that Google Checkout could become the GDS of ecommerce.
In case you’re interested in learning more about the current power struggle in the travel industry (and what happened when airlines gave in to the GDSs), check out this guest post by Mike Fridgen of Farecast over at VerticalSearch.net.
Safa Rashtchy’s note today on Google reads like analyst notes I’ve read for the last couple years about the contentious relationship between travel supplers and online travel agents (OTAs)/Global Distribution Systems (GDSs).
In my first interview for ComparisonEngines, Brian Barth, the former CEO of SideStep explained “through working with us, [travel suppliers] develop closer relationships with consumers as users go directly to the airline site vs. booking through a Travelocity or Expedia call center.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the travel industry (I’m posting this on ComparisonEngines and VerticalSearch), 3 years after the travel suppliers signed long term, unfavorable deals with the Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) due to poor overall health for the industry (9/11, SARS), the suppliers have played hardball in their current negotiations with the GDSs as they now realize the incredible benefit of direct booking and owning the customer relationship.
With ecommerce booming, retailers aren’t in the same precarious position that travel suppliers were in years ago. However, all is not perfectly rosy for retailers as many are addicted to Google AdWords for traffic, and I think many retailers are losing the loyalty game and paying Google Adwords for each sale (search is where the game starts). Now here comes Google, positioning checkout as a way for retailers to:
1) get better clickthrough rates on Google AdWords
2) increase conversion rate
3) process sales for free (for every $1 you spend on AdWords, you can process $10 in sales for free).
Sounds pretty attractive, but playing devil’s advocate, Checkout is just a way for Google to look a little less threatening to retailers already hooked on AdWords. More importantly, as Safa put it, the retailers have concerns about ceding customer ownership to Google.
Before implementing Google Checkout, retailers would be wise to consider some lessons from history – in this case, what the travel suppliers learned in ceding control to the GDSs/OTAs (a little background here).
With Safa’s permission (thanks!), here are the relevant paragraphs from his note today on Google.
Proprietary Survey Indicates eTailer Caution. Last week we spoke with more than 30 online retailers at the 15th Annual eTail Conference in Philadelphia. 81% of the online retailers indicated that they probably will not implement Google Checkout primarily due to the concern about ceding customer ownership to Google. Specifically, online retailers were concerned that Google limits online retailers’ ability to market to customers directly. The online retailers we spoke with also expressed concern about disintermediation, lack of system flexibility and the perception that Checkout provides Google too much visibility into their business, especially relating to Google search driven conversion rates.
Concern about Ceding Customer Ownership to Google. Among the online retailers who are not using Google Checkout, 81% indicated concern about ceding ownership of a customer to Google. Specifically, online retailers were concerned that Google stores all customer information, and Google Checkout limits an online retailer’s ability to directly market to a customer via e-mail. Given the low cost of e-mail marketing once a customer has been acquired, the e-mail marketing limitations placed on online retailers who implement Google Checkout may slow the rate of adoption of Google Checkout. We note that the online retailers we spoke with may not have a complete understanding of Google Checkout as Google Checkout currently provides users the option to “Keep my e-mail address confidential or “I want to receive promotional material from X.”
Concern about Disintermediation. Online retailers also expressed concern that Google undermines the ability of an online retailer to directly connect with a consumer by requiring Google Checkout users to go to Google Checkout to make changes to orders and transactions instead of to the online retailer’s site. This requirement once again prevents an online retailer from marketing or cross-selling to a user when they return to the site to check order status or to make changes to an order. Similarly, some online retailers did not like how a Google Checkout transaction ends with a Google Checkout page instead of on the online retailer’s web page.
The process of starting up a company is exhilarating; the biggest and baddest roller coaster ride I’ve ever experienced. Today I closed my seed round in the morning (yes!) then discovered a few hours later that a shopping comparison engine feed upload process works as if it were built by apes (doh!). Luckily I’ve surrounded myself with a small, but exceptionally bright team which seems to be a couple steps ahead of whatever the shopping comparison engines throw at us. What we’re working on is not as easy a problem to solve as I originally expected…which makes the solution that much more valuable for both merchants and shopping engines.
With all the web 2.0 hype in Silicon Valley, it feels good working on a solid solution to a serious problem. While I love reading Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch and think some of the young companies he profiles are smart with incredible prospects, I’m really happy to be sitting here in my office Friday @ 6pm and not making my way over to the TechCrunch August Capital Party – where the final pair of tickets went for $501 on eBay. I have a business model that doesn’t depend on acquiring 3m uniques, being bought out by Yahoo! or Google within a year, or relying on Google AdSense ads. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…it’s just not the path I’ve chosen.
Our beta release is quickly approaching. If you’ve already contacted me to participate, you’ve either already heard from me or will be hearing from me soon. If you’re interested in participating – I’m looking for any merchants that submit or want to submit to one or many shopping comparison engines – please send me an email (‘brian at comparisonengines dot com’).
A friendly reader (thanks for the tip) pointed out to me that Google Base has a help topic for simple reporting and statistics. This yet to be launched feature (I couldn’t find it in any Google Base accounts I have), will provide users with Impressions, Clicks, and Page Views (assuming you host the item on Google Base).
From the help section:
“Clicks and impressions statistics are updated daily; page views statistics are updated many times throughout the day.
Statistics are available as far back as June 7, 2006. If you created an item before that date, then impressions, clicks, and page views that occurred before that date will not be reflected in the statistics.”
I love metrics, so any additional information I can get my hand on is a good thing. This is a great feature for those Google Base submitters who don’t have a website (and therefore can’t use Google Analytics or another analytics service), but want to track how their listings are performing. Using this information, submitters to Google Base should be encouraged to test out different titles/descriptions and additional attributes to see the impact on impressions, clicks, and page views. Is this a response to the simple simple statistics eBay provides its sellers? Does this tie into Google Checkout, Google Adwords for Google Base, SKU level Adwords bidding, Google’s overall shopping ambitions, and the Google Implant? Who knows…I’ll let the Google mob take this and run with it…but sometimes a feature is just a feature.