The BizRate Insights blog has the potential to be an extremely valuable voice for anyone participating in ecommerce. BizRate Insights reports on findings from BizRate’s Feedback and Ratings service, which powers feedback on 1000s of merchant sites. Now, the blog is just another way to sell merchants on Shopzilla’s service, but could also share insights into what consumers are thinking and what merchants are doing. Hope it heads in this direction.
Stephanie Tilenius gave a keynote at Internet Retailer this morning.
I’ve blogged about it at Google Commerce Guide, my new blog which aims to be the leading voice (behind Google, of course) on Google’s ecommerce activities. I especially want to help merchants become aware and make sense of all the ecommerce opportunities through Google.
I sat down with reps from Bing’s commerce team today and confirmed that after July 30th, Bing Shopping (I’m assuming that will be the name) will be a free shopping engine, similar to Google Product Search/Google Shopping.
Merchants currently on Bing Cashback will be asked to add their complete catalog (stop suppressing SKUs) after July 30th. This should immediately improve product breadth on Bing.
Merchants not currently on Bing Cashback…well, it’s still up in the air, so stay tuned over the next couple weeks for more information. Bing Shopping will eventually have some type of portal to submit data feeds and expect Bing to accept a Google Merchant Center feed early on to make it easy for merchants to get up and running.
Internet Retailer kicks off today. I’m sitting on the show room floor at SingleFeed’s booth as we speak. The A/C just came on and workers and exhibitors will be flooding the floors in the next couples hours getting set up. SingleFeed exhibited 2 years ago. It was a great event for us for lots of reasons, but as a metrics oriented marketing company, I will say that the ROI was great. Just as importantly, though, we got to talk to merchants (customers and prospects) face to face, which is so important.
This can be an expensive event. All in, SingleFeed will spend about $20K for just over 2 days on an exhibit show floor with hundreds of other vendors. We could spend a bit less, but it’s worth it to go the extra mile with some nice meals or events for the team and our friends. Many companies spend a lot more.
After a dip in attendance last year, numbers are back to record breaking levels with over 6000 people registered. And the shopping engines are well represented. CA, CI, and Mercent are here. Shopzilla, Become, Shop.com, Smarter, and TheFind are here. TheFind is also a big sponsor. Google has a small booth (the normal 10×10), but curiously they only list Google Commerce Search, Google Affiliate Network, and Google TV Ads. And it had to have been a last minute decision as it’s at the end of a row. Then there’s WinBuyer with a big booth. Much different than last year when lots of the shopping engines, and others, stuck to the sidelines.
I’ll post some pictures later.
Just wanted to pull together some posts on Microsoft’s ecommerce efforts over the years…
Bing Double Cashback Ends Promotion – August 28, 2009
Bing Cashback – Why Merchants Should Submit their Feed Today – June 5, 2009
Cashback is not the Answer – May 21, 2008
Jellyfish’s Day in the Sun – May 21, 2008
Microsoft Acquires Jellyfish – October 2, 2007
Windows Live Shopping Beta Shut Down – Feb 21, 2007
Jim Barr, GM of Microsoft Marketplaces – May 23, 2006
Ecommerce, Microsoft Style – May 19, 2006
MSN Marketplaces – May 9, 2006
Microsoft Officially Enters the Comparison Shopping Space – July 15, 2005
Bing Cashback is being retired at the end of July. This is the latest in a long string of confusing moves by Microsoft in the ecommerce arena. Why did Microsoft decide to cut off Bing Cashback? According to the blog post:
…But after a couple of years of trying, we did not see the broad adoption that we had hoped for.
And by broad adoption, I think that the author of the post, Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President, Online Audience Business Group, is talking about broad consumer adoption, although the same could be said of merchant adoption.
According to comScore, Bing Cashback is basically flat since it came out with a bang at arpx 9.7m users in June 2009. Yes, it grew to 14m users in December 2009 (peak holiday shopping season), but dropped back to 9.9m users in April 2010. With all the money spent advertising Bing in general, heavy promotion on Bing.com (shopping was featured and cashback offers displayed in adCenter ads), and lots of great deals, yes, I would have expected more consumer adoption, but besides Google Product Search, most of the major shopping engines have experienced declines in users in April 2010 compared to June 2009 (again, according to comScore numbers) when Bing Cashback was first tracked.
Here are the comScore numbers for the top shopping engines for June 2009 to April 2010)
-Google up 70%,
-Yahoo! Shopping down 19%
-Shopzilla down 14%
-Pronto up 20%
-Valueclick sites up 12%
-Shopping.com down 34%
-Bing Shopping up 2%
Obviously 2% growth is not going to cut it. I have a feeling Microsoft expected a lot more out of Bing Cashback. Bing was basically paying people to buy products, through the regular cashback offer and through double cashback offers, for which Bing Cashback would foot the bill. Considering the horrible state of the economy, I’m pretty sure Microsoft was looking for amazing viral growth for their great deals, which would lead to greater general adoption.
But at the end of the day, the economics probably just didn’t work for Bing Cashback. To drive traffic, they have to promote the hell out of Bing and then to keep ‘em coming back, they have to pay extra for every sale. That’s probably not sustainable.
And there weren’t just difficulties on the consumer adoption front. Merchant adoption was pathetic. This is due to difficulties integrating Jellyfish, scaling the technology, and an excruciating merchant setup process (20+ page setup doc), assuming the merchant was approved at all.
There was always some good buzz surrounding new merchant cashback deals, so Bing was doing something right. But it obviously wasn’t enough to get consumers to change their buying habits.
Who wins with this change?
Google. Google is no longer pressured to provide a CPA offering for merchant, although they are already testing it out through Google Product Listing Ads.
Who loses with this change?
eBay. eBay has some special deal with Bing Shopping, where Bing is paying for at least some of eBay’s offers. At least that’s what I’ve always heard rumors of. With the end of Bing Cashback, eBay has to go back to Google and buy more and more traffic from them. As Ina Steiner pointed out on AuctionBytes
: “Sandeep Aggarwal, an analyst now with Caris and Company, said the retirement of Bing Cashback will increase the search cost for eBay in new customer acquisition, and estimated eBay’s GMV from Bing Cashback as no more than 1.5% to 2% of total GMV.”
Who breaks even?
Merchants. Yes, Bing Cashback had almost 10m users and performed well for merchants, but Bing Shopping will still drive traffic and revenue. It’s just that the traffic will come in a different form.
Which leads to the important question: So what’s next for Bing Shopping?
There are rumors that Bing will try a free offering, similar to Google Shopping. I would assume that Shopzilla, Shopping.com, PriceGrabber, and NexTag are all talking with Bing about powering their listings going forward. These shopping engines can help Bing Shopping monetize really quickly and easily. Bing Shopping could do exactly what others have done and play the shopping engines off of each other to get the best deals and then display whatever shopping engine listing monetizes the best.
And don’t forget that Microsoft’s ecommerce efforts have always had sprinkles of smartness – brilliance would be going too far. The old MSN Shopping was great because it had really solid editorial content backed by lots of offers. Live Product Search had pretty incredible review information, although that data can now be drawn from the likes of PowerReviews and BazaarVoice. And Bing Shopping had a nice integration with Facebook, which is more than most shopping engines have done in the social space. I hope some of these ideas will be on the whiteboard as Bing Shopping reinvents itself. But more on desired features in another post.
There’s a lot of heart in Microsoft’s ecommerce group, but that’s not enough. At the end of the day, I have a feeling that it wasn’t exactly ‘adoption’ that killed Bing Cashback, but rather poor ROI. Microsoft has to show a fast growing, scalable, high margin ecommerce business. Bing Cashback wasn’t it.
Updated to include Shoptab. See below.
It’s been just about 3 weeks since SingleFeed started testing its Facebook application. I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the potential for selling on Facebook and the different options out there for merchants. Now that I’ve delved into the opportunity a bit more, and we have plenty of stores in Alpha, I wanted to give everyone a quick update.
With so many consumers on Facebook, merchants have to have a presence on Facebook. It starts with a fan page, but no one really knows where it ends. I view Facebook as an online marketing channel that should be viewed just as one views an affiliate program, seo, ppc, blogging, tweeting, email or shopping engines. Facebook allows merchants to develop a deeper relationship with customers than most of these marketing channels, though, so there’s a little more to it than just thinking like a metrics oriented marketer. Facebook presents an opportunity to interact with Fans of your brand or products. We’ve all been talking about interacting with our customers for years, but with a big ‘ol Wall of posts up front and in your face, more than ever, merchants have an opportunity to listen more and provide shoppers/customers what they want; be it access to designers, special/exclusive offers, meetups, contests, or even a Facebook shopping experience. Facebook also allows for a more viral marketing opportunity.
We’re starting to read about a big splashy Facebook marketing success story every day. Yesterday the NYTimes had a piece about Disney Tickets Together and WSJ had a piece about Merchants Pushing Sales through Social Media. But that said, merchants still have to test, track, and iterate before jumping into the deep end of the social commerce pool. Note that in the WSJ article, Guitar Syndicate doesn’t know if Facebook is actually driving sales and Ski & Sun Sports says that Facebook sales “account for barely 1% of the company’s overall online sales.”
Merchant Options for “Selling” on Facebook
In this post, I’m not talking about adding the Like button to your website or setting up a fanpage. I’m assuming that both of those have happened or will happen (at least as long as the merchant gets to ‘own’ their presence on Facebook). What I’m going to run through are the options I know of for adding some type of shopping experience to a merchant’s Facebook page. There seem to be two schools of thought right now: programs that allow for transacting on Facebook and programs that list products and drive the consumer to transact off of Facebook.
Transacting on Facebook:
Alvenda – made a splash by launching 1800Flowers’ in-Facebook store. Alvenda basically has taken 1800Flowers.com and put it in a Facebook page. Alvenda’s CEO puts it well: “The majority of future online sales will happen offsite. Customers will be able to shop with brands wherever they happen to be on the Web, whether they’re on YouTube, a favorite blogger Web site or in Facebook.” While I don’t completely agree with that comment, the idea is sound. More and more conversations about brands and products are taking place away from a merchant’s site and a merchant need to look at that as an opportunity. Besides 1800Flowers, look at this Brooks Brothers Facebook shopping site. I’ve heard that a Alvenda Facebook Shop can cost $20K.
Fluid Social – made a splash launching a 3-day store for Jones Apparel. Fluid can create Lookbooks and other creative avenues like My Jansport Favorites to help insert the merchant into the conversation. Like Alvenda, Fluid can also cost $20K.
Payvment – Payvment is definitely for the very little guy compared to the market for expensive and flashy solutions from Alvenda and Fluid. The App allows a consumer to quickly and easily view products and add to a cart. The company is getting some good buzz, but looking through the comments for the App, I’m definitely not getting a sense that they are powering anyone of significance and it was strange to go through the comments and find dead end after dead end (comments from merchants who didn’t have the App up and running). The solution can work for a larger retailer, but for now, it looks like they are attracting small Etsy-like stores. Here are some examples: New Hope Beads and Orglamix. Payvment just announced they closed $1.5M in funding, and in the announcement say that “over 20,000 businesses and individuals have started to sell goods on Facebook and over 500,000 Facebook users have shopped for products in stores using the Payvment app.” Please note that it doesn’t say there have been 500,000 sales!
Transacting off of Facebook:
Sortprice: Sortprice was very early out of the gate with their Facebook application and with over 1000 stores up and running, they have to be #1 in terms of real (not tiny little merchants) Facebook stores up and running. Sortprice enables a Facebook presence for any merchant that works with them for their shopping engine program for FREE. Here are some examples: TigerDirect and Evogear.
Wishpot: Wishpot is a bit of a mystery to me. They offer social commerce solutions for merchants, but they seem to be concentrating more on basic wishlists for consumers. The look and feel of a Wishpot Facebook stores is great, definitely better than Sortprice and Payvment Facebook Shops, but you’re going to have to pay. Looking like Teavana or C&C California is going to cost you a couple thousand dollars. Wishpot is also sending merchant offers to Twitter.
Shoptab: I don’t know anything about these guys and haven’t hear much about them, but I like the idea that the founders are store owners, or so the website says. According to their LinkedIn profiles, Jay Feitlinger and Bret Giles both seems to have good internet marketing and ecommerce experience. They set up a support portal through Zendesk, but it hasn’t been updated since late last year. Not sure if this is a side business. The Shoptab blog is a bit more active and the App page is full of comments. Shoptab costs $10, $15, or $20/mo depending on SKU count. Example stores: The Reptile King, Wholesome Productions, and the Coca-Cola Store. Paul Cheney from Practical eCommerce wrote about Shoptab last week.
SingleFeed: We’re Alpha testing our solution. It’s free and takes 5 mins to set up, which seems to be much different than most of the other solutions available. It’s based on the Google Merchant Center data feed, which almost all serious merchants have at this point, and runs off of Google App Engine. The feedback we’ve gotten so far is all about customization. Merchants want to be able to feature Sale products, Special offers, one-day Sales, etc. We’ll have our Beta out in a week or 2.
There are other solutions for setting up a Facebook shop, but these are the players I think are serious. There are many shopping carts and ecommerce platforms (Big Commerce, Cartfly, etc.) that allow merchants to sell their products directly on Facebook, but if you’re a merchant, please don’t make a decision on an ecommerce platform based on this one feature.
I’m not the first to report on this. Make sure to read Inc.’s coverage from April.