Alibaba Buys Auctiva

August 24, 2010

After acquiring Vendio just a couple months back, Alibaba just purchased Auctiva. Vendio and Auctiva run in the same circles, but according to the FT, “Auctiva is larger, processing about $5bn in goods annually versus $2bn at Vendio, said Alibaba chief executive David Wei.”

This is part of Alibaba’s $100M plan to invest in AliExpress, encouraging sellers to source products from China.

Who will Alibaba buy next? Will this force eBay to make a move?

Ina Steiner of AuctionBytes:

It will be interesting to see how Alibaba will consolidate Vendio and Auctiva’s tools. I especially wonder what eBay thinks of its Chinese rival now owning two important third-party vendors and having access to rich data about its sales and its sellers.


Rightcliq Just Seems Wrong

August 17, 2010

I haven’t even used it yet, but I’m already completely put off by Visa’s Rightcliq.

1. I couldn’t create an account through Firefox, even after I upgraded to 3.6.8. I had to use IE.
2. They had me setup 4 security questions.
3. I find out it’s a downloadable browser application/plugin…which is now attached to IE, a browser that I rarely use.
4. Now that it’s installed, it’s causing IE to crash.

This is too hard. I still really have no idea what Rightcliq is and now I don’t really want to know. Maybe it turns out to be the most amazing shopping app ever, but if my experience is any indication, no one will ever know.


Techcrunch is reporting that Google will buy Like.com

August 16, 2010

Techcrunch says Google will acquire Like.com for $100M+.

I don’t really understand why Google would need Like from the retail/ecommerce perspective. Google already has barcode scanning technology and voice search for mobile. Google Ventures recently invested in Pixazza, which crowdsources image tagging. The flavor of the year seems to be 2D barcodes from the likes of ScanLife. The Riya/Like.com technology hedges Google’s bets, but if this rumor turns out to be true, I think this is more about the non-retail/ecommerce potential. Google recently revamped its image search UI and seems to be spending more time with image search.

There’s still a really cool vision where I’ll walk down the street, see a shirt that I like, snap a photo, and have Google Image Search/Google Places/Google Shopping bring up the best match from local or online retailers, but I don’t think that’s what this rumored acquisition is about…at least not today.


Loving NexTag’s New Look

August 12, 2010

Well, ‘new look’ might be going a little too far. NexTag still looks like it was designed by an engineer in 1998, but they have rolled out small but possibly significant changes recently:
1. BIG search box. NexTag has now joined the rest of the major shopping engines with a focus on Search. There’s now a big, prominent search box across the entire page as opposed to the former, much smaller version.
nextag search box

2. Deals. There’s a ‘Featured Deals’ box in the middle of the page which drives consumers into a revamped NexTag Deals section which highlights coupons, rebates, and price drops. The economy stinks…all shopping sites should revamp their deals section! Or they can just let Google Product Search eat their lunch again with the eventual launch of Google Deals.
nextag shopping deals

3. Social. NexTag is displaying recent Facebook sharing activity right on the homepage. While not the vision of social shopping that are dancing in people’s heads, it’s a start.
nextag social shopping

None of these changes are revolutionary, but it’s good to see NexTag testing a slightly different look. All of the shopping engines are going to have to get a lot more aggressive in building a better user experience (Shopzilla has Beso, for example) so consumers actually remember they were on the shopping engine and think about returning.


Shopzilla Q2 2010 Revenue down 8.6% Y/Y

August 9, 2010

Shopzilla, which is the Interactive Services division of Scripps Network Interactive, saw revenue decline 8.6% compared to last year. Here are the details from the press release:

Interactive Services revenue was $37.3 million compared with $40.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

Segment expenses decreased 6.3 percent to $31.3 million.

Segment profit was $6.0 million compared with $7.3 million.

Direct leads to Shopzilla merchant partners increased 20 percent year-over-year during the quarter. The lead volume metric measures the value Shopzilla delivers to its merchant partners, as well as the level of engagement consumers have with its branded comparison shopping Web sites, BizRate.com, Beso and Shopzilla.com.

Yes, the bad economy has battered the shopping engines, but Google has also put tremendous pressure on Shopzilla, Shopping.com, PriceGrabber, etc. Back in the boom days, Shopzilla delivered revenue of $50M+ in in the second quarter:
-Q2 2006: $65M Revenue, $16.5M Earnings*
-Q2 2007: $59M Revenue, $6.8M Earnings*
-Q2 2008: $57.2M Revenue, $12.9M Earnings*

Shopzilla should be applauded for maintaining revenue of aprx. $37M in such a tough environment, but it’s obviously coming at a higher and higher cost. If leads to Shopzilla merchants increased 20% Y/Y but revenue decreased 8.6%, that means that Shopzilla is not able to monetize leads to merchants as well as before, most likely because the company has to pay a hefty revenue share to its publisher partners. I talked about this last quarter as well. The introduction of a site like Beso, which according to Compete has reached nearly 1M unique users (very cool to see), is a necessary step for Shopzilla, but it’s not enough.

And I’m not sure what is enough at this point.

*I’m 97% sure I’m accurate with these numbers. I can show multiple examples where Shopzilla revenue was reported differently at different times. And I’m not talking about adjustments due to uSwitch. A press release would say revenue = $x and then the next year it would say revenue grew y% to $z, but those numbers didn’t always add up.


Bing Shopping Launches

August 1, 2010

Bing Shopping officially launched yesterday, putting an end to the Bing Cashback experiment. While Bing Shopping doesn’t have Google-esque unique user numbers, it doesn’t matter. Bing Shopping is now a free shopping engine just like Google Shopping, so merchants will flock to the service. SingleFeed pre-registered our merchants for Bing Shopping and the response was impressive.

In the end, though, results are what matter. After the initial excitement of another free shopping engine, Bing Shopping needs to provide significant value for merchants in order for them to take this new venture seriously. You might say that because it’s free, they don’t have to do much to succeed. I disagree. I think that even though it’s free, Bing Shopping still has to provide solid traffic and sales in order to be taken seriously and capture mind share.

Why is mind share important?

Merchants are stretched thin with all their online marketing activities. SEO, PPC, Affiliate Programs, Shopping Engines, Email, Display, etc. When I was running PPC campaigns for clients back in the late 90s and early 00s, I remember testing FindWhat, Ah-ha, Kanoodle, Looksmart, and others, but in the end, my mind share was captured by the leaders. Same with SEO. Eventually, it was really about getting to the top of Google.

The same can be said with the shopping engines. Google Product Search, Shopzilla, Shopping.com, NexTag, and PriceGrabber and to a lesser extent Pronto, Amazon Product Ads, Become, and Smarter drive a lot of high quality traffic to merchants. Then there are a lot of others that just don’t get the same mind share because merchants know that optimizing for an engine which doesn’t have significant traffic or that doesn’t drive sales is not worthwhile when there are so many other shopping engines and marketing channels to consider.

Now that Bing Shopping is free, the depth and breadth of listings should dramatically improve. Then it’s up to Bing to provide a great shopping experience that makes consumers want to come back. On day 1, Bing Shopping is highlighting a Back to School section. Even though the associated landing page makes no sense (why Art Supplies?), I’ve always liked this type of merchandising. Other features of Bing Shopping include shopping slideshows, easy sharing functionality (for Twitter, Facebook and Email), a mix of expert and user Reviews, a free shipping filter, search history, and product page seller details (see below). Expect a lot more improvements on the consumer front in order to drive adoption.

Bing can always push more Instant Answers (the shopping results highlighted in Bing searches – think Google OneBox results) for shopping related queries, and they already highlight shopping results in a second tab (see below), but without a Cashback offer, they are going to have to build a great shopping search experience. The nice thing is that now that Bing Shopping is free, Bing Shopping doesn’t have to worry about getting consumers to click out as quickly as possible in order to monetize. Many of the paid shopping engines just try to get consumers to click out on multiple listings as they are still playing an (ever increasingly difficult) arbitrage game on Google AdWords. Bing Shopping can actually concentrate on helping consumers make the right buying decision. It’s up to AdCenter to provide high quality ads in the periphery to help monetize the searches.

Bing Search Result:
-note the instant answers, second tab for shopping results
bing shopping search results

Bing Shopping Product Page:
-note the plus box for more in depth merchant information
bing shopping product page


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