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.