PriceGrabber President Resigns

November 19, 2010

Just got confirmation that PriceGrabber’s president resigned last week.

PriceGrabber says “Laura Conrad, president of PriceGrabber, has announced her retirement from PriceGrabber. She will remain President of PriceGrabber through at least the end of the year, leading the company through the critical holiday shopping period ensuring merchants, affiliates and consumers a seamless transition in leadership. PriceGrabber remains dedicated to its merchants and affiliates, as well as providing a comprehensive shopping solution to its users.”

Laura came to PriceGrabber in July of 2009 after being COO and CFO of Experian Interactive, which runs FreeCreditReport.com, LowerMyBills, ClassesUSA and PriceGrabber.com. Laura took over the leadership role from Ron Lapierre, who ran business development for PriceGrabber before taking over for CEO and Co-Founder Kamran Pourzanjani.

No word yet from PriceGrabber who will run the company or if there are any other management changes.

As a side note, if you haven’t been following Kamran since he left PriceGrabber, he now runs Bestcovery, and he recently acquired ELC Technologies, the maker of RightScale (which SingleFeed loves), among other apps.


Google Launches Boutiques.com

November 17, 2010

Update: Here’s a post from the Google Retail Blog.

The NYTimes got the scoop on Boutiques.com, which just went live. This is a Like.com inspired site. Google purchased Like.com over the summer.

From the About us page:

Boutiques.com is a personalized shopping experience, brought to you by Google, that lets you find and discover fashion goods through a collection of boutiques curated by taste-makers — celebrities, stylists, designers, and fashion bloggers. Boutiques uses visual technology to help fashionistas discover and shop their look and creates the opportunity for designers to showcase their collections and latest inspirations online.

Boutiques.com is built on technology developed by our team of fashion experts who work with engineers to “teach” our computer systems to understand various patterns, pairings, and genre definitions. When signed into your account, Boutiques.com learns about your style and preferences and in turn, provides you better results and recommendations over time. Ultimately, Boutiques.com will provide shoppers with a much richer and interactive shopping experience and help drive traffic to retailers’ websites.

The NYTimes’ article was pretty in depth, so if you want a review, go there.

My comment:
-Shopping search for hard products that normalize/sku up is pretty standard and works OK. Shopping search for soft goods like clothing is more difficult, and the shopping engines have not really offered a compelling reason for consumers to shop for apparel and accessories on their sites. That’s where Like.com and its experimental sites Covet and Couturious came into play. Visual search can be a much more attractive way to browse soft goods.

Other shopping search sites like ShopStyle (mentioned in the NYTimes article) and Polyvore have gained a following among fashionistas. They’ve basically created a 21st century lookbook. And that’s where a company like Pixazza comes around and tags every picture out there so you can buy the look you want immediately. Why should you have to change your habit and search for the right ensemble when you can just buy the celebrity look you love? And the smart fashion retailers realize this. Go to Amazon’s Shopbop, and you can checkout a slew of Lookbooks and ‘Get the Look’ immediately.

-No word of how Boutiques.com might be integrated into Google Shopping.


NexTag Rebranding, PriceGrabber Redesign

November 16, 2010

NexTag completely re-brands (click to enlarge). It’s a much friendlier external face, similar to the changes the company has made internally:
nextag re-branding

Pricegrabber re-design (click to enlarge):
pricegrabber site redesign

Big changes. Nice to see these guys try something different after all these years. These changes follow the Smarter.com redesign from a couple months back. Interesting to see these changes so far into the holiday shopping season.


Shopzilla Now Retargeting

November 10, 2010

For years, NexTag has made display advertising work. But while they’ve spent millions on impressions, no other shopping engines seemed to seriously follow suit. There have been on again off again tests, but for the first time in a while, I’m now seeing a lot of display ads from Shopzilla. Coming off of a turnaround quarter, Shopzilla might now be willing to spend to drive traffic to its properties.

Here’s the ad I saw on YouTube:

And here’s the associated Criteo page which explains the re-targeted ad:

I’ve always wondered why NexTag was able to make display work while the other shopping engines barely ran tests. These guys are all arbitrage and monetization experts. Nice to see Shopzilla stepping up its game with some re-targeting.


CPC Rate Changes – Thank you Amazon & Become

November 10, 2010

Tis the season for shopping engine CPC rate increases. Five years ago, it was common to see all the shopping engines implement a 25% CPC rate increase across the board…because, well…fork lifts also see a lift in conversion during the holiday shopping season. Yeah, I didn’t buy it either.

The original party line was that conversion rate goes up 3x during the holidays and the shopping engines were adjusting CPC rates to get their fair share for driving qualified leads. If you pressed a little bit, the shopping engines would talk about CPC rates on Google AdWords going up; and if the CSEs’ traffic acquisition costs (TACs) were rising, then they’d have to pass that additional cost onto the merchants. OK, that made sense, but that also pointed out how dependent the shopping engines are on Google AdWords.

Fast forward a couple years (to 2007), and Shopping.com did something different. They didn’t do an across the board increase in CPC rates, but rather implemented a variable rate increase. At the time, Alisa Weiner and Tomer Shoval explained:

We’ve done some analysis looking at previous years, looking at deltas in different categories in rate cards from our search partners. As opposed to one size fits all, we’ve done the analysis to figure out what’s needed to cover our costs. And we’ve moved the [rate increase] from November 1 to November 15 to better reflect when that increase kicks in. What we’re trying to do this year is be more sensitive to reflect what we’ve seen in the past. In some categories the keywords [cpc rates] increase more, in some categories the keywords [cpc rates] increase less.

So you’d expect the other shopping engines to follow suit. Well, that didn’t exactly happen the last couple years. Of the big, tier 1 shopping engines, NexTag and PriceGrabber have stuck with their across the board CPC rate increases. Bad!

Shopping.com stuck with its guns and maintains its variable rate increase. And they got Shopzilla and Pronto to copy that model.

However, for the first time in the last 5 years, two major shopping engines have no CPC rate increases. Amazon Product Ads and Become are my PPC shopping engine heroes of this holiday shopping season with no CPC rate increases in any categories.

So if you’re not up and running with Become or Amazon Product Ads, what are you waiting for?


Amazon buys Diapers.com, What’s Google to Do?

November 8, 2010

Amazon bought Quidsi, Inc., the parent of Diapers.com, Soap.com, and BeautyBar.com for $545M. Last year Amazon bought Zappos for about $1B.

This acquisition and Amazon’s continued ecommerce dominance has the greatest impact on Google. While Google’s ecommerce ambitions are widely reported, Amazon just seems to be firing on all cylinders while Google’s main ecommerce offering, Google Product Search, still says it’s in Beta. Now, I’m poking a little fun at my friends in Mountain View as Google Product Search is the largest shopping engine and Google owns a keiretsu like offering of commerce opportunities for merchants through Product Ads (a Google AdWords product), Google Checkout, Google Affiliate Network, Google Local Shopping, Google Commerce Search, and more. In other words, Google is no commerce slouch.

But Google needs to stand up and take notice of this acquisition and Amazon’s fairly fast movements because if Amazon has everything a shopper needs, Google’s relevance for shoppers is greatly diminished. And if you believe that 40% of searches are commerce related (I don’t know where that number comes from, but everyone uses it so I’m going to use it as well), then Google needs to figure out how to make sure consumers don’t bypass the search engine.

It’s not going to happen, but Google should just buy Amazon. We’d finally get the Googazon we’ve been dreaming of for years.


Shopzilla Q3 2010 Earnings – Revenue Increased 7%

November 4, 2010

Only caught a piece of the conference call as I was preparing for a couple meetings (busy morning!), but revenue was up 7.2% to $41.8M while segment profit was up 11% to $7.1M.

Highlights include strong European results, Beso reaching 2M uniques, and TaDa launching.

Read the press release.


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