CoolSavings to Launch Comparison Shopping Engine

Incentive marketer coolsavings.com said Monday that it plans to roll out a free, comparison-shopping engine that will incorporate its couponing and incentive marketing technology, and makes an acquisition to enable that launch.

The Chicago-based firm said it would use technology from Monday’s acquisition of Surfari, Inc. and that company’s comparison-shopping search engine, to roll out its own spin on the product, a comparison-shopping search engine that will offer incentives to users within its search results.

The search engine, which will be called CoolShopper, will likely offer users the same coupons, loyalty points, rebates, gift certificates, samples or free trials currently offered by coolsavings.com. Details of the product are still being determined, and Surfari founder Chris Mettler will stay on as a senior product manager to oversee its launch — currently slated for first quarter.

CoolShopper’s chief appeal to advertisers will be that it gives them another channel to reach consumers, just as they prepare to make a purchase.

“The opportunities available to CoolSavings as a result of Surfari’s unique technology infrastructure are remarkable and enhance our existing value proposition to both members and advertising partners,” said coolsavings.com president, chairman and chief executive officer Steven Golden.

“CoolShopper will enable us to serve a broader shopping audience with greater speed, relevance and comprehensiveness,” Golden added. “We anticipate that this technology will drive more highly qualified traffic and sales, thereby greatly benefiting our advertisers.”

CoolShopper’s contribution, however, might be larger than just the creation of another marketing channel for coolsavings.com’s advertisers. Instead, it might very well prove a salvation of sorts for online marketers, who aren’t terribly happy with online comparison-shopping engines, sites and applications — all commonly referred to as “bots”.

That’s especially true for bots like R U Sure, which runs in the background until just before the moment of a sale — and then offers alternative e-tailers with lower prices. For that reason, e-commerce advocates have been blasting shopping bots for unfairly stealing customers. While that’s debatable, the fact that bots helps consumers buy products from e-tailers based on price — rather than brand — plainly has marketers worried.

But co-opting a shopping bot and turning it into a vehicle for acquisition and retention might make good sense, especially if coolsavings’ CoolShopper, gains traction among the company’s 11 million reported users.

Terms of the Surfari acquisition were not disclosed, although coolsavings.com said that it would be looking into additional ways of using Surfari’s technology, including a private-labeled search engine.

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