Shopping Search Update 2004, Part 2

Here’s a review of new, interesting developments at the major shopping search and comparison sites in 2004. Today: NexTag, PriceGrabber.com, Shopping.com/DealTime, and Yahoo Shopping. Part one of this series covered BizRate.com/Shopzilla, Froogle, and MSN Shopping.

NexTag

NexTag received 10.6 million monthly unique visitors as of September, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, up 138 percent from last year. The service has over 3 million product offerings from more than 3,000 merchants.

In October, the company launched a new ServicesShopping program in the U.S. for mortgages, travel, cars, real estate, and online education programs. The new offerings combine traditional shopping search tools with some interesting new features:

  • Mortgages: Fill out one form, get up to four quotes from a nationwide network of lenders.

  • Travel: NexTag developed a metasearch engine called MultiSite Search that provides real-time, side-by-side pricing from 46,000 online travel agencies and hotel merchants based on destination, hotel preferences, and arrival/departure dates. Results can be sorted by hotel, price, name, rating, airport, and seller.
  • Cars: NexTag’s car search function allows users to match car preferences with dealers with competitive price quotes in a specific area, based on Zip Code, auto preferences, and availability.
  • Real estate: Homebuyers are matched with local real estate agencies. The service also provides free home valuation service for home sellers.
  • Online education programs: Compare and apply for educational programs from online accredited colleges and universities.

In June, the company expanded internationally, debuting NexTag UK. The site already performs quite well. It’s currently the seventh most visited shopping search service in the U.K., according to Hitwise. Interestingly enough, it ranks just behind its parent, NexTag.

NexTag crawls online merchants and includes many listings at no charge. The company offers a number of programs for merchants and service providers, including bid-based sponsored listings, as well as programs for sellers in its real estate, travel, and auto comparison programs.

PriceGrabber

PriceGrabber continues to be a popular shopping search service, with 13 million unique users in November and 16 million anticipated this month, according to PriceGrabber CEO Tamim Mourad. The site features between 5 and 6 million product offerings from over 5,000 merchants and sellers, both online retailers and merchants that sell via PriceGrabber-hosted stores.

The company rolled out numerous new features this year. Mourad says the primary focus was on “rounding out” the site’s channels, which now feature 20 major product verticals. Channels introduced this year include apparel, health and beauty, and automobiles.

The automobiles channel allows users to fully configure a car, specifying the exact options, colors, and materials desired. PriceGrabber invites dealers within a set distance range of to the user to put in bids, then it conducts a 72-hour reverse auction amongst them. The dealer with the lowest offered price gets the lead for the potential buyer.

PriceGrabber added merchant coupons, allowing users to see all coupons available for individual products, in addition to rebate offers the site has displayed for years. Also new are professional reviews, review voting, and a interactive forum allowing users to ask questions of reviewers or start a discussion with other users.

In August, the company launched PriceGrabber UK, a scaled-down site currently focused on consumer electronics and home appliances.

Shopping.com/DealTime

Shopping.com’s big event this year was its successful October IPO. The site had 15.8 million unique visitors in October, according to comScore. The site features “millions” of product offerings from over 5,000 merchants.

New this year are Trusted Stores, awards that recognize high-quality merchants. To gain Shopping.com’s Trusted Store designation, a merchant must earn a cumulative user rating of at least 4 out of a possible 5; provide accurate price, shipping, and availability information; and supply clear and fair customer service policies. Merchants must be listed on Shopping.com for a minimum of three months to be eligible for the designation.

In conjunction with the Trusted Stores program, Shopping.com introduced the Smart Buy program, which displays the lowest price from a Trusted Store for a given item. Smart Buy listings appear in the fourth spot on product listing pages and are highlighted with a blue background. A merchant cannot be buy or bid for a Smart Buy position.

Shopping.com also launched a Cash Back program, a rebate of up to 5 percent from participating retailers.

Yahoo Shopping

Yahoo Shopping is the most popular shopping search and product comparison service, according to Hitwise. The site features over 50 million product offerings from 200,000+ merchants, making it the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.

This year, Yahoo focused on improving the relevance of shopping search results by creating something called “attribute search,” according to Rob Solomon, Yahoo Shopping VP and general manager. Essentially, this means tagging product offers with relevant additional metadata, either manually or automatically, to better describe product attributes.

Yahoo also added tax and shipping information, as well as the ability to compare products side by side for all 50 million offers in the database.

Another user interface improvement is the ability to save and share results. Users can permanently save information in a personal “products locker.” The information can easily be emailed to anyone.

In 2005, Yahoo will beef up community, personalization, and customization features, similar to features rolled out this year by Yahoo Local and My Yahoo Search.

This column was adopted from ClickZ’s SearchEngineWatch.com. A longer, more detailed version is available to paid Search Engine Watch members.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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