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Understanding price comparison and shopping websites

Price / Shopping Comparison sites explained

Shopping or price comparison websites are a type of web directory with many hundreds of product listings that allow consumers to search and compare products across different categories. These comparison sites provide product listings from a wide range of retailers, together with product prices, product descriptions (including their photograph) and consumer reviews. This enables consumers to view the same / similar products from different retailers alongside each other.

Shopping or Price comparison sites generally do not charge users anything to access their site. Instead, they earn through the subscription money received as payments from retailers listed on their site and/or click through on the products listed on their sites.

Depending on different business models of the comparison or shopping sites, retailers will either pay a flat fee to be included on the website or pay a fee each time a user clicks through to the retailer site or pay every time a user completes a specified action – e.g. when they buy something or register with their e-mail address. At times these comparison sites display search results according to the amount of payment received from advertisers for listing on their site.

Getting listed on comparison sites

Price comparison websites generally collect data directly from retailers. Businesses wanting to have their products listed send products and price lists which are matched against the original database collected by comparison site’s internet crawlers and their (manual) business intelligence gathering team. Another way comparison sites collect their data is through some third party businesses that aggregate data on their behalf e.g. affiliate networks like LinkShare and Commission Junction that collect data feeds from multiple retailers.

An alternative approach followed by comparison sites is to work like ‘price search engines’ independently i.e. trawling the web and scanning retail web pages to retrieve their prices, instead of relying on retailers to send them. Leveraging this search engine process, price comparison sites are now at times using “comparison site optimisation”. This attempts to increase prominence of the submitted content of your business, on the comparison sites by optimising titles, prices and content.

Popular Australian price comparison websites are Shopbot.com.au, Getprice.com.au
Myshopping.com.au, whilst popular global websites are froogle.com,bizrate.com, and mysimon.com.

Retailers and customers both benefit

One of the key consumer benefits of these price comparison sites is the convenience factor. Consumers can easily evaluate different product options from different retailers all at once through a single web site. On the other hand, retailers also stand to benefit as they gain a cost effective marketing medium that is growing in popularity. Comparison sites are great sales enablers and the research shows that they reach out to thousands of relevant consumers. These sites allow retailers to control the freshness and accuracy of their product information displayed on the comparison webpages. Most websites allow the retailer to provide an XML feed to keep the comparison websites updated daily, weekly or monthly basis with new products, price changes, special offers and discontinued products.

Irrespective of the shopping comparison site you choose to have your offerings listed; it is essential that you do measure the return on your marketing investment. roi.com.au’s experts routinely track such client marketing campaigns on different price comparison sites. roi.com.au helps in preparing data feeds that have to be optimised differently.