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11 posts from October 2007

Oct 22, 2007

Get your product-level bidding, now at Shopzilla

Somewhat on the heels of Shopping.com's announcement  that they'll offer SKU-level bidding in Q4 with beta customers comes a similar announcement by Shopzilla.

VP Bobby Benfield likened the move to bidding on search engine keywords -- in other words, retailers could bid various amounts on keywords that generate the most sales, while bidding lower amounts on products that had lower sales volume but were still worthwhile advertisements.

More info here.

Written by Scott Hurff

Oct 17, 2007

Special interview this week

Here's a hint.

The Freshest Shopping Engine

Editor's Note: This post is written by Jeff "Big Slick" Buechler, Marketing Maverick, Host of http://onlinesaleschannels.wordpress.com and ChannelAdvisor Employee.

Everyone is looking for the next killer app and a lot of people have spent a lot of money trying to monetize Web 2.0. Well I have the answer and as Paris Hilton would say, it’s hot: a celebrity endorsed shopping engine where select products are given the star’s personal seal of approval.

What do Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan all have in common? Well, other than the obvious? They all have blogs, they are all paid to endorse various products and they could all be pitchmen on my comparison shopping engine!.On my shopping engine, tentatively named Babezilla or Starazon… how about MovieBizRate (OK maybe the name needs some work) celebrities would lend their likeness or a brief note about why they like, or use a particular product.

Think about the tie-ins! Britney seen in a new wig? That picture of her on her blog would link to my site where her many adoring fans could go ahead and buy the same wig for themselves (I’m look at you Chris Crocker). Did Jessica just win an Oscar for her role in Dukes of Hazzard and you absolutely love the dress she wore to the after party? Find it here!


Movies would be dying to have promotional tie ins. The paparazzi could provide colorful insight into the events around the occasion.

Plus it opens up all new industries that had never considered comparison shopping engines before. A few that come immediately to mind: rehab clinics (buy a stay where Lindsay stayed the second time around!), body guard services, designer water (replenish your body with what Courtney Love uses after a hard night of partying), the list is nearly endless.

This idea opens up secondary markets too. Can’t afford designer items? Well, I have an alternative site for you: B-Listers.com This is where once famous celebrities can go to milk the last mileage out of their careers. Emmanuel Lewis, Tonya Harding, Todd Briges…think of anyone on the current reality TV shows. This is where some like me would shop for a uniform like Gary Coleman wears. I could also buy Danny Bonaduce endorsed brand of boxing gloves, just like he used on Celebrity Boxing!

These items can all be found on Celeb-Grabber…OK, I’ll keep working on the name.

Shopzilla to be spun off by Scripps

Scripps is divorcing its "old media" properties from the new and rolling up all the interactive units into Scripps Networks Interactive, a company which will be headed by current EW Scripps CEO Kenneth Lowe.

Scripps Interactive Networks, the new entity, will be publicly traded and

will include HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, the Fine Living Television Network, Great American Country, and their online businesses as well as shopping search engine Shopzilla and uSwitch...

And to make things even more interesting, Lowe continued to remain uncertain about Shopzilla's future, joking that the CSE should appear on the DIY channel.



[Via Red Herring]

Written by Scott Hurff

Oct 16, 2007

Become partners with Washington Post

The Post just launched a new Shopping section powered by Become's comparison shopping technology. 

I like this partnership. Get with a high-traffic, content-based / community site and add commerce.  The triple-C combo.  Bonus points for triple-word-score.

Recent partnerships / acquisitions resembling this include PopSugar + ShopStyle, Glam + ConnectCommerce (affiliate stuff), and Kaboodle + Hearst.

Completing the deal comes a new "Shop to It" blog, written by Tania Anderson ("a blogger who loves to shop"), who highlights the most loveliest deals around the DC area.

The site also features local merchants in a "window shopping" module that takes you directly to their sites.

Overall, I like the mix between local and national shopping, although I do sense some dissonance about how the site represents the two.

Written by Scott Hurff

Oct 09, 2007

Kelkoo redesigns, possibly on chopping block?

From the blog of a French Yahoo! Product Manager comes details of Kelkoo's new design, applied to all international properties and focusing on:

  • A brand new look and feel based on a more rationalized and simplified design.
  • A new optimized navigation to ease the browsing and help users find the right answer.
  • A clearer and friendly home page for better guidance to users across the site.
  • An improved Search section: new technology for better results, new filtering possibilities.
  • Personalization features: “my history” module to bookmark products, see recent searches…
  • Significant content enhancement: new shopping guides, new chart pages among several changes.

I kicked the tires on the new design and came away impressed, but not overwhelmed with awe.  As Nicolas rightly points out, though, there isn't any overarching innovation here save clever design.  What he does clarify, though, is that this overhaul gets Kelkoo into a position to have a great foundation for launching future game-changers.

Reading the various blogs about this new release, I could summarize the main feedback as: “Kelkoo is catching up with the competition, but where is the innovation?“. This judgment is pretty fair, and I really think this release lays the foundation of future innovation. Indeed, expect more releases in the coming months.

In related news, Yahoo! is rumored to be considering a Kelkoo sale.  And with any good rumor comes other rumors, so here are some excerpts from conversations happening on the topic:

Philip Wilkinson, ex-Kelkoo exec at Crowdstorm:

  • Kelkoo has not innovated since the Yahoo acquisition and has had to deal with the “corporate-ness” of the bigger company. The friends I know who are still there have kind of been indoctrinated and speak the corporate lingo fluently! Bottom line - innovation has given way to trying to satisfy headcount and strict revenue goals.
  • The Kelkoo Team has been split up - all the founders have left and the original team was split between all the Yahoo divisions (kelkoo sales merged with Yahoo sales etc…). This had the effect of taking a very knowledgable, passionate, close-knit team - and fragmenting it.
  • Traffic generation - part of Kelkoo’s success was understanding SEO before any other big player got in the game and then with PPC. About 1/3 of the traffic came from SEO, 1/3 from PPC, and 1/3 from direct to site + other. The market is now much more sophisticated with a lot of the competition becoming clever on the SEO / PPC front. Also, google has been gradually eroding the traffic as part of it’s game to try and remove middle men.
  • The business model relies on getting traffic in as cheaply as possible and converting as many as possible to merchants who pay high CPC’s. There’s a big push back from merchants who want to ensure high quality converting traffic and so go back to CPA style deals
  • The quality of the traffic it is sending through isn’t as high as it good be any more - there is more information they could learn about the user before sending it on.
  • They were late getting into the financial comparison marketplace, one which MoneySupermarket has capitalised on nicely.

Alarm:clock Euro:

Kelkoo's performance is getting squeezed by competitors, like other shopbots, according to Julien Codorniou, author of a book that tracked Kelkoo from founding to funding to acquisition. (Our book review here.)

He mentioned the bots trend when we asked him if he knew what was at the root of the Kelkoo rumors. "The high margin, high market share business that Kelkoo has is under attack," suggested Codorniou.

Codorniou who now works at Microsoft in France (his blog), also wrote: "Kelkoo has been facing new and tough competition in the last 2 years. Some shopbots now offer links for free to e-merchants, while others attack Kelkoo on their results ranking, etc.. The shopbot space is a real jungle."

Business models that worked four and five years ago are under threat from newer and leaner models, no doubt.

One thing is that the founding team didn't stay long with Yahoo post acquisition, pointed out Codorniou.

Written by Scott Hurff

MyBuys gets $10mm Series B for behavioral recommendations

Mybuys_logo_and_tag_line_630x70Merchants looking to emulate Amazon's incredibly successful -- and complex -- behavioral recommendation algorithms now have some reprieve in freshly financed MyBuys, one of a few startups seeking to solve the problem of online retailing relevance.

Getting past reviews (which are known to increase conversions), MyBuys seeks to give consumers exactly what they want once they hit your site.  They claim to be so good at it that they'll increase "revenue per interaction" by 300%.

 The company has a multi-channel approach, driving recommendations to customers through a merchant's site,9w0007 email and RSS feeds.  It does so by building "deep behavioral profiles on each and every consumer...(modeling) actionable consumer desires from transaction history, explicit interactions with consumers and analysis of their actions while shopping."

MyBuys touts their ability to customize everything from browsing behavior, search results, checkout and follow-up emails.

The company is about to launch with Ritz Camera, and partnered with PowerReviews. Competitors include Baynote, Aggregate Knowledge, MyBuys, and GlobalRoads, according to StartupSquad.

Written by Scott Hurff

Oct 08, 2007

Stylefeeder gets $1m for social shopping

Launched in 2005, acquired by TopTenSources then recently spun out, Stylefeeder just raised $1 million from Highland Capital and Schooner Capital.  SF also raised money from RSS Investors.


Comparatively, ThisNext has raised $3.5mm to date and is looking to raise $7-10mm more, so on the surface it looks like they're losing the "money game" -- SF counters this by saying that they've got the hardest part out of the way...the technology.

And that's what makes Stylefeeder interesting.  The site is actually based upon a product discovery engine (hence the "personal shopping engine" tagline), as opposed to relying on users to "suck in" products from the outside via bookmarklet or whatever.  It's also adaptive -- so, in other words, as you add products to your "stylefeed," the engine learns what styles you prefer and weights the products you're more probable to like at the top of the heap.

At the same time, Stylefeeder offers their own bookmarklet -- I suppose by offering a number of product introductory mechanisms it enriches the holistic experience.

A couple weeks ago, Stylefeeder launched a personal shopping tool that plugs into Firefox and IE, offering access to the site's functions and making it simpler to pair you up with your "StyleTwins" or sending a "Shopping SOS" in case you can't possibly decide between that black or red BMW M6. (I suppose I should be flattered, one of my top StyleTwins is John Palfrey, founder of RSS Investors and a Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society).

Again, the key part about Stylefeeder is technology.  It's fairly sophisticated stuff and enriches the process since product recommendations and StyleTwins are created on the fly and dependent upon what you as a user have added to your feed. And I've been impressed by the recommendation quality thus far.

Part of the technology behind the service is called Maximum Margin Matrix Factorization, an intense rating /recommendation algorithm that "predict(s) preferences based a user’s rating history."

Stylefeeder is based in Boston.  You should check them out; there's some great things happening there.  I can foresee an acquisition by a major mainstream CSE player.

Written by Scott Hurff

Oct 04, 2007

Rounding up CSE news

Here are some exciting little points of fun from around the CSE universe:

  • Shopatron: raises $6mm to expand already profitable operations into the business of in-store pickups.  According to VentureBeat, customers are increasingly purchasing online and picking up the product locally, in-store.  While Circuit City and Wal-Mart already offer this, the company offers software packages and support for handling logistics.  They make money by sharing profits three ways with manufacturers and retailers.
  • ShopStyle gets Sugar-ized: bootstrapped-turned-VC-backed Sugar Publishing (now renamed Sugar Inc) acquired ShopStyle to add into the content / community mix a commerce component.  ShopStyle competes with ThisNext and Stylefeeder, but is more focused on women and fits in well with Sugar's demographic.  No terms were disclosed. This marks the second acquisition of a social shopping site, with Kaboodle being the first to sell for $30mm.
  • Kelkoo: Yahoo! might be looking to offload Kelkoo, no doubt as part of a deep look into restructuring spurred by Semel's departure in June.
  • Amazon: about to launch a massive redesign with much-improved navigation.  It's no secret that Amazon is a data-intensive company and performs A/B tests all the time, so this overhaul no doubt comes with some impressive performance upticks.  Should be good news for sellers.

Written by Scott Hurff

Oct 02, 2007

Big news: Microsoft acquires Jellyfish

Microsoft just acquired Jellyfish for an undisclosed amount; Jellyfish had raised $5mm in venture.

Jellyfish will maintain its identity and will stay in Madison, WI.

It looks like the purchase was partly to leverage the technology for search -- over at the Live Search blog, they write:

We think the technology has some interesting potential applications as we continue to invest heavily in shopping and commerce as a key component of Live Search.

Congrats Jellyfish! 

(via TechCrunch)

By Scott Hurff