107 posts categorized "CSE News"

Feb 22, 2010

BizRank - BizRate Product Ranking

BizRate already displays product ratings on some products but they appear to be working on some new aspect of this function called BizRank.  Though there is no content appearing in the BizRank area on this example, the page code indicates that BizRank will consist of a numeric product rank and a text equivalent.


Jan 11, 2010

Yahoo Shopping Announces Partnership with PriceGrabber

Yahoo sent emails to their merchants today indicating that the Yahoo Product Submit program will close March 11, 2010.  Yahoo Shopping as a destination will continue to exist but will be powered by PriceGrabber. This means if you are advertising on Yahoo Shopping via the Product Submit interface right now, but not on PriceGrabber, and you want your offers to stay live on Yahoo Shopping, you should begin advertising with PriceGrabber to ensure your offers will continue to appear on Yahoo Shopping after March 11.

This is definitely big news in that Yahoo Shopping consistently sits at or near the top of the CSE ComScore rankings as the top receiver of unique visitors. Even though the rate of click through to merchant sites is much lower on Yahoo Shopping than other CSEs, this announcement is still a pretty significant win for PriceGrabber. And though their partner network already includes big names like AOL and CNET, this deal is sure to increase their traffic volume pretty significantly.

It is worth noting, however, that for many retailers, traffic from Yahoo Shopping tends to convert pretty poorly compared to other CSE engines/networks, so it is very possible that come March 11, the conversion rate for existing PriceGrabber advertisers will decline. The quality of the data delivered to Yahoo by PriceGrabber is likely to be higher than that of the data Yahoo was able to collect and organize themselves. It is also possible that the user experience will be changed in a way that could help conversion out, but the most likely root of the lower conversion rate from Yahoo Shopping is simply the intent of their users, which is unlikely to change. So though the user may benefit to some degree by this, the biggest beneficiaries are Yahoo, who no longer has to maintain the back end, and PriceGrabber, who gets the traffic through their network. Which of these two won out the most is unknown as it would depend on the terms of the deal.

From the perspective of the merchant, the complexity goes down a bit as one less feed is required, but an element of control disappears as well. As I mentioned in my last post, many engines don't like discussing their partner network members. They prefer to distribute all content to all partners and only back off when problems arise.

We work with merchants who have shut down their Yahoo Product Submit feeds specifically because of the low conversion rate, and they will now be back on Yahoo Shopping via PriceGrabber, probably facing pretty much the same conversion challenge but with no easy way to completely turn it off.

It's interesting that is happening on the heels of the Yahoo Search Submit Pro shutdown and just over a year after Yahoo sold off Kelkoo. Data feed marketing is clearly not a space in which Yahoo sees a future for themselves.

Original email:

Important: Product Submit changes coming soon. Action required.

Dear Advertiser,

We have important news that will affect your product listings on Yahoo! Shopping and that will require you to take action.

As of March 11, 2010, Yahoo! Shopping is partnering with PriceGrabber.
This partnership will provide you with greater access to more potential customers and to enhanced reporting. It will give you the opportunity to list your products either on Yahoo! Shopping only or on both Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber.

Because of this change, your Yahoo! Product Submit account will no longer be available on March 11, 2010. After March 11, 2010, to list your products either on Yahoo! Shopping only or on Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber, you must sign up for a new merchant account with PriceGrabber. To ensure your products are live on Yahoo! Shopping on March 11, 2010, you must sign up for a PriceGrabber merchant account from January 11, 2010, through January 19, 2010. Signing up is fast and easy.

If you sign up before March 11, 2010, any applicable set up fees will be waived!

To start, just click the link below:

Sign up now for a new merchant account with PriceGrabber.

If you do nothing and do not sign up for a new merchant account, your products will only be listed on Yahoo! Shopping through March 11, 2010. After March 11, 2010, your products will no longer be listed.

PLEASE NOTE: If you already have a merchant account with PriceGrabber, you do not need to sign up for a new account. Your products will automatically be listed on both Pricegrabber and Yahoo! Shopping on March 11, 2010.

Your Key Dates to Remember:

January 11, 2010

January 19, 2010

March 11, 2010

Sign up for your new PriceGrabber merchant account with Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber or with just Yahoo! Shopping.

Last day to sign up for a PriceGrabber merchant account to ensure your products are listed on Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber when Yahoo! Product Submit is discontinued on March 11, 2010.

The Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber partnership takes effect. If you have not signed up for a new PriceGrabber merchant account, this is the last day your products will be listed on Yahoo! Shopping.

If you have any questions about this change, a Customer Care representative will be happy to answer them.

Best regards,
The Yahoo! Product Submit team

Oct 30, 2009

Comparison Shopping Holiday Rate Increase Round Up

'Tis the season for comparison shopping rate increases.

We have a whitepaper available for download with a review of the changes engines have made this year as well as details on what rate changes engines will be making this holiday season. 

We've consolidated a snapshot the rate change info onto a single page of the ChannelAdvisor Strategy and Support Center. We'll continue to update as we get more information, particularly in the UK where we only have confirmation in a few cases.

2009 Comparison Shopping Holiday Rate Changes

Oct 18, 2009

Sears Testing Integration with Shop.com

Last month on sister blog Amazon Strategies, initial insight into what Sears is planning in terms of marketplace expansion was revealed. It appears that Sears has continued to move forward, at least on the CPC side, as they are currently beta testing an integration with Shop.com.

In the current configuration, third party retailer offers appears in results next to products sold by Sears Holding's brands. From running a few queries, tt appears the third party offers are listed after the native listings unless the Sears offerings relevance is extremely poor. Sears brands are always perched atop the merchant list as well. Since it's their site, both of these are expected from a user experience perspective. It's also worth noting that the product pages promote the top ranked offer significantly over the remaining merchants. When Sears carries the item, the remaining offers are at the very bottom of the page. When Sears is not in the picture, the lead merchant gets strong emphasis over other merchant offers. Many consumers probably won't even see the other offers on these pages.

This integration seems to be a big win for Shop.com, which has a solid offering but certainly not the largest product catalog in the CSE space. Since Shop.com pulls some of their offer data from the Shopping.com database, Shopping.com is secondarily looped into the Sears expansion. So if you have live listings with Shop.com or Shopping.com, your offers could be live on Sears.com soon.

The real question will become, which is the best method for advertising products on Sears.com?  The varying rate cards of Sears.com, Shop.com and Shopping.com will certainly come into the evaluation process. For example, if you are a jewelry seller, you may be best off sending your products to Shopping.com only since they charge $0.50 per click compared to $0.55 by Sears or $0.75 by Shop.com. The Sears rate card has ranges for some categories so it's hard to compare directly in those cases without more information, especially against Shopping.com where pricing is tiered by product price.

One major upside for the Sears program is the daily budget option, currently available in Amazon's very similar Product Ads program but not on other CSEs. One major downside, though, is that they are only accepting manual uploads of offer data through their interface at this time, meaning keeping prices and stock up to date is more painful.

There is also the display/exposure question. It seems likely that Sears will promote more highly the products they can monetize at a higher level. It may vary but one would think direct Sears offers would mean maximum advertising spend to Sears more often than not.

Only time will tell, but with the traffic volume Sears.com sees, this program has the opportunity to make a significant impact on existing campaigns through Shop.com or Shopping.com, especially if this goes live before the holidays.


Oct 12, 2009

Shopzilla EU Sites Mirror Bizrate Designs

Shopzilla UK, DE and FR have changed their designs to directly mirror that of the Bizrate sites. The Shopzilla US site does not appear to have changed at all and is still quite different from the Bizrate US home page.

The changes suggest that perhaps the burden of maintaining two different sites is more trouble than it's worth for Shopzilla in Europe. Similar layouts would certainly make site maintenance easier, as well as standardize the display advertising inventory. Though the layouts are the same, the order of categories and other content is not identical between the Shopzilla and Bizrate sites, indicating that either the content is dynamic based on user behavior, or Shopzilla is using this opportunity to test different configurations.

This change also could be good for Shopzilla users as it seemed like the content on the old Shopzilla UK home page had been there an awfully long time.



Sep 30, 2009

NexTag Testing a New Look

It seems that only a subset of users are seeing this, but NexTag is trying out a new look.

The home page has a larger splash area (which is currently Halloween focused), a very large search box, and more prominent navigation tabs.

The results pages are bolder and more colorful. The plus below the image lets you add the item to your shopping list, the chain finds similar products and the magnifying glass drills down to the product page (or to the retailer if no product page exists).

The price box on the right makes the offers stand out more. The big "Go!" buttons look nice, but they skip the product page and go directly to the retailer, which may have impact on conversion rate. But for the holiday shopping season, that could be a very desirable placement to drive volume. The "overview" page on Yahoo shopping and the coming Shopping.com product pages have similar "top offer" type areas, but unfortunately neither has the ability to notify merchants when they fall out of that placements. Maybe NexTag will be the first.

It's a little surprising that the NexTag logo on the results page pushes all the other content down and stands alone. Seems like a lot of white space. 



Sep 28, 2009

New Google Product Search Merchant Center and Merchant Blog

Google unveiled it's new Product Search Merchant Center today. The new interface consists mainly of existing features from the Google Base interface but repackaged and with some new navigation. In addition, Google introduced their new Merchant Blog. Since the vanity url for the merchant center (google.com/merchants) is much more widely focused, it may indicate that though this currently focuses on Product Search Merchants, it could become a centralized hub for retailers, integrating other Google products. Then again, it seems like having a retail focused version of AdWords with this Product Search merchant center integrated into it would make more sense.

Either way, I'm excited to see this and hope it leads to a higher level of engagement with merchants. Though the vast majority of online retailers are Google customers in some way, the only other retail specific Google vanity url of which I am aware (google.com/retail) points to Google's Retail Industry Knowledge Center, where the latest newsletter is dated April 2008.

Sep 21, 2009

Shopping.com Focusing on Engagement, User Experience, Traffic Quality

Historically, CSEs have been focused first and foremost on monetization, which in a CPC model generally means delivering traffic to retailers as quickly as possible. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the general tone of CSEs change to be more sensitive to merchant needs in terms of traffic quality and therefore, profitability. Shopping.com has been among those at the forefront of this shift, and over the last year or two, has taken several steps that are a direct reflection of that sentiment. Value based pricing, product level cost reporting automation, international traffic filtering, and CPC/logo pricing changes have all been well received by retailers over that time frame. Now, Shopping.com is continuing the trend by working to qualify consumers before the click, while also improving the customer experience.

In the spring, Shopping.com rolled out a new shopping experience in their shoe category. The new pages offered larger images, improved navigation, and clearer information on size and color. These changes resulted in some pretty strong stats, including a 55% increase in conversion rate. During this same time frame, they worked to expand their feed specification, asking merchants for more detailed product information. They are now looking to replicate that success in engagement and traffic quality in other categories. The new product pages they are rolling out later this year are heavy on content, integrating not only the merchant data from the expanded feed specification but also more detailed product rating info and third party video content. To help users find products more easily, they’ve improved their search algorithm. And not to be left out of the social networking trend, Shopping.com is introducing MyShopping pages to allow users to save favorites, create shopping lists, and generally spend more time on Shopping.com.

One thing is certain: the Shopping.com team has been very busy. They’ve built some significant enhancements to their program and are clearly working to strengthen their value proposition in the hopes of building a more loyal user base. In doing so, they’re stealing Bing Shopping’s thunder as a more effective “decision engine” through delivery of more relevant content, and positioning what their algorithm sees as the few “best” offers above the fold on the new product pages. (However, Shopping.com is not giving away money the way Bing is.)

Shopping.com is trying to strengthen its value proposition to merchants, too. Many CSEs have product rating content on site, either within their own system or powered by a third party. However, Shopping.com is putting a new twist on this by rolling out a product rating function that can integrate into retail sites at no charge. This allows retailers to gain such functionality at no cost, which is a big plus for smaller retailers. Shopping.com can then use that aggregated content on its properties. This effectively places them in competition with the PowerReviews Express product, though the enterprise level solutions of PowerReviews, BazaarVoice and Easy2 Technologies are likely not a long term competitive target.

Definitely looking forward to seeing the impact of these enhancements, and to the continued trend of delivering qualified traffic.

Sep 08, 2009

Google Advertising Product Search on AdWords

We recently noticed that Google is "buying" AdWords ads that point to Google Product Search pages. This seems to be focused on very generic terms such as laptop, shoes, and digital cameras. Most of the ads we've seen have been in position five through nine, but in some cases, as high as two. In all cases, the landing page for the ad is just a search on the original query or a very similar term, meaning from the user's perspective, it is just like clicking on the "shopping" link at the top of SERPs.

Back in 2006, Google commented on the use of AdWords to promote their own products. Though there is quite a bit of language here around tools, algorithms, and quality scores, the relationship between the budget assigned to campaigns and the value to Google is not discussed in much detail. Google has indicated that "aggregators" that do not contain "original content" are likely to generate low landing page quality scores, which would need to be offset with high bids or click through rates. It's hard to know what the CTR is on these ads, but since Google is essentially paying themselves, it doesn't really matter. Their budgets can't literally be anything but they can certainly bid aggressively. The only thing they really lose is opportunity cost of other advertisers in those slots. Instead of selling that space, Google is driving this traffic to product search pages, which do contain ads, but not ads that are any different or better than the SERP the user is being taken away from. This implies that Google wants to drive users to product search links, which are currently not monetized, instead of ads that are monetized. It's possible they just want to build awareness of Product Search, but if these ads vanish, many users will not be able to find their way back to Product Search next time.

This is certainly good news for merchants with strong placement on Google Product Search pages for very generic queries like those on which Google is currently bidding as it could result in spikes of free traffic. It's not good news for other "aggregators" such as comparison shopping engines, who not only now have another competitor in AdWords, but are paying someone other than themselves for advertising and are therefore constrained by costs and performance metrics. This is also true for retailers, marketplaces, and any other AdWords advertisers bidding on these terms as a new competitor with effectively no budget constraints that are not bound by the same metrics has entered the playing field.

This has a wide range of implications for users, advertisers, and for Google. Just on the few queries that we identified, using Google's own traffic estimator tool, we estimate this to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars of monthly spend. That is lost money for Google, but also lost business for other AdWords advertisers. We'd love to hear from readers on what this means for your business.


Aug 26, 2009

Bing Double Cashback ends Aug 27

Bing notified merchants via email yesterday that their highly successful double cash back promotion will end August 27th. The exact end date was previously unpublished.

Internet Retailer reported last week that Bing requested some merchants pull back on their cash back offerings to help extend the life of the program. The article suggests a few retailers of high dollar items were soaking up an unusually large percentage of the available funds that were making the program more difficult to sustain, but it's possible that the success of the program surpassed even Bing's own forecasts. Either way, consumers and retailers are both winners. Bing certainly benefited as well, both in terms of traffic/users and press. There has been significant coverage of the double cash back promotion, and rightfully so. Our data shows a massive increase in traffic and sales, with total revenue across our customer base more than doubling and some merchants seeing increases of 5X or more.