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Using Shopping Comparison Sites to Increase Sales and Traffic

Move out of your comfort zone and play your cards right.

If you were an online shopping aficionado like me, you’ll probably be aware of the hundreds and thousands of shopping comparison sites (a.k.a. price comparison service or price engine) on the Internet, where you can see and compare the list of prices for specified products. Most shopping comparison sites don’t sell these products themselves, but source prices from merchants or retailers from whom you can buy.

Such sites encourage merchants or retailers to market their products to the masses. If you own a small ecommerce business, stepping into a competitive environment like BizRate, PriceGrabber, or Shopping.com can seem pretty daunting at first. However, you can boost the sales and traffic of your site by moving out of your comfort zone and playing your cards right.

Three Mistakes to Avoid at the Onset 
 1. Don’t end up being that low-priced guy: Try not to differentiate in terms of price alone. It’s the wrong way to go. While merchants are better off by providing a fair price, customers rarely fall for the ploy. By demanding a great product description along witha great service, customers make it apparent that it’s not just about the price. If you provide complete information about a product and demonstrate how it fulfills a particular need, customers will be able to respond to you more effectively. 

 2. Expecting too much from the site: Try to determine what the site can accomplish for you. Don’t expect too much from it. Position your goals as realistically as possible while ascertaining how much sales will be converted from the new traffic. 

 3. Start slowly and see how it goes: Launch a site or two and analyze its performance. Don’t go overboard with your stipulated budget for the site.

How does a shopping comparison site work? 
It doesn’t take much effort and time to understand how a shopping comparison site works. Such sites typically do not charge anything from users for using the site. Instead, they are monetized  through payments from merchants or retailers listed on the site, who either pay a flat fee to be listed on the site or pay a fee each time a user clicks through to the merchant or retailer website [a.k.a. Pay per click (PPC) advertising model. ] Other business models are also available, where the merchant or retailers pays each time a user completes a specified action, for instance, purchase or registration.

Shopping comparison sites receive large product data feeds covering different merchants or retailers from affiliate networks such as LinkShare and Commission Junction. By displaying products and prices from these feeds on their sites, they are able to generate revenue each time a visitor clicks through to the merchant or retailer site and makes a purchase. The user Search results are generally sorted by the amount of payment received from the merchants or retailers listed on the site.

How to select a shopping comparison site? 
With several shopping comparison sites inundating the marketplace and new sites with PPC cost model emerging by the hour, merchants and retailers are left with the difficult task of deciding which sites work out best for them. More often than not, trial and error is the only available option for merchants and retailers. 
David Saldana, owner of Mailboxixchange.com, stated,

“We noticed BizRate has better search engine optimisation, while some of the competitors use pay-per-click to generate traffic.”

Saldana tried selling products via several comparison sites during the past 18 months, but analyzed that BizRate and Shopzilla best suited his business.

“Even some of our more competitive items show up really well at BizRate, and that allows us to know we are being put out in front,” he concluded.

Pros and Cons of shopping comparison sites Shopping comparison sites serve as a powerful tool for connecting shoppers with the products they need. 

In words of Cristal Ordonez, president of Gigglingtoys.com, the traffic generated by such sites renders real benefits to small-time merchants.

“They definitely increase traffic,” said Ordonez.

Giggling Toys employs 11 comparison sites to market its children’s toys, enabling small sites to feature products next to big retailers.

“That is important especially when you are a newcomer to the industry. I find them to be really effective for brand building,” Ordonez added.

Such sites also create a platform for merchants or retailers to showcase different products.

According to Candice Mangum, owner of Bodybangles.net, a web site selling body jewelry,

“Try to put up good variety of what you have out there. Things that you would never dream will [succeed] get clicks and convert. You just never know.”

However, not everything is hunky-dory about shopping comparison sites. Such sites render an extremely competitive environment, and that can imply profit margins. 
If you are selling the same products as your adversaries, it’s going to be even more difficult to make a quick buck. 
Additionally, increased traffic to your site from shopping comparison sites doesn’t necessary translate into quality traffic.

“A lot of traffic is, of course, a good problem to have,” laments Ordonez.

“Traffic that is not qualified seems to be our biggest challenge. Even though we might get a zillion hits today, most of those are not even remotely qualified because of the way those engines operate.”

Merchants and retailers should know that competitors could raise their PPC totals, since frauds are hard to track in comparison environments. 

Saldana, Ordonez and Mangum have tasted success in shopping comparison sites because they sold unique products from the inventory.

Saldana opines, 
The marketplace is already saturated with products that you can drop ship, and it is going to be tough to make yourself stand out.” 
“We drop ship most of our products but the few products that we do not drop ship — that we know are not “drop ship-able” — give us a basic monopoly online because nobody else is willing to inventory this product. Nobody else offers it, but we do and it sells great,”
 he concluded.


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