StartupSmart blogger Wai Hong Fong’s piece on Tuesday, entitled Google Shopping and the death of comparison shopping engines questioned the viability of online shopping comparison sites, provoking a strong reaction from the industry.
Below, David Whiteman, marketing director of GetPrice.com.au, has written a rebuttal to Fong’s assertions.
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Wai Hong Fong’s recent article in ‘SEO for start‐ups’ presents an interesting speculation about the effect the recent launch of Google Shopping in Australia may have on comparison shopping engines and posed some valid questions retailers should be asking themselves when considering online media.
However, there were a few important points that were overlooked.
Firstly, the assumption that comparison shopping engines (CSEs) have universally seen large drops in traffic due to the Google Panda (aka ‘Farmer’) update is incorrect.
The public data available from third parties like Searchmetrics, which monitors the visibility of a subset of keywords, illustrates there are both winners and losers.
But, more importantly, it does not consider the millions of other queries covered by most comparison shopping engines.
Data from measurement services like Compete confirm that many comparison shopping engines in the US that have been unaffected by the change.
At Getprice, we certainly have not seen any negative effect on SEO traffic from the Panda update.
While Google Shopping brings an interesting new dynamic to the market, it absolutely does not mean there is no longer a place for comparison shopping sites.
Like all industries, comparison shopping comprises of different businesses delivering different experiences. It is not a “winner takes all” scenario.
Smart retailers view their online marketing strategy holistically and understand the role each one of those channels plays in generating sales.
There are a couple of considerations to bear in mind when thinking about comparison shopping:
CSEs help ensure you’re behind every door on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
As a retailer you may be competing with other retailers, brands, blogs, comparison shopping sites, Google and yes, even yourself, for visibility on the SERP. However, rather than being afraid of Cannibalisation, consider how you can have the best chance of getting a conversion from every search.
Having a presence in each one of the channels or “doorways” featured on the SERP significantly increases your chances of getting found and making a sale.
Like all media, the higher the frequency of exposure, the better. The search process is complicated and non‐linear and many customers will visit a retail site more than once, entering from a variety of sources, before they purchase.
A retailer can’t afford to shut any of these doors if it expects to be competitive, especially when most online media in retail is performance‐based. There’s really nothing to lose if you have a reliable way to measure success.
Not all CSEs are created equal
Rather than being a one‐dimensional product search engine, a good CSE operates as the distribution hub of a broader network. CSEs should leverage quality data to increase retailer visibility across the web and other platforms.
Another important point to consider is how your brand is represented throughout the comparison shopping process.
A product search engine doesn’t give retailers the opportunity to meaningfully communicate their offering beyond the product or price and doesn’t enable differentiation based on all the “soft” factors like reputation, policies and service levels.
That does not make for great advertiser value or a particularly good user experience. We call Getprice a shopping destination, rather than a comparison search engine, and our user experience reflects that.
Brand environment is something every retailer should consider carefully and the value of that should be measured beyond the last click.
Yes, online shopping is growing exponentially and the market is getting crowded. But as the industry evolves so do shoppers as they become more sophisticated and hungrier for information.
Comparison shopping engines create a number of irreplaceable reference points along the path to purchase and, at least from where I’m standing, we’re continuing to grow and thrive.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below.