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Why are Comparison Shopping Engines so Important?

Wine shopping comparison websites is a seemingly dry topic but as you dig into it you see just what an opportunity it is. First let’s put it into context.

Context

The process for selling online is Traffic > Conversion > Repeat business. Wine shopping comparison websites, or comparison shopping engines (yep it has an acronym 😉 CSE), drive traffic first and foremost – and do this pretty well. Note all the major online wine stores are connected to many of the big comparison shopping engines.

The most well known one is the Google shopping results in their search results page. Wine retailers aren’t doing this very well yet so I’ve put an image of the search results page of a coffee maker to show you what a competitive category looks like.

Coffee maker google search engine results page

Google search engine results page for a coffee maker

Check out the following:

  • Shopping results in the middle with images
  • Google Checkout badge (with promo) bottom right
  • Ratings all over the place
  • Adwords dominating the results.

Remember it’s not just Google there are others like snooth.com (wine) and shopping.com (general).

Here’s some stats for shopping services for one month:

  • Google Product Search = 10,914,000
  • Yahoo! Shopping = 22,875,000
  • Shopzilla = 20,061,000
  • BizRate = 14,406,000
  • Shopping.com = 13,730,000
  • NexTag = 7,518,000
  • PriceGrabber = 4,042,000
  • Top 20 engines = 192,875,000 page views

Source: comScore Media Metrix – April 2009 traffic.

Holy cow – 192 million page views for the shopping results in April ’09!

We’ll look at these more closely in future posts, but first the big guy – Google.

Prominent Shopping Results

Google are proudly showing more specialist results.

They felt the need to revitalize their search results page and have done this by adding the left hand sidebar as well as local/map, video, image, news, discussion, social, shopping results, and more. The idea is that they can sometimes better answer your query with non text type results.

Google commissioned Enquiro to do a eye tracking study and they found people don’t scan the top ranked results as much when there are these specialist results in spots 2 or 3.

For instance if I searched for a Duckhorn Napa Merlot and saw a video review by Gary Vaynerchuk then I’d probably glance at the video thumbnail first and then watch it – irrespective of the top listing (which is probably www.duckhorn.com). In other industries the image results are very important e.g. posters or decorative plates but I’m not convinced they’re big in the wine world other than attracting interest off the top ranked result.

Enquiro has written an excellent article about this here: Eye Tracking On Universal And Personalized Search. Below is the key picture showing how different a search is when there are specialist results thrown in.

eye tracking study

Eye tracking Study. On the right is a normal search, on the left is one with an image.

So images are important for drawing attention to the specialist results.

### Sidebar note on Jargon ###

  • This approach of specialist results on the one page is called “blended” or “universal” search.
  • The specialist results themselves are called “vertical” search results.

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Google is tying their shopping results into Checkout and AdWords

The Google Checkout badge now appears in the AdWords and shopping results. But what you don’t see is all the experimentation that is going on with Google (as at mid 2010).

What you often see is the small plus sign below the search result or AdWords listing like this:the plus signClicking it can show images and prices of products listed by the merchants. Sometimes these even have drop boxes for product variants (e.g. clothing: small, large, xl etc).

Think about the ramifications!

You could now have a Google search results page for such and such a wine with

  • the first 1-2 listings being for the winery
  • next 3 spots for shopping results with an image
  • 2 spots for other comparison shopping engines
  • 1 spot for videos with thumbnails
  • and finally 1 spot for an organic result.

On the Adwords side you may have images in the ads for those merchants who use the Google product search service as well as Checkout badges.

It could be even worse if you added the idea of “above the fold” which says people only look at the listings that are shown without scrolling. This could limit the results to the top 4-6.

Fear not! The shopping comparison sites or Adwords could be taking feeds from your shop. So this is a crucial area for driving sales.

If you can’t beat ’em then join ’em

Are you going to out rank amazon, shopping.com etc not just in organic but also in adwords? … no way – take advantage of their power and submit feeds.

In my next post I’m going to talk more about how you can “join ’em” but first what are your thoughts on the importance of comparison shopping sites for the wine industry?

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  1. […] It determines that it is a wine label for Duckhorn Napa Merlot 2005 and sends a query to Google Product Search. The customer gets shopping comparison results from online websites sent to their phone while […]

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