September 21, 2004, 12:00 AM

AOL and BizRate Partner at new Shopping Site

Non-AOL members will get much of the same functionality as members at inStore, a new shopping site by AOL. In addition, AOL has narrowed the number of featured retailers at the site and incorporated search technology from BizRate into AOL’s own systems.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

American Online has launched its new inStore online shopping destination that gives non-AOL members most of the same capabilities that members get, dramatically reduces the number of retail partners featured on the site and combines AOL’s comparison shopping search platform with technology from BizRate.com.

The centerpiece of the new site is PinPoint Shopping, a new shopping search tool that allows consumers to compare features and prices of millions of products from thousands of online merchants. That feature combines BizRate’s platform, which weighs price, popularity and availability of products against the reputations of merchants with AOL’s own shopping search technology, which is driven by features-filtering, remember capabilities and alert features.

AOL executives say the launch was preceded by a survey of AOL members and nonmembers about how they like to shop online and their frustrations with current shopping sites. Also, non-AOL members shopping via the web will get most of the same functionality as AOL members that go directly to the AOL site. Previously, nonmembers could shop at AOL’s web site, but were not offered the same functionality, an AOL spokeswoman says.

AOL has cut back the number of featured retailers from 300 to 70. The spokeswoman explains the previous number was confusing to many consumers and the 70 selected are among the largest retailers on the web. The search tool will still provide product suggestions from more than 48,000 retailers.

Other features of Pinpoint include Rapport, an intuitive natural language used in the search; BizRate’s Smiley Scale ratings; a “remember it” option that allows consumers to mark items they’re interested in; and alerts that notify customers when their favorite stores have special offerings. Users will also be able to customize their sites to list their favorite stores, get localized promotions and utilize a feature that allows them to shop online with their friends.

One feature that will be available to members and not to nonmembers is the ability to integrate shopping data into the calendar available at the AOL site. This allows consumers to be notified on their calendar when their favorite stores have sales.

 

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