September 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

MSN moves into the comparison shopping arena

In August, Microsoft re-launched MSN Shopping as a comparison shopping engine and formed an alliance with Shopping.com.

Internet Retailer

The battle for comparison shoppers is becoming a lot more competitive. Not only did the granddaddies of comparison sites-Shopzilla and Shopping.com-get rich new parents this summer, but now Microsoft wants in on the game. In August, Microsoft re-launched MSN Shopping as a comparison shopping engine and formed an alliance with Shopping.com.

The new MSN Shopping offers five times the number of items and 60 times the number of stores than the earlier site, as well as access to the Shopping.com network, which includes 80% of the world’s top 300 retailers.

The revised shopping portal enables shoppers to find products by brand, price, features, and most popular and highest user ratings. The portal has more than 70,000 product reviews and more than 170,000 merchant ratings. Users also can add their own reviews and ratings. “That’s really core functionality,” says Patti Freeman Evans, analyst at Jupiter Research.

While the re-launched site doesn’t offer shoppers a larger selection of products than Shopping.com, it makes MSN competitive with other shopping portals, Freeman Evans says. And it gives MSN Shopping’s own customers-who might not feel comfortable making purchases at or might not even know about Shopping.com-access to more products.

The new shopping portal allows shoppers to pull shopping content from any results page. It also gives users the ability to review links from the last five products, categories, search queries or saved pages, MSN says. In addition, customers can sign up for updates on pricing and new products for categories and products they shop for most often.

Through MSN’s alliance with Shopping.com, customers will gain access to merchants in categories that include consumer electronics, home and garden, media, sporting goods, clothing and jewelry. Shopping.com’s merchant network represents more than 10,000 merchants.

MSN Shopping is the most recent shopping portal to beef-up its features, following in the footsteps of Yahoo and AOL’s inStore, which upgraded their sites earlier this year. m

 

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