August 8, 2006, 12:00 AM

Comparison shopping sites lead in affiliate marketing quality of experience

On a scale of 1 to 3, comparison shopping sites led in almost all categories in a survey by The E-tailing Group Inc. conducted for Performics. They rated a 3 in usability, and 2.33 in each of first impression, branding, and overall experience.

Comparison shopping sites score high compared to other types of affiliate marketing sites ranked across a range of criteria in a recent survey of 24 sites conducted by consultants The E-tailing Group Inc. on behalf of affiliate and marketing management company Performics.

On a scale of 1 to 3, comparison shopping sites led in almost all categories, rating a 3 in usability, and 2.33 in each of first impression, branding, and overall experience. The only area in which comparison shopping sites came in second in those categories was in first impression, where loyalty & rewards sites led with a ranking of 2.42. “Comparison shopping sites are big business and their sites reflect significant investments,” The E-tailing Group’s report says.

The survey broke sites into four categories: comparison shopping, loyalty & rewards, community & content and shopping & promotions.

Site experiences ranked as follows:
First impression: comparison shopping, 2.33; loyalty& rewards, 2.42; community & content, 1.81; shopping & promotions, 1.75; all sites surveyed, 2.30
Branding: comparison shopping, 2.33; loyalty& rewards, 2.08; community & content, 1.75; shopping & promotions, 1.67; all sites surveyed, 2.00
Overall experience: comparison shopping, 2.33; loyalty& rewards, 1.83; community & content, 1.83; shopping & promotions, 2.00; all sites surveyed, 2.00
Usability: comparison shopping, 3.00; loyalty& rewards, 2.08; community & content, 1.75; shopping & promotions, 2.33; all sites surveyed, 2.30.

In other areas measured, comparison shopping sites ranked the highest (2.42) on merchant breadth/depth. The majority of comparison shopping sites (83%) listed the number of products available at the site, while only 50% of shopping & promotion sites did so, as did 17% of community & content sites and none of the loyalty & reward sites. “Surprisingly, only 38% of publishers showcased the number of offers available by category/merchant, a tactic which establishes voice of authority and adds to customer retention value,” the report says.

In addition, only 33% of comparison shopping sites indicated when the information was last updated, as did 17% of loyalty & reward and shopping & promotion sites and none of the community & content sites. “Currency of web site was minimal with one-third or less of these publishers indicating when their information was last updated, which can be an excellent tool for attracting repeat customers,” the report says.

Web sites that were part of the survey were: 24-Hourmall, 247malls, American Advantage, Any Coupons, BradsDeals, Bizrate, Club Mom, Coupon Cabin, Fat Wallet, Flamingo World, Gold Points, Lets Run, Moms View, MSN Shopping, My Points, Nascar, NexTag, Personal Shopper, PriceGrabber.com, Schoolpop, SheFinds, Shopping.com, Upromise, Yahoo!Shopping

"Although publishers have done a good job of securing merchant participation, each sector suggests a very specific experience, which, at first glance is not always clear to the consumer," says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group. "Furthermore, within each sector extensive diversity is apparent with stronger players delivering memorable first impressions and more complete shopping experiences to visitors. Trailing players reveal sites where merchandising tactics are sporadic and leveraging lessons from best-in-class multi-channel merchants would be optimal."

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