May 29, 2007, 12:00 AM

Smack Shopper goes 24x7 with social/auction/game show concept

Smack Shopper, which began testing last fall an online auction that lets shoppers chat with each other as they bid, has unveiled an around-the-clock schedule featuring themes like golf, apparel and home décor.

Smack Shopper, a section of the Jellyfish.com comparison shopping site that lets shoppers chat with each other as they bid on auction items, is going 24x7. The site has unveiled a weekly schedule that features around-the-clock auctions featuring themes like golf, apparel, hunting and fishing, children and baby products, and home décor.

The full-time schedule follows by a few weeks Smack Shopping’s introduction of personal pages where shoppers can track their purchases, put items on a wish list and chat personally with fellow shoppers they meet at the Smack Shopping site.

The company aims to make Smack Shopping, which launched in November and is still considered in beta, “the MySpace of online shopping,” says Greg Kaldor, vice president of merchant services. “If I’m in the market for a new golf driver and go to our golf show there’s a pretty good chance there’s going to be a roomful of experts, peers of mine, that maybe have bought this driver. I can chat about it with them. Do you have the Callaway Big Bertha? Do you like it? What do you recommend?”

In a Smack Shopping auction the price goes down continually, and shoppers buy when they like the price. The trick is that Smack Shopper does not disclose how many of each item will be put up for sale, so a shopper who waits too long can be left empty-handed.

Before unveiling its new schedule, Smack Shopper operated an auction Monday through Friday at noon Central time. More than 500 auctions were conducted and the company says shoppers paid on average 45% off store prices.

Smack Shopper pays the retailers full price for the products, and hopes to make up the difference through sponsorships and advertising. Kaldor says a baby food company might want to sponsor the “baby shower” auction each Monday afternoon, and that camera manufacturers might be anxious to advertise to Smack Shoppers with digital cameras on their wish lists.

Jellyfish.com does not provide any details about its site traffic or the number of consumers who have signed up to participate in Smack Shopper. But it clearly has a long way to go to catch up to more established comparison shopping sites. Traffic at Jellyfish.com in April represented .000048% of U.S. web site visits, according to Internet research firm Hitwise. Shopzilla.com had roughly 700 times as many visitors, with .032% of traffic. Pricegrabber.com had .014% of traffic, Hitwise says.

Kaldor says Jellyfish.com differs from other comparison shopping sites in that it only charges retailers when they make a sale, not for each shopper’s click on a retailer’s product. Retailers pay a commission on each sale and Jellyfish.com says it will rebate at least half of that commission to shoppers. In fact, Kaldor says it is currently giving shoppers 75% of the commission as it tries to build its customer base. He says the Jellyfish.com plans a formal launch of its site and Smack Shopper in late June.

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