February 20, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comparison shopping engines more important for some products than others

Comparison engines are effective for marketing attribute-heavy consumer electronics, but less so for apparel and jewelry, ChannelAdvisor’s Scot Wingo says.

Comparison shopping engines are an important part of the e-commerce channel marketing mix, Scot Wingo, CEO of e-commerce channel management services vendor ChannelAdvisor Corp., tells Internet Retailer. But they’re a better spend for some categories than for others, he adds.

Wingo says, for example, that comparison shopping engines are strong in categories such as consumer electronics, less so with products such as apparel and jewelry. That disparity is partially a function of how matching on the engines works. Consumer electronics products have a multitude of hard attributes that lend themselves to point-to-point comparison, for example, while jewelry and apparel selection relies more on a shopper’s subjective opinion.

That said, ChannelAdvisor customers spend anywhere from 15% to as much as 40% of their online marketing dollars on comparison shopping engines, where Wingo says he sees the productivity of that spend as “somewhere between paid search and affiliate programs.”

Wingo also says the use of comparison engines as a way to build traffic is growing as paid search keywords become more expensive. Compared to paid search, comparison engines offer different levers marketers can adjust against the return they’re getting, he adds.

“With paid search, the levers are how much you are willing to spend per click, and your ad copy. With comparison engines, you also can add coupons and rebates as a lever,” he says. “You can effectively lower pricing that way, and that may be what it is going to take to make a product move.”

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