August 7, 2008, 12:00 AM

ShopWiki to aim funds at social, international and m-commerce efforts

ShopWiki has raised more than $1 million in a second round of financing designed to help build the business and assist with social shopping, international and m-commerce efforts.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

ShopWiki Inc. has raised more than $1 million in a second round of financing and plans to invest the funds in social shopping, international expansion and mobile commerce. Generation Partners invested $1 million and ShopWiki’s founders invested what the company describes as “a few hundred thousand dollars” more.

ShopWiki’s business model has fluctuated over the years. It began as a pure wiki, where Internet users add content on the subject at hand. But consumers did not add much content, and there weren’t many consumers visiting the site to begin with. Ultimately, the site evolved into what today is essentially a price comparison site.

Company executives, however, are aiming to get the site back to its roots in the social web so it can live up to its name. Now that traffic is increasing significantly-from 15,000 unique visitors a day in April to 80,000 a day in July-they say they have a critical mass of shoppers who, with an improved site design and easier wiki and social tools, will contribute more content.

“We are redesigning the site to bring a lot of the wiki content into the store and product pages and adding features to make it easier for consumers to contribute,” says CEO Rory Cumming. “And now that we have the scale with visitors, we’ll be forming a social shopping community similar to Kaboodle.”

The company also will be expanding its presence overseas. Today it operates sites in the U.K., France and Australia. Expansion will focus on countries in the European Union. It can expand easily into foreign countries, Cumming contends, because of its artificial intelligence-based web store crawling and data extraction tools designed by two engineers in house.

“We don’t need costly back-end data feed management because of our crawlers,” he explains. “The crawlers are like an e-commerce discovery engine: They search the web, identify the stores, extract product information and pull it back into our site for display.”

ShopWiki works with affiliate marketing companies Commission Junction Inc. and LinkShare Corp., crawling their massive database of affiliate sites searching for pertinent content it can add to its site. It also works with Amazon.com Inc.’s affiliate program to crawl Amazon.com, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

In addition to social shopping and international expansion, ShopWiki plans to enhance its m-commerce presence. It has operated for a year an m-commerce site accessible via any mobile phone with wireless data service. Traffic to the site, Cumming says, initially was disappointing; however, it recently has increased significantly. So ShopWiki is taregting resources into promoting the mobile site, aiming to be a tool consumers can use when shopping in stores.

“Price comparison is one of the killer apps for mobile,” Cumming says. “When you’re standing in Best Buy looking at a flat-screen TV and you don’t know if the price is a good one, you can type the product name or model number into ShopWiki’s mobile site and within seconds you have your answer.”

However, the challenge with this mobile model, Cumming adds, is making money. “How can you monetize this,” he says. “For now we just want to be there as a service to our users. And we’re going to continue to improve it until we can figure out a way to monetize it, perhaps through in-store couponing.”

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