March 11, 2010, 12:00 AM

Shopping site TheFind offers merchants a direct product feed

By sending product data directly to TheFind, retailers can offer shoppers more updated information, such as how much they charge for shipping. That will provide consumers with a fuller view of the merchant’s offer, TheFind says.

Shopping site TheFind plans to announce Monday a new service that lets merchants feed data directly, allowing retailers to provide more complete and updated information. That, in turn, will allow TheFind to provide consumers with a fuller view of the merchant’s offer.

For instance, a retailer will be able to provide information on where and how it ships and in which states it collects sales tax, allowing TheFind to provide a consumer with the full price of a product, including tax and shipping. Retailers can also highlight free shipping, sale prices and other selling points. The new service is free to merchants.

Until now, TheFind has captured product data by searching e-commerce sites and pulling in product names, images, descriptions, prices, store locations and other information, or through affiliate networks that funnel data to the shipping site, including LinkShare and Commission Junction. TheFind, which went live in 2007, says it offers online shoppers over 400 million products from 500,000 e-commerce sites and local stores.

Merchants that wish to send data directly to TheFind can use the shopping site’s new enhanced feed specification or they can use existing feed specs, such as the one many retailers use to send product data to Google Inc.’s GoogleBase, which funnels data into Google’s shopping page and product search results that show up on Google.com.

“We wanted to make it as fast and easy as possible for merchants to get their feeds directly into our index, which is exactly why we are perfectly happy to receive the GoogleBase feed that many merchants are already using,” says Jordan Keffer, director of merchant programs at TheFind. “We also know-based on our own data-that existing feed specs don’t cover many of the product attributes consumers search for, so we’ve taken this opportunity to also define a new feed spec that better matches how shoppers actually search for products and stores.”

TheFind says by using its spec retailers can show sale price versus regular price, highlight a free shipping or coupon offer, call out user ratings, add 10 additional words to describe the product, show how much inventory is available for an item, include up to three alternative views of the product, and more

The new direct feed will enable Since1910.com to continually provide updated product information to TheFind, says Eric Peerless, chief marketing officer for the online jewelry retailer, which is owned by New York-area jeweler H.L. Gross. “It allows us to tell them what we’ve added, what we’re not carrying any more and to make sure our inventory is up to date,” Peerless says. “It’s a speed and control issue.”

To submit a data feed to TheFind, a merchant must first go to merchant.thefind.com, lay claim to its store and submit registration information. Once that’s done, a retailer can begin managing its own feed to TheFind.

Unlike most comparison shopping engines, TheFind does not charge for each click on a merchant’s products. Instead, like affiliate networks, it bills merchants only when a consumer makes a purchase. That cost-per-acquisition model eliminates the merchant risk of paying for a lot of clicks that don’t convert, and encourages retailers to offer all their products, increasing product selection for consumers, says Siva Kumar, TheFind’s CEO. “We show all the products from all the stores, all the coupons, all the local addresses and store information, returns and shipping policies, so consumers can find the right stuff to buy,” Kumar says.

In fact, Kumar says, 65% of clicks on TheFind do not generate revenue for the site. That’s because much of the products displayed come from data TheFind has collected by crawling retailers’ sites, and retailers don’t pay for those clicks. TheFind makes its money by collecting an affiliate fee when consumers click on and subsequently buy products submitted by affiliate networks on behalf of retailers.

There were 9 million unique visitors to TheFind in January, according to comScore Inc., which measures web traffic. That put TheFind in the top 10 among comparison shopping sites, according ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps retailers sell through online marketplaces and shopping sites.

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