August 19, 2010, 5:49 PM

Sccope brings its comparison shopping engine to the U.S.

U.K.-based Sccope expects to offer 10 million price points by early fall.

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Sccope, an online comparison shopping service operated by London-based Cogenta Systems Ltd., provides 3.5 million price points to compare among about 130 retailers in the U.K., where consumers can access its data from the web as well as from apps on their mobile devices. This week it launched a similar service in the U.S., enabling consumers to comparison shop at Sccope.com and on Sccope apps downloaded to their iPhones and BlackBerrys. Additional apps for Android and possibly other phones may become available later this year, says Cogenta CEO Douglas Orr.

“We made the decision to open in the U.K. first, get it all right, then hit the bigger U.S. market,” Orr says. “We’re adding about 2,000 products a day, and expect to have 10 million price points for comparison by the end of September."

Orr says that Sccope is also adding to its base of about 150 U.S. retailers. Patricia Walshe, manager of business development, marketing and affiliate relationships for the U.S. market, says Sccope’s current emphasis is in product categories such as books and electronics, and that it’s still working on populating categories such as apparel. Retailers that appeared in a recent click on its books category included Amazon.com, Overstock.com, BiggerBooks.com and eBooks.com. Merchants that appeared in its electronics category included Abe’s of Maine, Meijer, TigerDirect.com and Sears.com.

Unlike many comparison shopping sites that get their product information through direct electronic feeds from retailers, Sccope, like U.S.-based TheFind.com, uses its own proprietary web crawlers to capture basic pricing and product data from retail sites, updating it on Sccope once a day. Retailers then work through affiliate networks like LinkShare and Commission Junction to work out commission fees, Orr says.

He adds that Sccope ranks retailer listings based on the overall value they offer shoppers—for example, by factoring the total cost of receiving a package, including shipping costs and any complimentary items.

Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps online retailers connect to e-marketplaces and comparison shopping sites, says the crawling method is not always the best way for comparison shopping engines to gather product data. “Many large web sites don’t want to be crawled and inhibit it,” he says.

Although Wingo says he’s unable to comment directly on Cogenta, he adds that crawling web sites is difficult for comparison shopping engines to do accurately, partly because the software programs that peruse the content of web sites may capture the wrong data when a web page presents multiple price points. If a web page shows a mark-down price offer, such as “Now $329, down from $399,” the crawler could grab the wrong number, Wingo says. “This can result in bad data,” he adds.

Orr, however, asserts that Cogenta has more experience with web crawlers than other comparison pricing operations. He notes that Cogenta’s roots are in using web crawlers to gather business pricing benchmarking data, a service it still offers through a separate service called NetPrice.

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