October 17, 2005, 12:00 AM

SPONSORED WHITE PAPER: Comparison Shopping Optimization: What Every Online Retailer Needs...

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Most comparison shopping sites use Category-to-Category Mapping to place products into their category taxonomy. Simply put, the online retailer`s categories are mapped to the categories of the comparison shopping sites. This approach is easy to implement, but has three major drawbacks:

  1. Differences in Category Detail Level – The retailer`s product categories need to be at least as detailed as those of the comparison shopping site. If the retailer has a Men`s Shoes category, for example, but the comparison shopping site has further refined categories that include Men`s Dress Shoes, Men`s Sandals, Men`s Work Boots, etc., the category-to-category mapping fails to be effective.
  2. Inaccurate Placement on Retailer`s Site – The retailer must correctly place products into its own category tree. Not every retailer has the resources to place 100 percent of its products into the correct categories on its own site. These errors will likely be reflected at the comparison shopping site as well.
  3. Ignoring Differences between Retailers – This category-to-category mapping approach treats all of the retailers the same. For example, a toy retailer may want to place an electronic toy such as LeapFrog into a Toys category, while a consumer electronics retailer may want the same product to be placed into an Electronics category. Retailers can capitalize on their brand identity within their target categories, but only when their products are placed correctly to take full advantage.

Comparison Shopping Optimization solves this specific problem by properly placing each product into the optimal category for each retailer at each comparison shopping site. This gives retailers more control over where their products are placed, rather than relying solely on the comparison shopping sites to handle these key merchandising decisions.

Once a product is properly placed, the retailer can then decide whether to bid for improved placement within that category. Bidding for improved placement for products in the wrong categories is usually just a waste of money.

Better Search Results through Better Data

Search engines and comparison shopping sites share a number of similarities. Each site has its own search algorithms for optimizing search results, and these algorithms change over time. In addition, the pay-for-performance search engine results are only as good as the keywords chosen, just as the search results at the comparison shopping sites are only as good as the product data sent to these sites.

One major difference, however, is that keywords are only one piece of data used in the search algorithms for comparison shopping sites. It is an important piece, of course, but the product`s name, description and model number are even more important in most cases.

Comparison Shopping Optimization delivers better search results at the comparison shopping sites by ensuring that the product data sent to each site is optimized for search. This automated process may include incorporating the product-level keywords that have been created by a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) company. It also includes automated processes to ensure that model numbers are included in the product names, and other similar techniques that have proven effective at each of the comparison shopping sites.

Implementing Comparison Shopping Optimization

The primary reason that most online retailers have not implemented the Comparison Shopping Optimization process within their own IT infrastructure is because a homegrown solution can be cost prohibitive. It requires extensive knowledge of each comparison shopping site, complex data algorithms, and measurement tools to continuously refine the process.

By outsourcing the Comparison Shopping Optimization process to a third party, online retailers have found they can gain control of their marketing programs with the comparison shopping sites. More importantly, the ROI for outsourcing this process is excellent – often with a payback period of less than three months.

More online retailers are using a third party for data feed management, whether it is their SEM company, the service provider for the retailer`s eBay or Amazon store, or data specialists such as Channel Intelligence.

When it comes to the Comparison Shopping Optimization process, however, Channel Intelligence is the exclusive provider of this service and has been issued a patent to protect this exclusivity. This powerful combination of data feed management, Comparison Shopping Optimization, and measurement tools has helped online retailers of all sizes and markets to achieve success using comparison shopping sites.

Commerce Data Syndication

Channel Intelligence offers its Commerce Data Syndication service to online retailers as an outsourced solution for improving performance with the comparison shopping sites. This service provides retailers with complete control over the merchandising and promotion of their products, while allowing them to forget about the day-to-day operational details of product data feeds.

Retailers simply deliver their online product catalog to Channel Intelligence each day. The data is continuously optimized and syndicated based on predefined business rules. Channel Intelligence can even syndicate a retailer`s local store data to drive traffic to their brick-and-mortar stores.

Any successful outsourced solution has to provide flexibility and control to the client. Channel Intelligence has built Commerce Data Syndication with this in mind. Adding a new comparison shopping site or changing business rules simply requires a quick e-mail or phone call to an assigned Client Services representative. No more programming requests to an IT team, or manual changes with a third-party solution. Retain complete control without having to do the work.

All of the following features are included in this service:

  • Complete Data Feed Management – The retailer simply needs to deliver a daily data feed to Channel Intelligence. All of the day-to-day management and optimization of the feeds is handled automatically.
  • Success Measurements – Detailed tracking and reporting is in place to allow the retailer to measure the success of its marketing program from the macro level down to the partner, category and product level. The robust data includes traffic statistics and conversion rates. Product-level profitability analysis will be available shortly.
  • Comparison Shopping Optimization
    • Data Optimization – Using a patented process, the retailer`s product data is optimized for each comparison shopping site to ensure that more of its products appear at the site and in the ideal location. This process will automatically improve the product identifiers sent to each site to match the identifiers expected by that site.
    • Optimal Product Placement – Each product is placed in the correct category at each comparison shopping site. This process ensures that the products are located in the categories where the retailer`s customers expect to find them.
    • Search Optimization – Product-level keywords from an SEM company can be easily incorporated into the product data sent to the comparison shopping sites. Automated rules may be defined to improve the product names and descriptions using other attributes in the product data.
    • Business Rules – After reviewing the detailed tracking and reporting included in Commerce Data Syndication, retailers may define business rules to take action on this information. For example, products or categories that are converting poorly can be suppressed from a site.
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