January 31, 2008, 12:00 AM

Auto Barn drives up sales on comparison shopping sites with new dashboard tool

The auto parts retailer has been getting better results from comparison shopping sites since deploying a new tool that feeds product data to the third-party sites and provides a dashboard view of click activity. AutoBarn says it`s on pace to save 17% of its comparison shopping ad budget.

Comparison sites serve up a lot of opportunities for expanding sales, but sometimes they raise more questions than answers on how to get results. At Auto Barn, a web and store retailer based in Port Washington, N.Y., for example, tons of clicks on hot products listed on comparison search engines Shopzilla.com and Shopping.com produced substantial fees but few sales.

Popular Global Positioning System devices were a good example. “It’s an unbelievably popular category and everybody is selling the product,” Auto Barn owner and president David Blumberg says. “The margins are razor thin and we were getting hundreds and hundreds of clicks on GPS units, but the conversion ratio was very low, so we were wasting money.” Auto Barn typically pays 10 to 25 cents to shopping portals for each click, he notes.

But Auto Barn has been getting a better handle on things since August, when it deployed a tool that feeds product data to comparison shopping sites and presents through an online dashboard information on how well the click fees of certain products result in sales. Blumberg figures he’s on pace to save $25,000, or about 17% of his $150,000 comparison shopping site budget.

Auto barn is using the Product Feed Manager tool from SmartFeed Inc. The tool’s dashboard shows every item Auto Barn offers on the comparison portals, the number of clicks on each product, how often clicked products are added to the shopping cart, and the number of completed sales. Auto Barn has eliminated portal fees not only on non-performing products like GPS units, but also on entire categories, such as tools, where the profit margins are so low that the click fees ate up any profits made from the sales those clicks produced.

SmartFeed charges $49.95 per month for feeds to up to eight portals and comparison sites, regardless of the number of products included in the feed, and $10 per month for each additional feed.

Auto Barn is using Product Feed Manager to supply data to six sites and plans to add a seventh. Blumberg says it’s easier to work with additional sites now that he only has to interface to the SmartFeed system instead of multiple comparison portals.

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