June 10, 2010, 6:53 PM

Know the ropes

Even with third-party help, Coolibar.com sweats the details when it comes to comparison shopping engines.

Web retailers can choose to manage the complex world of comparison shopping engines on their own. But if a retailer chooses to outsource the job to a vendor, its executives must do their homework prior to signing a contract. Then they need to develop a close and productive relationship with the vendor, Coolibar.com vice president of Internet marketing Alan Higley told attendees yesterday at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

Higley, who spoke along with SingleFeed president Brian Smith at a session entitled "Feeding comparison shopping engines: When to swap DIY for do-it-for-me," said Coolibar.com originally managed its first product data feed, to Google. But as the number of relationships with comparison shopping engines grew, Coolibar.com, an online retailer of sun protective products, decided it needed to find a technology company with a good track record. "We wanted to concentrate on optimization," Higley said.

With each of the more than a dozen shopping engines Coolibar.com works with, each engine required the retailer to fund an account, build a data feed and submit the feed to each engine. Coolibar.com also had to work with a number of different pricing models that included paying flat fees in some cases and a percentage of the transaction in others.

Even now that Coolibar.com works with an experienced provider, Higley offered these best practices to web retailers of all sizes for optimizing their search engine feeds:

  • Be sure each relationship includes phone support
  • Define all technical requirements and stay on top of changes
  • Keep close track of product titles and descriptions for each engine
  • Continually test the data on individual feeds

"There are over 10,000 product categories across the top10 shopping engines, and the product categories change," he said.

By staying on top of details, relationships with comparison shopping engines can be fruitful, Smith said. "At some companies, the sales from comparison shopping engines account for 5% to 15% of revenue," Smith said.

At Coolibar.com revenue from comparison shopping engines is about to top sales generated by natural search. "It's been a good return on spend," said Higley.

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