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Oliver says Oompa.com’s products rose in search result rankings after the retailer registered an UpFront account about a year ago. He says setting up the account was easy and requires no maintenance on his part. “It’s entirely automated. I haven’t even looked at it once since I set it up,” he says.
Joining the UpFront program helped boost referrals from an average of six to eight a day to 50 to 60, says Eli Triona, web developer at Beverlys.com, a multichannel retailer of craft and hobby products. That’s especially good news because Triona says traffic from TheFind converts at a 70% higher rate than typical traffic to Beverlys.com.
He attributes that to the specialized nature of the craft products Beverlys.com sells and the level of product and store detail TheFind shows in search results before the consumer ever clicks to Beverlys.com. A Beverlys product detail window on TheFind shows shipping and payment information, links to Beverlys’ blog and social media pages, store locations and hours, links to sale and clearance merchandise, and contact information for customer service. On Google Product Search, a Beverlys.com listing shows only a thumbnail image of the product, the price and a link to store reviews.
For most merchants, however, TheFind is in the middle of the pack in terms of conversion rate, says Rick Backus, CEO of CPC Strategy.
For the third quarter of 2010, CPC Strategy rated TheFind fifth among the top 10 comparison shopping engines on conversion rate. TheFind’s conversion rate for CPC Strategy clients—1.70%—is just slightly behind that of Google Product Search (1.85%)—which also charges retailers nothing for the traffic it refers—and NexTag (1.78%), which charges retailers per click. (Bing ranked first at 2.69%, which may have been misleading because Bing was phasing out its Cashback promotion that quarter and consumers may have rushed to use credits; Amazon ranked second with a conversion rate of 2.39%.)
In the same study, TheFind rated last as a revenue driver for any given retailer, but Backus says that this is because TheFind drives results to so many retailers that revenue it generates is thinly spread.
In any case, the conversion rate is less of a concern when an online retailer pays nothing for the traffic. Dennis McCartney, marketing manager at shoe e-retailer Footnotesonline.com, says traffic from TheFind converts at a slightly higher rate than traffic from other shopping engines it works with, including Shopzilla.com, a conventional pay-per-click referral source. McCartney views any conversions he gets from TheFind as free sales. “There’s nothing we pay to TheFind,” he says. “I have no complaints.”
Neither does Kumar, who says TheFind is more than breaking even on a cash flow basis. He says TheFind could generate more revenue in the short term if it charged retailers for every click. But retailers wouldn’t send all their products if they had to pay for every click and that would ultimately make the site less attractive to consumers.
“We’re looking at it from the point of view of what the customer wants when they shop online,” he says. “We could have three or four or five times our revenue, but our traffic would be lower.”
TheFind is gaining on the pay-per-click comparison shopping sites because it offers consumers more selection and retailers more control over how much they spend, says Eric Best, CEO of Mercent, which manages feeds to comparison shopping sites, including TheFind.
“TheFind stands out among a category of advertising channels which is evolving rapidly and really is in the process of reinventing itself,” Best says. “TheFind is smart because it is focused on an organic growth strategy for acquiring consumer traffic and then signing and launching merchants.”
The challenge now for TheFind is demonstrating to online retailers that they can generate even greater profits by paying for traffic that until now had been free.
TheFind goes social and mobile
TheFind is aggressively developing its capabilities in social media and in m-commerce.
It developed links to Facebook so that shoppers can sign in with their Facebook account information and see search results based on brands and e-retailers they or their Facebook friends have Liked on the social network. E-retailers also can add their Facebook feed information to their Merchant Program account and have the number of Likes they have garnered from Facebook members appear with their product listings. TheFind CEO Siva Kumar says that can give a consumer the confidence to buy from a retailer she’s not familiar with.
In November, TheFind further leveraged the reams of data it has when it launched a mobile application that helps consumers with Apple and Android devices comparison shop in stores. It says 400,000 consumers have downloaded the app.
What’s more, it is working with electronics retailer Best Buy to show consumers who use TheFind mobile app while shopping in Wal-Mart stores ads from Best Buy. More such deals are in the works, TheFind says, without providing details.