In a study I’m wrapping up of customer interaction with a single brand and store, we’ve found that as as 80% of all purchases are preceded by time with a comparison shopping engine. 80%! Do you know what impact CSEs have on your business? Most marketers relegate Shopping.com, Bizrate, or Shopzilla to an relevant but minimal consideration in their marketing portfolio; and rightly so, maybe 5% of customers that use a Comparison Shopping Engine actually click through and buy. Since Comparison Shopping sites set their pricing as a Cost Per Click by product category, advertisers jump to the obvious conclusion that they are paying for the click and that click must have value relative to the cost of the click.
Comparison Shopping sites are not direct marketing channels, they do not drive immediate sales and merchants must test the platform on their own to determine the impact they have on their unique experience and total sales.
At the risk of your losing sales for a little while, identify a few months when seasonality won’t influence your sales then shut off your datafeeds. All of them. You don’t have to cancel deals or manage your partners, just send a feed with no products in it. Give it some time as customers use Comparison Shopping to research and compare products and prices, they don’t buy immediately. 3-4 weeks should do. What happens to total sales? What happens to sales you track from the Search engines? Through your affiliate program?
Look at the opportunity to test this another way, if you are hesitant to test to this extreme, what are you reservations? Perhaps Comparison Shopping is more important than you’ve considered.
Don’t want to shut off sales? Turn to comScore who can answer these questions for you or Performics who’s technology can monitor clickstream between paid search, affiliate, and comparison shopping programs.
Oh, and one more juicy anecdote from our study; we’re also looking at clickstream before arriving in the store. Where do customers turn before making a purchase and after using a CSE? You guessed it, Search.
Now if I can only figure out how to properly value the comparison shopping partner instead of giving the credit to Search…