Late Q4 last year, Google Shopping came under fire for being “deceptive and unfair” by price gouging consumers. As one of the major consumer hubs during the holiday shopping season, this was pretty bad press for retailers and shoppers alike.

SearchEngineLand then conducted a study of its own to determine which shopping engine consistently had the best prices, concluding that Google actually does have pretty good prices and that the lowest price isn’t always posted first (which is “inconvenient” at best for consumers).

Last week, TheFind, who wasn’t even in the discussion back in December, weighed in to give the last word on the debate, proclaiming they have the best prices more often than any other shopping search engine. We reached out to Siva Kumar, cofounder and CEO of TheFind to hear what their study means to the retail search landscape.

Describe TheFind in 50 words or less.

Siva: TheFind is not a CSE, but a search engine custom built for shopping. Our tag line “one search, every store, any product” succinctly illustrates our mission. We provide complete information for the shopper – free shipping, applicable coupons, reviews and social signals, local store information, store policies, payment options and more. In addition to price comparison, we display larger images and find visually similar items.

TheFind recently posted a major study asserting that 78% of the time, it would have the lowest price for a given product. Why do you think TheFind has the ability to do this?

Siva: The test results are a quantitative testament to our emphasis on comprehensiveness and relevance. Think of us as a meta-CSE that searches:

[1] every marketplace, like Amazon, eBay, Bonanza, ETSY and more

[2] all major retailers like Macys, Home Depot, BestBuy, Target, Sears, Overstock, Newegg and others and,

[3] hundreds of thousands of small and medium sized specialty retailers and brand sites. Hence our search index has over 500 million product offers, 20- to 30-times the size of a CSE.

thefind-lowest-priceLast year, Google, Bing, and Yahoo, transitioned shopping experiences to a commercial-only, PLA model. Some retailers have not moved to PLAs. With bidding, higher CPCs for PLAs have caused participating retailers to trim down to just selected products. Hence both CSEs and search engines now display only a limited set of products and only from a subset of all the stores. TheFind is now the only engine that really focuses on helping consumers find what they want to buy by searching across all ecommerce sites.

Delivering comprehensiveness and relevance is technologically complicated and requires state-of-the-art crawling, web page data extraction, fine-grained classification via machine learning, large-scale data feed processing and more. We spent several person-years with the right computer scientists working on the problems to develop these patented technologies. Our talented team is continually improving these capabilities while at the same time enhancing the consumer experience on the Web and with our mobile apps.

Do you think price competitiveness will continue to be a major element for CSEs and retail search in 2014 or are there other, less conventional factors that will play a larger role?

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Siva: CSEs like Nextag, built their reputations with deal-oriented shoppers for being able to find the lowest prices. Today, CSEs still focus just on the price aspect. But as your readership knows, retailers are scaling down participation in the CSE channel. Hence the CSE consumer experience today is significantly less effective for price comparison as our test results demonstrate.

In contrast, with the double-digit growth in ecommerce and online shopping, consumers now want a whole lot more than just price comparison from their shopping search engine. You can make an exhaustive list and elements like local stores, seller ratings, product reviews, visual search, return policy, coupons, and payment options could all be necessary items for a shopper to complete a transaction. With the significant growth in the number of retailers and products sold online, a personalized search experience becomes critical to quickly find desired products and brands from an ever-increasing assortment.

Lastly, the fast growth of smartphones and tablets also makes having a great shopping search app experience a vital requirement. Simply put, these are all areas we at TheFind are working hard to excel.

Our recommendation to retailers is to implement as many of these capabilities as possible, but a mobile optimized product page landing experience and easy mobile checkout should be must-haves for Holiday 2014.

What is one tip you recommend to retailers in order to stay price competitive?

Siva: The one tip would be to implement easy checkout options that help you stand out among your peers. With our testing, we found that many small and medium sized stores do often have lower prices relative to larger stores and marketplaces. Marketplace fees range up to 20% of the selling price and stores outside of the marketplace can benefit from this markup.

However, to get the consumers to buy from your store, an easy checkout option, like PayPal or Amazon Payments, could be the winning edge. Consumers have a faster buying experience and at the same time feel more secure sharing address and payment information with such checkout options. Again, with the shift to mobile devices, these easy payment options are even more critical to implement, as buyers do not want to use touch screens to enter a lot of information. TheFind’s price comparison display prominently shows lowest prices by sellers accepting PayPal and other payment options.

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Overall, what should ecommerce industry experts, and more importantly, retailers pull away from your study?

Siva: Overall takeaway is that the shopping search experience across the major search engines and CSEs has changed significantly over the last twelve months. Your personal go-to engines may no longer be showing you the full picture. Try out our compare site to do side-by-side evaluations of any of the engines.

For retailers, understanding prices and competitiveness (number of stores selling the item) is best done at a comprehensive engine and we believe TheFind now provides the best such experience. Your readers can easily download TheFind app on their Apple or Android smartphone, or tablet, to search anytime, anywhere.

Our blog post is a great way to learn more about all of the aspects of our testing and our analysis.

How does TheFind fit into the long-term big picture of Retail Search?

Siva: Shopping search is a technologically difficult problem requiring both state of the art computer science and access to Big Data scale quality product information across all categories. In addition to Google and Amazon, we are the only other company to have this combination working.

Near-term, the challenges with shopping search are in delivering a great experience on mobile devices, addressing online and offline shopping, helping consumers with “what to buy” type searches and delivering better discovery and post-transaction experiences. TheFind is actively working on all of these areas relevant to improving retail search experience for consumers.

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What would you recommend to retailers looking to optimize their listings on TheFind?

Siva: Two easy steps to help retailers optimize their presence on TheFind are as follows:

[1] register and claim your ecommerce site on our merchant center and make sure all of your store information is complete and

[2] via the merchant center set up a regular upload of your product data feed (we accept Google product feed specification).

Doing these two steps helps make sure your product data and store information are accurately displayed to consumers searching on TheFind. Outbound clicks to your store are free and hence this is something all retailers should do. Over 50% of the clicks to retail web sites from TheFind are free clicks.

We also do work with retailers on a CPC basis; CPC helps you increase the volume of traffic from TheFind. Currently this is a small program with a limited number of retailers. We are now working on expanding this CPC program and expect to work closely with CPC Strategy once we do so.

About Siva:

Siva, cofounder and CEO of TheFind, Inc., is a seasoned entrepreneur and cofounder of multiple successful venture funded start-ups.  Previously, Siva was VP of Marketing at Chromatic Research and before that VP of Marketing and General Manager at Frame Technology. Siva was the director of marketing at Oracle and also held product marketing positions at Apple.

Siva started his marketing career at Intel, where he served as the senior product manager for microprocessors. Siva received his MBA from the University of Chicago; an MS from Pennsylvania State University; and a BS from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India.

 

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About the AuthorJon Gregoire is the Director of Demand Generation at CPC Strategy. Jon heads up email marketing, content strategy, co-marketing, and revenue cycle efficiency. A UC San Diego grad, Jon is a Chicago native and full-time San Diego tourist. He enjoys Bear Grylls-like backpacking trips, archery, weekend getaways in Southern California, watching his beloved Chicago Bears, and bidaily coffee consumption. Want to pitch a story? Reach out directly at jon(at)cpcstrategy.com. See all posts by this author here.