The Comparison Shopping Report – Q1 2011




Author | Tien

The purpose of The Comparison Shopping Report is to analyze the major comparison shopping engines from objective as well as subjective matter and see how they rank against each other.

What’s New

For the first time we’ve split up the rankings into 4 specific categories listed below (free registration required):

To see how the category that you’re interested in performed click here: Comparison Shopping Report by category

  • The comparison shopping sites and consumers alike were coming back from a busy holiday season and traffic/revenue spikes from the previous quarter have now settled down.
  • Smarter.com which was left off the last list is now an invite only CSE and strictly prohibits new merchants from joining.

For a more in-depth look at our methodology please take a look at our original comparison shopping report, which provides further details into the sections below.

The Criteria

Our study is based directly from our merchants’ data and how they performed on the CSE’s.

We aggregate and calculate how each comparison shopping site performed against its competitors and present them based on the following criteria:

  • overall traffic driven
  • average amount of revenue generated
  • conversion rate
  • COS (Cost of Sale) % or return on spend
  • average CPC (cost-per-click) rates
  • responsiveness rate among the engines
  • quality of tools found within the login

For the first two categories, the results are based on an index of 100, with the rest expressed as a percentage of the leader.

A few things to note in order to avoid confusion:

  • “Google” refers to Google Product Search and does not consider Google’s organic listings or their paid offerings like Adwords or Product Listing Ads
  • Similarly, Bing Shopping refers to just the shopping portal that Bing offers, and not Bing the shopping engine
  • Amazon Product Ads is a separate entity from the Amazon Marketplace. The primary difference is that Product Ads lead a customer off of Amazon’s site, whereas on the Marketplace the purchases are made directly on Amazon’s site

Traffic

comparison-shopping-traffic-q12011

After a commanding lead last quarter Google dropped into 2nd place, making way for this quarter’s traffic leader,  Shopzilla.

The top-tier engines once again continue to provide more than their fair share of traffic, but that isn’t to say we should ignore the other ones.


Revenue

comparison-shopping-revenue-q12011

Proving again that free traffic can be of just as high quality as paid traffic, Google surges here as the revenue leader, while the rest follow relatively close to their traffic rankings from above.

Below the charts are broken into two parts, dark blue represents data from Q1 2011, and light blue reflects data from the previous quarter, Q4 2010.


Conversion Rate % (orders/clicks)

comparison-shopping-cr-q12011

It’s an interesting trend to see that conversion rates increased through all the comparison shopping sites except for Bing and TheFind this quarter–particularly Become which nearly doubled.

One explanation here is because there was less browsing than there was during the holidays and more specific product needs from shoppers. This reinforces the importance of having quality keyword data within your feeds. See our blog post on keywords for more info.


COS (Cost divided by Revenue) %

 

comparison-shopping-cos-q12011

The trend we see here is that COS increased on most channels which is to be expected since Q4 is generally going to be when merchants see the greatest return on ad spend.

This comes in spite of the conversion rate increase we saw earlier. In digging further we found that average order values dropped significantly compared to the Q4 shopping season, as the average consumer’s purchases this past quarter tended to be more modest–which happens when you’re only shopping for yourself.

Nextag and Pricegrabber managed to buck the trend though, seeing slight decreases in COS during the new quarter.


Average CPC (Cost-per-click) Rate

comparison-shopping-cpc-q12011

We would expect to see dramatic drops quarter-to-quarter here since Q4 is when CPC rates tend to be at their highest, though it’s not the case here because:

a) Not all comparison shopping sites increased their rates in Q4, and the ones that did, didn’t do them for all categories

b) The CPC rate increase was only in effect through the end of Q4, and was also in place during the beginning of Q1–so data from both quarters have their share of spikes as well as “normal rates”.

c) We normalize our data so  the differences don’t come out to be quite as drastic as what the rate changes would suggest.


Responsiveness Rating (ranking from 1-10, 1 being best)

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Taken from previous study: In spite of being a smaller engine Become.com once again tops our rankings as being the most responsiveness by not only answering all questions we have in a timely manner but by taking initiatives as well–though the same can be said about most of the top CSE’s on our list.


Merchant Tools (ranking from 1-10, 1 being best)

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Taken from previous study:

For purposes of our rankings Google Product Search is represented by its cousin Google Analytics. The tools that an engine provide are a crucial part of running a successful campaign.

While most CSE’s provide similar tools for tracking cost and revenue, some go above and beyond to provide the necessary resources to push a campaign’s success to its limits.

For instance Shopzilla allows a merchant to not only see product and category performance but be able to bid specifically on those as well.

Amazon Product Ads is the only paid CSE that does not have its ROI tracker so the only way to track orders generated from clicks made there is through a 3rd party tracker.

Also lacking from the Product Ads login is the ability to run SKU reports over custom-time frames, which is also crucial for monitoring how a specific product is doing.

Being a relative newcomer to the CSE’s they have come a long way, but there’s still a gap between them and the longer established CSE’s.


Conclusion

In the end we ranked each comparison shopping engine from each of our metrics from 1-10 and assigning a point value for each category (higher being better).

We doubled the COS % value making that out of a possible 20 points, and weighted traffic + revenue as 1.5 each for a maximum of 15, summed it up, and got the following:

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Google is once again our top comparison shopping site, followed by the rest of the top-tier engines, given their high impact on traffic and revenue. Bing and Become aren’t far behind, and our top ten is rounded out by TheFind and Pronto.

Breaking Down the Rankings by Category

Through special demand by our readers asking us to break down the CSE’s by specific categories, we have created separate comparison shopping reports that concentrate specifically in:

Follow this link for the specific studies: Comparison Shopping Report by category

If you want to check out the comparison shopping engines for themselves, take a look at their sites here: