The Comparison Shopping Report – Q3 2011




Author | Tien

Another quarter has passed and as the leaves fall and the thermometer begins to flirt with the 50’s (at least here in San Diego), we present to you the latest edition of our Comparison Shopping Report.

Since 2009 we’ve released a study that compares the top 10 comparison shopping sites every quarter come rain, wind, and ice; making this the 11th edition of our report.

What’s New

  • Like we did with our rankings each of the past two quarters, we’ve split up the rankings into 4 specific categories (free registration required):
  • Bing Shopping has created a partnership with Shopping.com which has recently taken effect, which promises to increase the amount of traffic merchants listed on Shopping.com will see in the future and in particular this upcoming 4th quarter.
  • Our perennial leader, Google Shopping began enforcing stricter feed requirements toward the end of the quarter requiring merchants, especially those in the apparel category to send more detailed feeds.
  • Several CSE’s launched new designs just in time for Q4 shoppers, including: Shopping.com, Nextag, and the aforementioned Google Shopping.

For a more in-depth look at our methodology please take a look at our original rankings which provide further details into the sections below.

The Criteria (a.k.a. the fine print)

Our comparison shopping report is based directly from our merchants’ data and how they performed on the CSE’s. We aggregate and calculate how each engine 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-q32011

 

Amazon and Shopzilla open as our traffic leaders here, similar to how they did in the past quarter. In fact the order of traffic here remains exactly the same as they did last quarter, one of the few ( if not only) times that’s happened in our comparison shopping report.


Revenue

comparison-shopping-revenue-q32011

Again, similar to last quarter, Google Shopping jumps from 3rd in traffic sent to first in revenue generated for our merchants–though the gap between 1st and 2nd is closer this time around. Pricegrabber, Amazon, and Nextag follow up closely to each other, with a big dip coming after Shopping.com.


Below the charts are broken into two parts, dark blue represents data from Q3 2011, and light blue reflects data from the previous quarter, Q2 2011.


Conversion Rate % (orders/clicks)

comparison-shopping-cr-q32011

Nextag saw the biggest increase in conversion rate this quarter, sailing all the way to the top while Google Shopping dropped a tick resulting in a 2nd place finish. Google’s fellow comparison shopping engine, Bing, comes in 3rd followed by Amazon.


COS (Cost divided by Revenue) %

comparison-shopping-cos-q32011

Outside the freebies, Pricegrabber continues its dominance, with Nextag, Amazon, and Shopping.com following them; which again reflects the same order that they performed in last quarter. Shopzilla and Become switch places this time around, with Pronto rounding out our top 10.


Average CPC (Cost-per-click) Rate

comparison-shopping-cpc-q32011

Between Q2 and Q3, not much has changed here–it’ll be interesting to see what sort of changes Q4 brings though, when all of the CSEs start to raise their CPCs.


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

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Our account managers here are constantly in touch with the shopping engines in an attempt to optimize our merchants’ accounts, and know first hand which engines are quickest to contact and who acts best.


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

Along with homepage redesigns as mentioned earlier in the study, several shopping engines have redone their logins in order to better accommodate merchants taking a hands on approach to best optimize their accounts.

Below are two examples of CSE’s making changes that give merchants more options to manage their campaigns:

Shopzilla: http://www.cpcstrategy.com/blog/2011/08/shopzilla-announces-new-biddable-categories/
Nextag: http://www.cpcstrategy.com/blog/2011/08/nextag-introduces-brand-level-bidding-and-marketing-messages/


Conclusion

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

New this time: after a tough-nosed discussion around these parts, we have removed the CPC aspect in our final rankings count for two main reasons:

  • the overall COS % already takes into account CPC. e.g. the lower a CSE’s CPC rate (say that 5 times fast), the lower the COS will be as a result, all things else equal.
  • it provides a slightly more level playing field since the rankings pit the free engines and paid engines together.

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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Somewhat predictably, our Q2 and Q3 rankings were nearly identical, with the exception of Become switching places with TheFind.

The middle of the year sees little differences in changes within the CSE’s, as well as consumers themselves.

Q4 is essentially the playoffs when it comes to merchants competing with each other to gain every last customer they can get, and the CSE’s will try to do everything they can to help each of their merchants out.

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

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 studies that concentrate on apparel, electronics, home & garden, and sporting goods.

get-your-categorys-rankings