How Small E-tailers Reach Big Numbers

By Laura Rush | Posted October 27, 2003

You don't have to be the next Amazon.com to be a successful e-commerce business. After all, eBay has proven time and again that individuals as well as small businesses can compete alongside the big name and established e-tailers. But in order to reach the masses, small businesses need to do more than hang their own virtual sign, or set up shop on eBay. With the holiday season fast approaching, merchants should begin exploiting the various shopping search engines in order to target their messages directly at shoppers.

In August alone, more than 21 million online consumers flocked to shopping comparison sites to research products, prices, and merchants, according to

PriceGrabber.com
PriceGrabber.com is one shopping engine e-merchants should have on their radar screen. A privately held company, PriceGrabber.com was founded in 1999 and began by listing computer supplies. The company's early success provided the resources and impetus to expand its product coverage, which now includes 14 diverse product channels, including movies, books and music with additional product channels being added regularly.

PriceGrabber.com's search results provide detailed product, transaction and merchant information, and refer buyers to the appropriate merchant to complete the purchase process.

Recent reports from Nielsen//NetRatings show that PriceGrabber.com had an increase of 81 percent in users from August 2002 to August 2003, attracting 3.9 million shoppers.

Also, PriceGrabber.com recently announced that each month more than ten thousand shoppers access its new Shopping List Feature, a utility that allows shoppers to find the best price for an entire list of items simultaneously. Shopping List takes a list of items and calculates the best price available, whether that is from a single merchant or from multiple merchants. Shoppers can add as many items as they want to their Shopping List; PriceGrabber.com will then compare the cost of buying each item from the lowest priced store with buying the whole list of items from a single store.

According to Kamran Pourzanjani, president of PriceGrabber.com, shoppers are not always looking for the lowest price; they are often checking to see that the merchant they have in mind has an accurate, or fair price. An indicator that for consumers, value is just as important as price. As such, PriceGrabber.com also allows users to sort search results based on bottom line price (which includes shipping and tax) and seller rating.

PriceGrabber's other consumer services include merchant ratings and reviews, detailed product information and reviews, side-by-side product comparisons and e-mail notification of the best prices and availability on the Internet.

The company offers price comparison in English (at www.pricegrabber.com), Spanish (www.preciomania.com) and Portuguese ( www.precomania.com).

Benefits for Small Merchants
For merchants, PriceGrabber.com provides valuable visibility to an active population of shoppers. PriceGrabber.com boasts over 400 online merchant partners, an average of 2 million unique visitors a week and $1 billion in sales referrals per month. And PriceGrabber.com's database of consumer comparison shopping habits is available for companies seeking in-depth product and market analysis.

Each merchant partner can log in to PriceGrabber.com at any time and check on the status of specific products, for example, or hot sale items. Merchants can also access an impressive array of reports that detail click-through and transaction activity. Reports include:

  • Click-through summary that shows daily and weekly activity,

  • Detailed product reports, which highlights the top ten product referrals,

  • Merchant Ratings Summary, which provides feedback from customer surveys, and

  • Conversion trackers, which details the rate of conversion for click-throughs.

According to Pourzanjani, when compared to the other top shopping search engines, PriceGrabber.com enjoys the highest conversion rates of shoppers into buyers, resulting in cost effective sales for merchant partners. "Updating product availability and price information is what keeps our conversion rates high," said Pourzanjani. "Prices are updated continuously to provide consumers with the most up-to-date information available. Merchants provide a data feed into a database, which is updated several times a day."

Merchants pay a setup fee to integrate a data feed, and are charged for each qualified buyer referred to their Web site.

No Virtual Storefront? They Got It Covered
PriceGrabber.com offers a special service called Storefronts, which is geared for merchants who don't already have an online store. The service enables sellers to list items for sale without having to host or maintain their own e-commerce site.

PriceGrabber.com doesn't charge a fee for listing items for sale in the Storefronts service. As a seller on the Storefront service, PriceGrabber.com charges merchants a fee only once a customer agrees to buy a listed product from them.

PriceGrabber.com's fees for selling via the Storefronts service are: $1 of the total purchase price for sales less than $15.00 and 7.5 percent of the purchase price for sales over $15.01. Also, merchants who use the Storefronts service are protected by a transaction protection policy.

Equal Access for All
According to Pourzanjani, PriceGrabber.com gives small merchants equal access to consumers' eyes. Once users have selected an item they are interested in buying, the results display the entire list of merchants on one page. The top four spots are for Featured Merchants, which are fee-based positions. However, PriceGrabber.com rotates the Featured Merchants so that each one gets an equal opportunity for marquee billing.

"Our goal is to level the playing field for merchants, small or big," said Pourzanjani.

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com.

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