/// Beyond Price: Comparison Shopping 2.0 Is About Customer Experience
iStockphoto.com/mbortolino E-commerce is undergoing some radical changes as price-based comparison shopping loses steam, forcing online merchants to differentiate themselves in more meaningful ways. Comparison shopping was one of the first areas of “indirect” e-commerce services. It emerged on the Web back in the mid 1990s, shortly after the debuts of the first true online retailers. Comparison Shopping engines like PriceGrabber, Shopping.com, NexTag and my own venture, MySimon, helped consumers aggregate pricing data almost instantly, and it trained a generation of consumers to seek out such tools to save them both time and money. As the traffic and prominence of these sites grew, venture capital dollars quickly followed, and the comparison shopping category became known as much for generating outsized venture capital returns as it did for saving consumers money. But things have changed dramatically in recent years for the comparison shopping space. Whether you judge it by the traffic to these sites, the venture money raised or the recent investment returns, the party is pretty much over. Three key factors are now driving the collapse of the once-lucrative comparison shopping business: Pricing strategies are producing diminishing returns as the price ranges across competing vendors shrink to insignificance — an effect of pervasive and readily accessible pricing information. The shopping engines are becoming a victim of their own success. Google has dramatically changed how it treats shopping engine URLs
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