In the increasingly crowded world of online shopping, it’s more important than ever to make sure your product or service stands out. One of the best ways to stay on top of the competition is to make smart use of price comparison sites. A well-crafted comparison shopping engine (CSE) can be the difference between smashing sales goals and struggling to survive.
In the simplest terms, a CSE offers customers everything they need to know about a variety of similar products or services all in one place. CSEs collect and compare pricing, product information, retailers, and customer reviews in order to provide shoppers with all the information they need to make a buying decision.
Information is usually displayed in a comparison chart or table to easily show a customer how each product or service stacks up against the others. Things like features, materials, and availability are usually displayed to give an overall assessment of the pros and cons of each product or service.
Consumers benefit from the comparison charts and information provided on a CSE in a multitude of ways. Not only does a CSE save a customer time, but it also eliminates confusion about what makes one product different from another. In an easy-to-read chart or table, the customer can see how each product compares to the others in a quick, comprehensive, and simple way.
More and more shoppers are insisting on comparison guides to help them ferret out the best prices, value, and quality. Most CSEs include a section for customer reviews and feedback, so that makes it easy for shoppers to see which product or service others have liked the most.
It’s easy to see why customers love price comparison sites, but if the whole point is to pit your product against the competition. How does that benefit your business? While it might feel intimidating to line your service or product up against others, if you take the right approach to CSEs they can become your secret weapon.
Product comparison sites don’t just educate shoppers – they offer you a wealth of information about the current marketplace and how you are positioned. By becoming familiar with CSEs in your industry you can stay up-to-date on who’s selling what, price and product trends, customer service movements, and even identify weaknesses in the competition or the product/service as a whole.
In addition to helping you stay on top of market trends, depending on your type of business, CSEs can be your company’s best friend. Since most customers who use CSEs have already decided to buy, half the battle is already won. By the time they get to a CSE the customer is just looking for the best product at the best price. This is your chance to grab their attention and lead them to your website.
Possibly the biggest benefit is increased traffic to your website and improved search engine results. By working with a CSE, you reap the benefits of the CSEs SEO optimization and popularity. For smaller online retailers, this might be the quickest, least expensive way to help your company show up with the big boys.
Once you decide to dive in to the CSE world, you need to make sure you strategically tailor information to help move customers from “just looking” to “ready to buy.” Customers who are at the beginning of the shopping process are looking to gather general information that will inform their eventual decision to buy. At this early stage, make sure consumers get all the details they need to know that your product/service/company exists and is a top contender for their business.
Once a customer knows what’s out there, they start looking for specific benefits including durability, overall value, and positive customer reviews. Lead browsing customers to your product by making sure information is laid out in an easy-to-read format, without a lot of clutter to distract from the key information needed to help them make a decision.
When the customer is ready to buy, make it easy. Have the purchase or “sign up now” button prominently displayed and don’t put a lot of obstacles in the way of making the purchase. Don’t require customers to create a detailed customer account just to buy one item. Give them an option to continue as a guest, and once they’ve entered all of their information for the purchase make it easy for them to turn that information into their customer account. If they have to jump through a lot of hoops, they’ll likely go back to the comparison site and choose a retailer that easier to work with.
When you’re looking to start using a CSE, it’s critical that you pick an engine that’s the best match for your business. Look for CSEs that are easy to use, offer a clean layout, and make the consumer’s experience enjoyable and simple. Here are three examples of different CSEs and what makes them effective for the industry and consumers that they serve.
HighSpeedInternet.com is a CSE that helps people find the best Internet provider to meet their needs and budget. One of the things this CSE does right is make the search as simple as possible. All the shopper has to do is enter their zip code, and they’re given a detailed list of providers that includes user ratings, service details, speeds and a quick link to compare prices.
The simplicity and lack of useless, distracting information or advertisers makes this CSE appealing to users and easy to understand. This CSE has also distilled everything down to those factors that are most important for customers to move from browsing to buying.
Pronto is a discovery shopping engine marketplace that targets consumers looking for a good deal. Their main landing page is perfect in its simplicity, making it easy to start comparison shopping by entering a search term for the product you want to compare.
After entering a search term, such as “boots,” the consumer is taken to another page that lets them further narrow their search by category (Women’s Boots), size, color, price, or manufacturer. After the additional details are entered, the customer gets a breakdown of matching items to compare based on the preferences they entered.
Pronto uses the same premise as other popular CSEs such as Google Shop and Amazon, which is typically considered more a marketplace than a CSE. The Pronto approach is perfect for customers who want to window shop before purchasing, and those who don’t have a crystal clear idea of what they want to purchase.
This type of CSE is also a good fit for companies looking to gain a foothold in the marketplace and get noticed. They also offer permanent logo placement that helps get your brand recognized.
SafeWise gives consumers an easy way to research and compare home security products. This website combines the best of the other examples provided. To begin comparing products all the shopper has to do is enter their zip code, but they also have a handy three-step guide to finding the right provider offered in the middle of the page.
By giving the consumer multiple options to start their search – by entering a zip code, going straight to reviews, or looking at different packages – this CSE appeals to every shopping stage at once. Depending on what the consumer chooses, they are given detailed information that appeals to the customer’s current interest.
When consumers select the “Go to Reviews” option, they get a list of Safewise’s top five systems, followed by a summary of what each offers and why they are so well-rated.
If customers select the “Start Comparing” option, they are led to another page that asks for some more detail about their current living situation in order to customize the recommendations. What works about this, is that even though shoppers are asked for more information it’s still relatively minimal and simple.
In order to be competitive in the online marketplace, companies need to find ways to capture a segment of the consumer base and deliver what they’re looking for to build customer loyalty and strong word-of-mouth. A CSE can be the best way to start building the strong foundation needed to meet your goals and spur growth.
And CSEs come with the added bonus of providing crucial market research through their very structure. This gives even small businesses that can’t afford to hire a market research company an edge that wasn’t available before the e-commerce boom.
If you’re looking to get a bigger piece of the e-commerce pie and take your company to the next level, it’s time to consider adding a CSE to your marketing strategy. There are options available for no cost and some that have different price structures depending on the type of placement you’re looking for in search results. No matter what your current budget allows, your business will benefit from jumping into the CSE pool.
Sarah Pike is a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee and a college writing instructor. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.
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