Price comparison sites — small fish, big fish

Eating FishI have been running a monthly list of popular price comparison sites for a while but I never really had a chance to check them all out, until today.

I have long suspected that many of them share the same feeds since the results often look very similar. As I looked at each website more closely, I have uncovered a few interesting facts that I want to share with you.

I hope these findings will help you to narrow your own list of sites to visit when looking for that best shopping deal.

Many price comparison sites use feeds from

Below is the list of websites that primarily use as the source of products. Some of them do offer added services on top of what they fetch from, and I will note those, but others simply wrap the results differently and display them back to you.

  • DealTime is really the original domain used by team. The service was relaunched in 2003 under brand and ever since the old domain is left dormant. It hasn’t got nearly as many of bells and whistles that offers
  • ShopLocal uses feeds from to complement their local listings. When you do the search you have a choice of shopping for the product locally or online. If you pick online, the results come to you by the way of
  • Epinions was acquired by DealTime/ in 2003. It probably shouldn’t be in my list at all. It is a very good source of product reviews. As a price comparison engine, you will not find there anything that doesn’t offer
  • Mpire uses feeds from to supplement results from eBay, their main partner. If eBay is not one of your favorite destinations then you can avoid Mpire altogether.
  • Hawkee uses the feeds to supplement their own products. Hopefully Scott Aikin, the founder, whose comments I occasionally see on my blog, will elaborate more on the integration.
    Update: it sounds like my assumption about Hawkee was incorrect. Read the comments.

Bizrate and Shopzilla are really one price comparison site

Bizrate and Shopzilla are not two but one website. To be exact, the same team runs both and the websites are simply two ways of looking at the same products and stores. Shopzilla appears to be a little more stylish while Bizrate probably caters to more conservative shoppers.

I would personally sack Bizrate from my list as it produced slightly less merchants in my test than Shopzilla did, but your opinion may vary. In any case that takes care of one more website for us.

MSN aggregates feeds from, PriceGrabber, and eBay

When MSN Shopping launched, it was said that the company collaborated with and BizRate to kick start the business. Ever since they added eBay and possibly other partners as well. As for international markets, I have found a reference that MSN has chosen PriceRunner as the primary provider to feed the shopping search.

The news bits like this tell me that MSN is all about aggregating. The vast number of merchants in results from a relatively new service proves my point.

PriceGrabber drives AOL Shopping search results

AOL is another company who chose not to invent the bicycle and just used what others already offered. Earlier last month the news came out that PriceGrabber becomes AOL’s exclusive provider replacing Shopzilla who supplied products to AOL before the change.

CNET Networks owns MySimon and shares the data

In 2000 CNET bought MySimon, the leading price comparison website at that time. Ever since they have successfully incorporated price comparison technology into CNET portal while MySimon is basically left to die. It is not nearly as popular anymore as it was back in 2000. If you go to CNET Shopper, you will notice that it offers the same products but adds many more features.

Some more recent mergers and acquisitions

Price comparison industry seems to be prone to consolidation which adds a lot of confusion to online shoppers. Here are a few more affiliations that will clue you in on who eats who in the price comparison fish pond.

  • PriceGrabber and BottomDollar share the same owner
  • NexTag and Calibex are one company as well
  • Yahoo bought Kelkoo, a leading European price comparison service, in 2004
  • eBay acquired in 2005
  • Experian acquired PriceGrabber in the same year

Photo courtesy of Wgroesel at Stock.Xchng

See also:

19 Responses to “Price comparison sites — small fish, big fish”

  1. 1 Scott Apr 29th, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Hawkee uses direct feeds from each merchant. Our results are unique because they do not come from or Pricegrabber. Our price comparison engine is proprietary and is not used by any other site online.

  2. 2 Yan Apr 29th, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Scott, thanks for clarifying this for me. The results did look identical at the time I did my test. But then, Hawkee is close to the end, and I might just got tired.

  3. 3 Scott Apr 29th, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    If some prices are identical but we’ve got more sellers, then we’ve done our job.

  4. 4 Wallet Rehab - Ways to save money Apr 30th, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    I hadn’t realized that most of the price comparison sites have the same information. I guess that they’re main point of differentiation is SERP, PPC campaigns and brand recognition.

  5. 5 Matt Hulett May 1st, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Hi, Yan. There is a religious debate amongst shopping sites as to whether you should partner or build your own direct merchant feeds (or both…lots of sites are a hybrid). Personally, I don’t believe that crawling the shopping web to replicate years of experience gathered from the major CSEs is worth the effort from an IP and/or capital expenditure perspective. I used to work at Expedia. Expedia and most of the other online travel agencies sit on top of a GDS (like Sabre, Worldspan). In other words, all of the sites used the same data. However, Expedia added a ton of value on top of the search results that really innovated how online consumers could shop for travel—more results, faster. If I were to look at three different cars that shared the same engine, I wouldn’t say that they were the same car. Mpire views itself as a universal shopping site that includes analytics, auction, new, coupons, and reviews all in one place. We also have proprietary search related to eBay results based on our unique knowledge of eBay data (we think our results are more relevant). The consumers that we talk to want a comprehensive service and they understand that we provide more value than just a re-skinned version of

  6. 6 Yan May 1st, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Matt, I understand your point regarding increased IP and expenditure. Not to diminish the value Mpire adds to the shopping experience, still bells and whistles are just that. At the end of the day, if I find a merchant who offers a better offer elsewhere, I will go with them. True, the average shopper will never try more than one price comparison website, but I am talking pro bargain hunting here. ;-) is far not comprehensive and since so many comparison sites republish the content, they have become of even lesser value to me. High demand these resellers create is not a good thing for me as a shopper. Also, as a popular network, charges merchants $$$ to participate which cuts off small shops and (possibly) floats prices for those who do join.

  7. 7 Wes Lewis Jun 25th, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Very interesting debate here – just to throw a small fish into a big pond (no pun intended) we have recently entered the price comparison market with and we can happily state that our comparison engine and data import is our own and does not rely on feeds from any of the bigger fish.

  8. 8 mauricio zuniga Jul 5th, 2007 at 2:55 am

    Likewise, we have since launched our own price comparison engine at . Not only do we provide you with our own search results, but also give you access to just about every other major e-commerces provider as well as most major comparison sites. This gives you the ultimate way to search for the lowest price. This is comparing the comparison sites and then some. If you would like to get listed on the ChaoSearch resource, please send me an email.

  9. 9 Chile Bob Jul 24th, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    I am getting so sick of seeing the same thing on all of those sites. No matter what I search for “shopping comparison sites”, “product comparisons”, “Compare products” because it just kept coming back to the same feeds that compare prices for a product across multiple merchants. That’s fine for late in the buying cycle when you know exactly what you want, but just need to get the best price. But what if you want a tent, but don’t know which is the best one to get? Most review sites are just biased crap that the merchant puts out, or an affiliate who is motivated to SELL you on a product. I found a few weeks ago though and it is the answer to what I’ve been looking for. Say you want to buy a gas grill, but don’t know which is the best one to get in your price range. THIS would be the site to go to, and from what I can tell they don’t use ANY feeds at all. Sorry, just had to throw in my 2 cents.

  10. 10 Owen Jul 30th, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Thanks for this advice…its answered a lot of questions for me!

  11. 11 Jawahar Sep 13th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    One of the problems with price comparison sites is that you typically have to visit more than one site to find the best deal. We are launching soon where you can compare prices from multiple comparison shopping sites in one search. We are preparing to launch public beta in October 2008. In the meanwhile, you can check out our blog for deals and bargains we highlight regularly.

  12. 12 Mike Meade Nov 9th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Great discussion guys, just to add a little more to the comments, we also have a comparison site and we use 100% our own feeds which are constantly being updated. We dont rely on other feeds from Pricegrabber or Kelkoo etc.

    Our comparisons are unique and we try to focus on user reviews and comments to give our visitors more information about products.

  13. 13 Matthew Apr 6th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    These shopping sites are only as good as the shops they have included on their network and from my experience most of them are very cost prohibitive so how good can they really be if they aren’t impartial to showing everyone?

    But to be fair we’ve had a positive experience with the price comparison site which we came across over at the SBF boards and have been showing our products on their site for free – I don’t know what the catch is but we haven’t paid anything so can’t complain about that.

    It seems that only the big name high street brands are getting all the attention online and it sidesteps the smaller businesses because no one knows about them but we do find that there is more exposure to potential customers by joining on to these shopping network type of sites.

  14. 14 Gabriel Aug 28th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Just as others on this page, I’ve also launched a price comparison website. I’m using feeds from stores provided by affiliate networks such as Commission Junction and Google Affiliate Network. I’ve built an import application which is importing somewhere close to 3 million products in about 10 hours or so. Duplicates are filtered (on most of the price comparison websites you’ll find lots of duplicates). Only products that meet certain criteria are imported. Now, based on what I’ve read here, I have some ideas about how to further improve my price comparison website. The very first thing I’ll do is to build an application which will check the price from the merchant’s website directly. My price comparison website can be found at

    Just wanted to let you know:)

  15. 15 LessLettuce Feb 3rd, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I think the problem that most people are finding when building price-comparison sites is how to find the ‘root product’ (or ‘duplicates’ as Gabriel mentioned). It’s almost impossible if there isn’t sufficient data to go by, even google shopping doesn’t get it right. We’re working on some pretty hefty alogorithms to try and get many of them sorted.

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