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Archive for the 'Business Mashup' Category



Shopzilla WordPress Plugin (version 1.1)

This is a minor update to the Shopzilla WordPress Plugin I released back in February. It adds a new column that shows merchant ratings according to BizRate, a Shopzilla company. It also incorporates a change to the domain name Shopzilla introduced with the latest overhaul of their XML feeds.

To upgrade - just download this archive and copy its content of on top of your previous installation in the “plugins” folder. For new installations please refer to the Readme file that comes with this plugin.

Here is how the plugin looks now (below). For more details please read my original blog post.

Buzzillions reviews: aggregated, tagged and messy

Buzillions LogoEver since I wrote about PowerReviews in October 2006 I have not heard about the review-aggregating startup that much, until today when I discovered the fact that they did launch their promised shopping portal after all. Bazzillions is the name.

As much as I liked the original idea of in-sourcing the product reviews from merchants in exchange for the leads the merchants get back from PowerReviews, just as much I don’t like how the shopping portal that is supposed to generate these leads is implemented. I think it really lacks structure and looks somewhat incomplete.

OK, without going into too much of a rhetoric, let’s get hands on. Bazzillions is a fresh site so to avoid glitches caused by lack of reviews I look a look at “Video Cameras and Camcorders”, the category PowerReviews have been working with for some time. I have then used the links to the left to further narrow it down to Sony Camcorders thus filtering out professional equipment and other brands.

Sony Camcorders at Buzzillions

What I have as the result is a list which doesn’t even have a camcorder as the first product, it is a carrying case made by Sony (see the screen shot above). OK, could be a bug. Looking closer I notice that the products are sorted in a strange fashion. The ratings have a tendency to go down but sometimes you can find a lower rated product up in the top and vice versa. There could be some sense in it but I just don’t get it.

Mislabeled products

I quickly scrolled down the list and what I found is a camcorder labeled “Sony High Definition Handycam Camcorder” which judging by the image is the HDR-CX7 model I currently have. Obviously a search by “HDR-CX7” doesn’t produce any result since the product is mislabeled.

Very few merchants

Another thing that disappoints is the limited number of merchants listed offering the products. I understand these are the partners who provide Buzzillions the reviews however with major retailers missing I feel reluctant to use Buzzillions for my shopping. I might well be missing out on the best deal out there - can’t afford that to happen. ;-)

Buzz Guide is ineffective

And the last, the green box in the middle labeled “Buzz Guide” simply doesn’t cut it. I understand the theory. PowerReviews makes merchants ask these questions to their customers as a part of after sale survey and then uses the answers to generate product recommendations on Buzzillions based on your preferences. The result however is somewhat mixed to say the least. What lacks is the quantitative ranking of the products based on the qualities I select. I.e. when I click on “Comfortable to operate” tag I want to know how well the recommendation stands (how many people made it) for each product without having to click on the “Compare” button and examine the aggregate of all the qualities. Without it the results are too unpredictable.

Conclusion

The bottom line is, the idea is great but the implementation has a long way to go before it becomes a place of choice for shopping, at least for me. If all you are looking for is quality reviews on technology products, I recommend SmartRatings, a site I recently reviewed. Retrevo is another alternative. They are not trying to accomplish as much in guiding you (so far they only quantify overall product features vs. price) but the implementation is so much better.

Shopzilla WordPress Plugin (version 1.0)

Over the past month I have been playing with Shopzilla API on one of my pet projects and so far the results are impressive. I like the quality and number of product offers I am able to get using the API and also how fast the results are fetched. In fact I have been so happy with it that I decided to extract some of my code and make a WordPress plugin out of it.

Shopzilla is very good at comparing product prices and what this plugin in essence does is it embeds price comparison results for a single product into your blog post (see the sample below).

The merchant logo and the price are links that lead to the product page at the merchant. Shopzilla Publisher Program is a PPC kind and so each time your visitor clicks on these links to check the product you as a publisher earn a small commission form Shopzilla.

Before you can use the plugin on your blog though you will need to apply for a publisher account with Shopzilla. When you are approved you will get assigned a publisher ID and API access key which you need to enter at the plugin configuration screen.

Shopzilla Plugin Options

At the same screen you can configure the number of product offers to display and default placement ID (Shopzilla’s alternative to Google’s channels). A README.txt file is included with the package that explains how you can further set up and use the plugin on your blog. To download it click here and save the file at your computer.

If you end up using Shopzilla on your blog, please tell me in your comments what you think about it. I love to hear your feedback!

Dealighted mashes comparison shopping with deals

Deals aggregators are websites that bring together shopping deals from other deal sites and forums. Instead of going to each website individually you can use them to browse deals in one place.

Deals aggregators are one of my biggest passions. I have reviewed them in the past here and here and I visit some of them on a daily basis. When used properly, a deals aggregator can save your time and improve your chances at scoring a hot deal. In fact many deals published on this blog come via deal aggregators.

Dealighted falls under this category since the deals it displays originate from other sources. It was launched in November of 2006 by the same people who run ResellerRatings. I did go over some of its features when I reviewed it previously and honestly I wasn’t very impressed at that time. It looks like the team has added some features since then. Let’s go over them and see if they make Dealighted a better place for bargain hunting.

Built-in price comparison

It looks like price comparison functionality was recently integrated into the website. You can still search the deals but that search box is hidden in the upper right corner and is not easy to spot. The main search will instead fire up a price comparison engine, very similar to shopping.com, and will list offers from a network of affiliated stores.

There is one twist though. As you browse in on a product, you will see several tabs: one for product details, one for product reviews (by Epinions.com), one for store reviews (by ResellerRatings), and one for related entries from the pull of aggregated deals. As I understand this tab does what the old search did but instead displays the results in a context of the price comparison page.

Dealighted

Bargain hunting on its head

I am not quite sure why the team organized the functionality this way. For me it would be more logical to find a deal first and then use price comparison engine to verify that the price is the best out there. Starting with price comparison sounds like turning bargain hunting on its head.

I can find at least one explanation to the change though. The products pulled from the comparison engine have affiliate codes in them and bring Dealighted a commission from each sale. The aggregated deals are pulled from user forums and don’t bring Dealighted a dime. From the perspective of maximizing the profit, this is a very strong incentive to put the price comparison up front. Does it make the website a better bargain hunting tool? Not for me.

Deals aggregation hasn’t improved

Price comparison may be collecting some green to Dealighted but I really wish the team was focused on improving the aggregator part of the website, and I have not noticed any improvements in that area since the website was launched last year. Here are a few additions from my wish list:

  • Let me preview the deal details. You can get some idea from the title but more often than not you have to click through to find what exactly is offered. It would be nice to be able to preview the deal details without having to visit the website offering the deal.
  • Why are there no product images? Shopping is a very visual process. Visual shopping is becoming more and more popular and being able to see a product image is a must these days.
  • Can I sort those deals? Dealighted brings a list of “Today’s Best User Submitted Deals” together and this is very useful. However I would like to be able to do more with this list rather than just browse through it. Being able to sort deals by popularity or filter by a keyword would be a great addition.
  • Can I browse deals by category? This is another important feature that would greatly improve the aggregator part of the website. The tag cloud somewhat helps but I personally find categories with multiple levels (similar to those used in the price comparison part of the website) much more useful.

Summary

The integration of price comparison functionality into Dealighted shifts the focus from bargain hunting to comparison shopping. It does open the door for monetizing the website but also brings it into a much more crowdy market space.

The ability to see related deals in the price comparison search results helps to set the website apart from competitors (the only other website that I know is doing a similar thing is Mpire). The change however adds little value for bargain hunters who come to the website to use it as a deals aggregator.

This post is sponsored by Dealighted via ReviewMe

New search engine launched, meet CouponLooker

A new website has just launched that might make your bargain hunting life a little easier, my dear readers. CouponLooker is a search engine that brings coupons from multiple sources at your fingerprints.

This is a very timely offering. I have reviewed websites aggregating deals in the past here and here but this is the first time I write about aggregating coupons. My monthly list of coupon sites keeps growing and for someone to launch a search engine like this was just a matter of time.

The site has been brought to life by the folks from JudysBook who seem to dip their toes into deals/coupons niche ever deeper each time I come to visit their place. The last update added local mapping feature which lets you see those deals marked on your local area map. Check it out.

Affiliate or not?

CouponLooker seems to be a step aside from that road to the fairyland of affiliate marketing which didn’t start very smoothly for JudysBook.

We tried to get a broad base of coupon sites into our indexes to provide useful results to consumers. Long term we’d like to be comprehensive.

This was from Rahul Pathak, the VP of Product Development at Judy’s Book. The search engine seems to follow the business model used by Google and Yahoo who generate revenue via sponsored results and context ads. You can already see ads on the right side bar of the search results page. I am yet to find a sponsored result though.

I have been using the tool for some time now and the impression is very positive so far. The website is very cleanly designed. The search results are arranged by the partner advertising the coupon. Some results can be further expanded into sub results if multiple offers are detected from the same partner. More often than not you can see the coupon expiration date and/or other details within the results.

Where is my coupon?

The only big problem I see with the tool is that after clicking through the link I get to the partner page with tens or hundreds of coupons and my particular coupon is not highlighted or marked in any way. This is not very convenient since I then have to look around that page searching for what I need.

Another interesting feature offered by CouponLooker team is a blog widget. I have embedded one in this post for you to see. You can search for coupons from the widget itself but you will have to go to the main site to get details on those coupons after you click on the results in the widget. Is that extra click really necessary? I guess this is just an effort, and a rather lousy one, to get you to visit the main site more often.

Conclusion

This is a very interesting idea and a useful search engine. I am really impressed. As long as the team stays independent and open regarding how results are ordered and what sources are crawled, I am going to recommend it to anyone as a great time and money saving tool. What is your opinion?




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