Price comparison sites have been around for two decades now. The first such site was BargainFinder developed by Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) as an experiment in 1995. The first commercial price comparison site (or shopping agent) was Jango.
Today, we have Google Shopping, Nextag, PriceGrabber, Idealo, and Shopping.com, among others. These sites, also called comparison shopping engines, collect product information on pricing and other details from participating retailers and display the information on a single page when a shopper queries for it.
Shoppers get an easy way to compare products from different retailers without having to visit their individual sites. They get to compare individual retailer’s prices, extras like shipping costs and related services on a single page. For merchants, shopping comparison sites offer a great option to present their products to highly motivated buyers. These buyers aren’t just window-shopping but have already made the decision to buy a particular product and are simply looking for the best deal.
There is a lot to be gained from shopping comparison sites if you are a consumer. But what does a small business learn from them?
1. Check out your competition
As a small business, you get a consumer’s eye-view of the market and products being sold by various businesses. At a glance, you can see which other players are selling the same products as you. A little research can give you information on their shipping policies, discounts and other special deals they are offering to customers. Visiting individual websites can also help you gain insight into their website usability, terms of service and what makes them popular with customers. You can get an in-depth view of all the products your competitors are selling and spot current and future trends.
2. Keep your prices up to date
In a cutthroat competitive e-commerce environment, prices are sensitive than ever. As a business, if you wish to stay abreast of your competition, you need to offer the best prices to your customers. To stand firm against big e-commerce businesses, you need to keep prices competitive to stay alive.
3. Compare customer service
Customer service often holds the key when comparing between e-commerce merchants. A SalesForce survey found out that 55% of consumers will actually pay more for a better customer service.
When buying from a faceless entity like an online store, it is the customer service that defines how a retailer treats its customers. So providing great customer service not only boosts your reputation as a business that cares about its customers, it helps drive your profits as well.
By checking out key factors for customer service of your competitors, you can design your service terms that include delivery speeds, costs, refund policies and payment security. After sales service should have empowered agents that must go over and above the “call of duty” to delight customers. This way you can compete with bigger merchants. The best in the business are also providers of awesome customer service.
4. Check out other details
Shoppers not only compare prices but also other details like shipping costs, combo deals and a promise of a better service while looking for a product on a shopping comparison site. So even though you might be competing on product prices, if your shipping costs are more than your competitors’, it is very likely that you will lose customers to them. By studying these details of your competition on price comparison sites, you can design your strategy accordingly.
5. Keep sight of customer ratings and reviews
Most price comparison sites allow users to rate and review products that were bought using their sites. This gives you a powerful tool to see which products are being liked by customers and what they have to say about them. You can also check out your competitor’s reviews and ratings for similar products and service provided. This gives you an idea whether you can improve and score over your competitors.
6. Spot trends and keep track of best-sellers
Price comparison sites usually do their own research to spot hot selling items and display them prominently on their pages. A careful, periodic study will help you to know which products are selling well, which products to stock for the incoming rush and how to combine them with relevant deals to make them more attractive.
7. Look for “chinks in the armor”
When you analyze your competitor’s site through a price comparison site, keep track of what they are doing and what they are not doing. See for gaps and weaknesses. Is there anything you can do or add to make your offering more attractive? Do you have a strong suit and do your customers know about it? A comparison of the USPs will show you what you do better than your competition. Price comparison sites can also show you gaps in the market in case you are thinking of diversifying your product offerings.
8. Check out competitor’s shopping experience
Most price comparison sites simply provide links to shopping sites. Once the user decides on the variant, she has to click on the link that will take her to the shopping website. This is a very crucial process as a bad experience will put many customers off.
Regularly, click on the links to competitor’s product offerings and see what happens next. How are you directed? Are their many jumps? Is the transition smooth? Is the landing page good looking? Are there high-quality security protocols in place? Is the navigation smooth?
All of these issues play a major role in the shopper deciding either to go ahead with the shopping or terminating it midway. After careful analysis of the competitor site’s shopping experience, you can design yours better.
As a small business competing with other small businesses as well as giants, it is imperative that you stay a step ahead. Price comparison sites offer great advantages to learn what your competition is doing, study them and then do it better and some more.