How Price Comparison Shopping Engines Work

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DEFINITION:

A price comparison website (also known as comparison shopping agent, shopbot or comparison shopping engine) is a vertical search engine that buyers use to filter, compare and contrast products and/or services listed online based on price, features, and numerous other factors.

How Price Comparison Shopping Engines Work

Most comparison-shopping sites aggregate product listings from various retailers and online shopping stores but don’t sell products themselves.

REASONS FOR POPULARITY:

Comparison Shopping Engines are very popular among online shoppers. The trend has caught on even in Pakistan with the launch of several such services spearheaded by PriceBlaze.pk – a trailblazer in the field.

All the high-profile Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, MSN, CNET and AOL offer comparison-shopping features embedded or associated with their online shopping platform. Services such as Shopping.com, Shopzilla, Bizrate, and MySimon have also become well known. Then there is an ever-increasing number of startup companies trying to build better shopping engines to carve out a niche for themselves in the market.

TOP OF THE LOT:

To date, no company has been able to formulate a metrics-based technology or analytical tool to dominate the comparison shopping platform like Google rules the web search market. In Pakistan, however, PriceBlaze.pk has captured a significant chunk of the market by collaborating with major online shopping services, thus generating high traffic.

FEATURES & FUNCTIONS:

By and large, when a consumer uses a comparison shopping engine, what he or she really wants is one of two things:

    To discover the lowest possible price of a specific product (from a reputed seller).
•    To review, assess and evaluate a particular range of products in order to make a selection.

CURRENT TRENDS:

At present, most shopping engines are price-focused, but few others try to include information and reviews. Furthermore, quite a few new price comparison engines, primarily from small startup companies, have popped up; and these price comparison applications are aimed expressly on searching for merchandise information and helping consumers choose the right product.

THE LOGIC BEHIND IT:

To build a comparison-shopping engine, there are two ways: the first is to “crawl” merchant (online store) websites in much the same way that a search engine like Google examines and indexes the information on and from different web pages.

This means that you build a software program to visit the merchant websites, analyze the HTML pages and find the information and prices for the products they offer. Because the information on and the format of merchant sites vary widely, crawling can be difficult to maneuver. Also, any time that a merchant changes the website format, the crawler’s functionality may be compromised.

So a crawler needs to visit merchant websites incessantly to ensure that information is up-to-date. A few comparison shopping engines use crawling for at least some of their results, but the difficulties with this method have led most of the established shopping engines to use the second method: “data feeds” from the merchant stores.

DATA FEEDS:

These are special data files that merchants prepare and make available to price comparison websites. The advantage of using data feeds is that all the information is provided in a predetermined format, which is easy for the shopping engine to understand, analyze and update – ideally through an automated process. It’s much easier, faster and more reliable for the shopping engine to get its information from a data feed than by trying to crawl a merchant website. While data feeds have important advantages, they also have certain shortcomings.  For e.g. in some cases, the information in the data feed may not be the same as on the merchant website.

So start comparing and saving today!

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