E-Commerce Times Talkback
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Like many regretful TV viewers, I missed the first season of "The Sopranos" on HBO. Not to
worry, since the whole season is available for sale on videotape. I decided to use an
online shopping bot to find the best price after it became clear that I was going to spend
at least US$100 in a brick-and-mortar store.
In the last couple of years, I have become a big fan of bots, having successfully
purchased a PalmPilot, a personal CD player, CDs and a number of other items found through
using bots. That's why it's so hard to understand why shopping bots are struggling. The
concept of having an electronic wizard scour the Internet for the best
price on an item I want to buy should be as hot as it gets.
There are better bots, you know. Try http://www.price.com- you could have gotten the sopranos for $74.
Did you mean www.pricegrabber.com? I went to price.com and couldn't find videos.
My company is currently developing a new shopping bot (shopping comparison site) completely geared towards the consumer experience. Of course we will depend on revenue from the merchants, but our biggest concern is giving the shoppers the best possible experience. I like the opinions and criticism I am reading here and would love any input any of you have regarding what you would want to see in a shopping bot. Please feel free to view our progress at www.DealSnatch.com and e-mail am comments or suggestions. Thanks in advance.
No surprise to me. What the New Economy gurus never figured out is that consumer shopping is much more about the experience and the relationship with shopkeepers than it is about lowest price. Shopping bots deny critical fundamentals of the shopping experience.
Ditto the crashing e-marketplaces. Same problem. Successful supply chain needs the handshake, not just the lowest price.
The Internet works to extend and enhance established and traditional relationships. It is never going to succeed at faceless, impassive connection. Society doesn't live that way.
Interesting article. It left me wondering, though, what the E-tailers themselves think of the bots. If possible, wouldn't they block the bots to discourage comparison shopping, preferring "direct" visitors who might tend to stay at their sites longer and shop?
Just a thought.
As a former etailer I can tell you that Bots are the scourge of the etailing industry. Why would any etailer pay to compete with other sites to sell products? Think about it for a second, how many etailers offered the lowest price and thus went out of business? The Bot business model is doomed.
Bottom line: Bots offer a compelling value proposition to CONSUMERS.
Bots' relationship to most e-tailers will be antagonistic. Accept it.
Bending over backwards to accomodate e-tailers is self-defeating.
Best bet is to embrace a subscription model, paid for by consumers.
Must first achieve strong brand recognition, for example, thru alliances with
consumer advocacy vehicles such as Consumer Reports. Must
then combine with impeccable ability to showcase vendors offering products'
LOWEST PRICES - no kidding, no fooling, no compromise.
Even though e-tailers don't like the fact that the Net makes it easier to comparision shop, they can't do much about it. Bots provide consumers will a valuable service, and can even help people find rare items, like the PlayStation 2 when it was released in limited numbers. Bots are an example of how e-commerce is changing the way business is transacted...
o Consumers rarely go for the cheapest, but they want to make sure they're not getting ripped off or unaware of a sale
o Dealtime and mySimon acquisition costs for customers are still too high to be offset by merchant commissions
o CNet Shopper.com should be included on this list -- and they make a ton of $$
o All of the bots provide the best 'buying' experience, but not a great 'shopping' experience. If they could bring their expertise to the point of purchase at an e-tailer, the consumer would be best served
o The use of bots is the first step in an evolution towards dynamic pricing. Imagine a day when you want to buy something, are recognized as an important current/potential customer, and your purchase is dynamically priced. The money that would have been spent in a shotgun marketing strategy is instead finely spent on a single customer.
o Most e-tailers should be excited to be in the bot hunt, it's their most efficient customer acquisition channel -- and the commissions they pay should still yield a transactional profit.
Let me know your thoughts....
Dotcommaven said: "All of the bots provide the best 'buying' experience, but not a great 'shopping' experience. If they could bring their expertise to the point of purchase at an e-tailer, the consumer would be best served."
I believe she is missing the point here. Bots are not about point of purchase. Bots are about service, and in the process they have hit on a clever way to maximize the use of electronics for profit. I agree with everything she said except this one point.
Also, all of these people who are saying bots are dooomed are way off the mark...I think Internet consumers are looking for whatever might help them find what they're looking for, the right brand at the best price. What's the big mystery here and why would comparison shopping disappear?
What I meant about bringing the bot service to the point of purchase is this: I love shopping at CDNow, but don't like their prices. If one of the shopping bots could make it easier for me to "shop" at CDNow and then decide where to buy using their service, I would be ecstatic. It's a long process from looking at REM's latest on CDNow to executing that same search at mySimon -- if it were easier, I'd do it every time.