Are people loosing faith in comparison shopping sites? That’s a question Quidco asked 1,652 UK consumers in a study they just released. And the news is – they seem to be.

They found that one in three consumers have stopped using shopping engines, and nearly 50 percent more said they would cease to use them if they were found to be biased or selective. Slowly, the perception of such sites having the consumer’s best interest at heart is waning.

In the bigger scheme of things we are being marketed to by all kinds of media – TV, radio, billboards, magazines, etc. Selective advertising is everywhere. However, we accept these media for what they are. When it comes to the Internet, though, it’s different. I have to agree with BizReport’s recent blog on this topic: “The Internet has always been perceived as the consumer’s champion.”

The reality is different and consumers are wising up to comparison shopping tactics. The use of data feeds, Cost Per Click business models and featured sponsors is wearing thin with online consumers. When shopping online, 65% of British consumers want good customer service and price from an impartial source. Are North Americans heading in the same direction?

I recently wrote about how we collect and present product content to consumers to provide you with accurate and fair prices and product descriptions. At the foundation of all this work lies the quality of the information we collect. Along with other second-generation comparison shopping sites, we crawl the merchant sites we represent to get their product data “from the horse’s mouth”, so to say. Our business models rely on Pay Per Acquisition – we get paid when you buy a product from one of our merchants.

First-generation comparison shopping sites simply defy consumer logic. It seems they are getting carried away with ways to “monetize” their sites and forgetting about the consumer experience. As I see it there are three issues:

  • The Cost Per Click business model: merchants simply pick the top performing products and don’t display their entire inventory – basically leaving out products for consumers to find and compare. Progressive CPC
    models simply escalate this issue.
  • The reliance on data feeds: the dependence on a third party to provide product information removes the consumer even further from accurate, matching and up to date product information.
  • The use of featured merchants: the fact of the matter is that consumers search for products through filters and navigation – so placing featured merchants at the top of search lists may not mean more eyeballs. And, for that matter, should merchants have the opportunity to buy a top spot? Shouldn’t the comparison shopping site simply display the best product offering at the top (i.e. sequenced by best total price)?

It’ll be interesting to see how consumers continue to react to these issues. Lend us your thoughts.