Sourced from Search Engine Watch

Shopping has emerged as one of the most important vertical categories in the specialized search arena, for searchers, advertisers and merchants alike. This week we take a look at what’s new and improved in shopping and product comparison search engines.

According to market research firm Hitwise, the market share of visits to the top comparison shopping sites increased by 22% this year, taking this market share directly from the major general purpose search engines. What accounts for the surging popularity of the shopping search sites? “Users are becoming more sophisticated,” said Bill Tancer, vice president of research at Hitwise.

While this is clearly a major factor in the increasing popularity of shopping search, new features and content offered by the services, as well as increasingly sophisticated promotional and merchandising options for retailers also play a key role. Shopping search services have largely become one-stop portals for researching products, finding bargains and selecting merchants to buy from.

Shopping Search Leaders

Just how much traffic are shopping search sites receiving? Hitwise estimates that visits to the top comparison shopping sites accounted for 5% of US visits to all shopping and classifieds web sites for the week ending November 20, 2004. This amounted to 0.4% of total Internet traffic, a huge amount for a specialized search category.
According to Hitwise, the leaders in the shopping search category in the U.S. are:

  1. Yahoo! Shopping
  2. BizRate
  4. NexTag
  5. PriceGrabber
  6. MSN eShop
  7. Calibex (owned by NexTag)
  8. Froogle
  9. Dealtime (owned by
  10. Price Watch
  11. Shopzilla (BizRate’s new name/service)

Hitwise’s numbers do not always agree with estimates from other measurement services such as comScore Networks and Nielsen//NetRatings. Each shopping search site trumpets the traffic numbers that show its own service in the most favorable light.
Nonetheless, clear leaders have emerged, and the Hitwise rankings give a good indicator of who they are.

A Big Holiday Season Predicted

According to Jupiter Research, online holiday sales will reach $21.6 billion in 2004, a 19 percent increase over sales during the same period in 2003. Jupiter says that most consumers use the Internet when holiday gift shopping to get gift ideas, seek low prices, and plan their budget. All of the major online shopping services provide ready, easy to use tools for accomplishing these goals.

What do people buy online? In addition to traditional online favorites like books, music and electronics, comScore Networks says that the fastest growing categories are:

  • Jewelry & Watches, $739 million, a 67% increase over last year
  • Furniture, Appliances & Equipment $1.7 billion, a 58% increase over last year
  • Computer Software (ex. PC Games), $1.2 billion, a 43% increase over last year
  • Flowers, Greetings & Misc Gifts, $1.1 billion, a 43% increase over last year
  • Home & Garden, $14 billion, a 28% increase over last year

An Emerging Trend: Search Locally, Buy Locally

While the major shopping search engines all tend to focus on online retailers, a new type of shopping search is emerging that’s a compelling alternative for many people. These services let you search for local bricks and mortar retailers that carry the products you’re looking for.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mylene Mangalindan describes this new trend in Internet Shopping … in Person. The new services are particularly appealing for bulky or difficult to ship items such as cars, furniture, electronics, computers, pets and so on. A few notable services:

LiveDeal is free to both buyers and sellers. The service has listings from both established merchants as well as individuals, effectively serving as an alternative to local classified ads in many cases.
LiveDeal offers a number of optional services for merchants such as enhanced listings, featured categories and so on. The site also offers a bulk upload tool for merchants with many product offerings.

ShopLocal is available on more than 150 of the nation’s most popular newspaper sites, portals and shopping sites, and directly via
Merchants can learn more about ShopLocal’s services by filling out a request for information form.

StepUp.com allows you to search for a product and then have the option of buying the product online or from a physical store in your vicinity.
For merchants, offers a free Member Store Program that lets you list products regardless of whether you have a web site.

Online yellow pages providers are also getting into the shopping search game. Last week, Verizon launched an enhanced version of its Superpages web site, with shopping search provided by, in addition to an eBay search and Verizon’s own customized product and services search powered by FAST.
Other online yellow pages providers also offer shopping search options, though at this point, most are tepid compared to the dedicated shopping search portals.