Price Comparison Techniques

Price comparison sites – comparing the comparisons

The idea is simple and very effective – reduce the time and clicks it takes for a browser to find the information they want. Mix it with accuracy and reliability and you’re on to a winner…be it product metadata, reviews, rankings, charts, videos, what your social circle is saying….or price.

Price comparison sites are part of the fabric of online shopping and an industry that has exploded in recent years. They started immaturely, including out of date content, inaccurate prices and lacked extra useful details such as availability and postage costs. More recently, the accuracy of information has improved vastly with the advent of product APIs and direct access to retailers’ databases for up to the minute information.

However, there remains one fundamental problem – that of true and useful comparisons. There are too many ‘price comparison’ sites out there that simply act as a glorified listing service for merchants and don’t adhere to the basic comparison principles.

Saving ‘time and clicks’ is what it’s about. Presenting a paperback from Amazon next to a hardback from Book Depository doesn’t tell you the cheapest you can purchase the book for. It just tells you that those two merchants stock those books in those formats. Here are our top 5 rules of building a quality price comparison service, based on surveys and feedback of over 100 online users and hours and hours of self research.

Top 5 rules for effective price comparison:

1: Compare prices of the same item together – list prices from all merchants together, ideally in one table and for one product e.g. hardback with hardback and paperback with….you get it.

2: Sort your results by price, NOT ‘popularity’ – after all the user’s come to a price comparison site, not a popularity one, especially not one that looks clearly like it’s a ‘paid for’ type.

3: Include the complete price where possible – what’s the point in advertising a product listed for 10p, if the mainland UK delivery takes it to £5. Provide prices that give the user a true and complete picture. If you’re worried about your international price comparison websites users not getting the correct price – don’t! They’re probably 0.001% of your business and surely not worth sacrificing accuracy for the rest? You can always put a comment to explain your assumptions.

4. Save the user time, clicks and brain power – make sure the primary purpose of your site is obvious on your home page, works quickly and offers all the relevant information in the least number of clicks. Remember the 2 ‘threes’:

  • You have 3 seconds to capture the user’s attention – if they don’t spot what they’re after on each page load, they won’t spend longer searching for it
  • You have 3 clicks to present what the user wants – if they still don’t have that price after three clicks, they’ll tire and move on back to google with one more

5. Build a niche and your reputation – remember, maximise the business you already have before spreading yourself too thin winning new business. There’s no point comparing more categories before you’re trusted for the ones you already compare. Most online buyers will buy many different types of things online. If they’ve used your service before and trust it, they’ll then trust your new category comparisons. Remember, you’ve already done the hard work bringing them to the site in the first place – now maximise it with repeat business.

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