Comparison Shopping - I

Comparison shopping:

What is comparison shopping? How to compare and shop? What are the sites that offer this Comprehensive comparison shopping Unbiased comparison shopping?

An advantage of shopping online is being able to use the power of the internet to seek out the best deals available for items or services. This is exactly what the term 'Comparison shopping' denotes.

Comparison Shopping is a term which means a website that has applications that enables the online shopper to find lower prices for the products or services they are looking for. To search the price of a particular item, the program will search multiple online stores based on the keyword the online shopper provides. Keywords could be something such as the title of a particular book, or perhaps a term such as food processor or airline tickets.

There are specially designed web software applications that are called 'Comparison-Shopping agents' known as Shopbots for short. Initially these programs were offered as add-ons to the web browsers and had to be downloaded and installed.

Today this has progressed to a point where the software has been shifted to the server such that the service is accessible to anyone with a browser. With the internet boom, price comparison as a concept and a tool became possible and profitable. As more people gained access to the internet, many online shopping portals began to list retailers for particular types of products.

As technology has improved, a newer type of shopping Web portals is being created that are changing both the business model and the features and functionality offered. These sites now offer services where they access the retailer sites and research and retrieve data from each one. What this has meant is there is a far more comprehensive list of products, prices, retailers and the data gets updated much quicker than before. All this offers the online shopper the best comparative advantage.

One way price comparison sites can collect data is directly from retailers. Retailers who want to list their products on the website then supply their own lists of products and prices, and these are matched against the original database. Another way comparison sites can collect data is through a data feed file.

Retailers provide information electronically in a set format. This data is then imported by the comparison website. Some third party businesses are providing consolidation of data feeds so that comparison sites do not have to import from many different retailers. An alternative approach is search the web for prices. This means the comparison service scans retail web pages to retrieve the prices, instead of relying on the retailers to supply them. Generally a combination of these two approaches is used.

Apart from comparing prices, there are websites that offer the online shopper the advantage of reviews for the product or service they are looking for by previous buyers / users. Reviews of products, services and websites also are available on many sites which give the online shopper more information.

However the shopper needs to be aware that there can be certain things that they need to look out for while doing comparison shopping. There is a practice of optimizing such price comparison by highlighting or optimizing titles, prices and content. It is essential to ensure that the site uses an impartial price comparison method so that the online shopper gets reliable information.

Since these price comparison sites do not charge the user anything, they get their revenues from the sellers or the retailers who are listed on their sites. Depending on the model they follow, these retailers either pay a flat fee for their product and data appearing on the comparison shopping site, or they pay each time an online shopper visits their site through the comparison site, or when the shopper purchases a product after having entered through the price comparison site. Sometimes even a purchase may not be necessary; it could be when the shopper performs a specified action such as registering etc.

For the online shopper though price comparison or comparison shopping offers him huge data on the prices of the product or service he is looking for, he must ensure that he uses the services of a credible price comparison site. One which gathers genuine data and most importantly will ensure the privacy of any information he or she may have provided to that site whilebrowsing, registering or most importantly while making a purchase. Since online purchasing involves sensitive financial data, it will be essential to ensure that the site is secure and has the necessary credentials to process and maintain such transactions.