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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador affninja's Avatar
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    December 11th, 2005
    Comparison Sites, Do You Remove Poor-Performing Merchants?
    Looking for some insight from the ABW community.

    If you run a price comparison shopping site, and certain stores really stink up the place in terms of conversion rate, EPC, or whatever other metric you monitor, do you give 'em the boot?

    Or, in the name of running a valid and valuable comparison service, do you leave 'em in?

    I'm trying to find out if I'm better off with or without these dogs. If I keep cutting every store that's below average for the vertical, pretty soon I'm left with just one store and I'm no longer a comparison site at all!
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  2. #2
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    June 24th, 2005
    Price comparison shopping is just that - shopping by price. You have to have a gamut of price ranges so your site has some validation.

    If your merchants with the lower prices are not converting it's important to find out why. Is their shipping too high, leaks on their website, data feed prices current, are they heavily into coupons? All factors that that you have to investigate to see why conversions are low.

    Your more expensive merchants should naturally NOT convert as much. Again, your visitors are shopping for price...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

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  4. #3
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    I operate a "directory" site which has some similarities to a price-comparison site. Like those sites, I want to be "as comprehensive as reasonably possible."

    But unlike price-comparison sites, my directory site does not sort items by price, and would still be useful without pricing information. I have chosen to display pricing information for products offered by paid advertisers, and to also identify free products as such, but I suppress the display of pricing information for non-advertisers' links, for non-free products. I also sequence the list of vendors for an item based on advertising fees. Thus, for a particular item, I might list vendors in this sequence:

    1. Vendor A (10% commissions, 5% conversion rate from my clicks)
    2. Vendor B (15% commissions, 2.5% conversion rate)
    3. Vendor C (7% commissions, 2% conversion rate)
    4. Vendor D (20% commission, 0.1% conversion rate)
    5. Vendor E (no affiliate program)

    I also display the "paid links" in a font that's one point larger (in some browsers, the links also appear heavier/bolder).

    Note that this is the sequence for a specific product. I also sequence products based on projected earnings (the products with the highest prospective advertising fees are listed before other products). Product pricing is simply not a significant factor in the display sequence. Another significant factor: within each category on a page, products are listed first if they are offered by a merchant with an affiliate program, then FREE products are listed, and finally products that are offered only by vendors who don't have affiliate program.

    Thus, a directory page might show:

    First Category:
    - Product 1: ebook/downloadable version: Vendor A $10, Vendor B $9, Vendor C $12, Vendor D $7, Vendor E
    - Product 1: print version: Vendor A $10, ,Vendor C $15, Vendor E
    - Product 2: Vendor B $9, Vendor E
    - Product 3: Vendor G (free)*
    - Product 4: Vendor E

    For this site, my inbound traffic is still >90% from organic search, and most visitors view only a single page because the search engines send them to "exactly the right page." Ironically, although my pages usually appear on the first page organically for most relevant search terms, Google AdWords refuses to accept my advertising because my sites are "just made up of links."

    */ A unique situation is that there are certain products which are offered for free online, but which are also offered for sale as printed books. As you'd expect, clickthrough rates for these products on the non-free links are incredibly low (but not zero).
    Last edited by markwelch; February 8th, 2012 at 03:24 PM.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    November 6th, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    One of my sites is a directory/informational site and like markwelch said, since it's informational, I feel the need to keep the merchants listed and not drop them.

    I also keep most merchants performing or not, since they may provide value to a future customer. I also think there might be a way to work with the merchant to increase commissions.

    Since i don't like being booted from a program due to inactivity/low EPC, I don't dot hat to a merchant either.

  6. #5
    ABW Ambassador affninja's Avatar
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    December 11th, 2005
    Great discussion, thanks guys for your responses.
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  7. #6
    ABW Ambassador
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    United Kingdom
    I would have thought that it was imperative to keep low performing merchants on the site. Hopefully, though, these are low performing because they are overcharging for products and therefore your visitors are going elsewhere to purchase these items.

    If, as Convergence said, these are merchants with lower pricing; then that is a different matter altogether.

  8. #7
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
    Join Date
    November 19th, 2006
    The Windy City
    If we go with the assumption that visitors to a comparison site are looking for the lowest prices, then it should be a safe assumption that these merchants have the low price or they wouldn't be selected in the first place. If we go with that assumption, then something else is affecting the conversion for these merchants. Either there is something on the merchant's site that is discouraging your visitors from making a purchase, such as; leaks, high shipping costs, complicated checkout, no product on hand, etc.. Or there is a problem with tracking.

    One way to add more value to a comparison site would be to go beyond product pricing. It would take considerably more work, but a site that provided more insight into comparative shipping charges, stock levels, return fees, customer service, etc., in my mind would have a distinct advantage over the thousands of similar sites that only compare prices. As a consumer, I've learned time and time again that lowest price isn't always the best choice for a variety of reasons.

    At the very least, it may make sense to visit each of your low performing merchant's sites and follow a product through the cart to the checkout process. This way you can get a feel for what the visitor's you're sending them are experiencing and observe whether they are being sent to the appropriate landing page, if there are leaks on the site, if the checkout process is cumbersome, etc.. If this doesn't provide you with a possible solution, it may be time to make a test purchase.

    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

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  10. #8
    Join Date
    April 6th, 2006
    it may make sense to visit each of your low performing merchant's sites and follow a product through the cart to the checkout process
    Great advice... I had a high converting merchant who went south a while ago, it turned out they added a slightly complicated wishlist feature to their checkout process (ie. extra step). When my sister called customer service (she couldn't figure it out), the customer service rep said she could complete the order over the phone.

    It wasn't a big enough deal to drop them, but it did explain conversion issues. They still belong on my site, but don't get the love they used to..

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