retail Finds Its Niche

Shoes-BThe shopping web site is carving out a niche in the online retail world as the meta-search platform for shopping -- something like the Kayak of clothing, accessories and just about everything else. The site, which crawls the web for product listings on other sites aggregates from a very long-tail of  some 500,000 online stores in North America, from  the Googles and Amazon’s of the world down to mom and pop stores with online shopping carts. "Depending on the [retailer], we are getting product feeds anywhere from once every two hours to once per week," says  Usher Lieberman, director corporate communications.

He says the site's expertise is a sweet spot in where other search-based aggregators have major problems: apparel. "The focus for us has always been fashion, clothing and accessories. And the hardest problem, and the most unaddressed, is how hard it is to do that. Amazon works well for DVD's, books or things with very well-structured catalogues. Clothing is harder because you have to get style, color, sizing, and materials. But there are all sorts of ways to make clothing searchable."



Lieberman says about 58% of clicks from to the retailer are free for the latter. "We want operate as a search engine. So we show stuff that is both paid and not paid. We prioritize stuff that we are getting paid for but only on an apples to apples basis." 

The site doesn't take ads because, per Lieberman, it gets 12 million uniques per month, "And also, Google has made it clear that excessive ads on your site will lower search results."

Of course, it may also give a leg up since Google announced it is moving product search to an all-paid basis, which may become a major point of contention for companies like Amazon who do huge volume with Google, and which is essentially a digital brick-and-mortal since it controls its own entire inventory. And, with services like Amazon Prime, web retail may be moving toward a loyalty paradigm that lowers Google’s relevance slightly, anyway. 

Lieberman says that realized it couldn't depend on Google and that, for its business, the direction is toward mobile and tablets. “We get 20% of traffic from mobile, so we are building apps to do things like barcode scanning in stores; we see a different commerce evolving." 

The company also has a new retail catalogue app delivering a rich visual experience with a host of features such as one that lets users a "grab" a product and see how it would look in situ, by using the iPad camera. The app, which works for devices like iPad, Kindle, Surface and Android (since it's HTML5-based) has around 200 catalogues on a tile matrix where users can manually flip from one to the other. "Conceptually, the point is that flat catalogues are a thing of the past," notes Lieberman. 

The other big trend, of course, is social, which retailers often miss out on because they don't know how to leverage popularity terribly well: the volume of "likes" that a product receives on social platforms or on a retailer's social-media page often has no influence whatsoever on its position on the retailer's e-commerce site. built a Facebook app called that merges a consumer's Facebook data with the most most-liked stores, brands and products based on the shopper's own preferences. Lieberman says the month-old program is a critical move for the site because most social-media sentiment is about fashion and apparel. "Forty percent is concentrated on fashion items."

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