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Title: RSS Delivers Web's Best Deals
Source: Wired
URL Source: http://www.wired.com/news/technolog ... t/0,72255-0.html?tw=wn_index_3
Published: Dec 11, 2006
Author: Scott Gilbertson
Post Date: 2006-12-11 21:19:46 by A K A Stone
Keywords: None
Views: 924
Comments: 1

The holiday season is in full swing, and more and more people are using the web as a giant shopping mall. Thankfully, the proliferation of Web 2.0 technologies is giving birth to a new breed of shopping site that can help navigate this crowded marketplace.

Sites like Offertrax, StyleFeeder and Mpire don't sell anything at all. Rather, they improve purchasing intelligence by keeping an eye out for bargains and sending electronic alerts when it's time to swoop in for the kill.

Instead of wasting time browsing the virtual aisles at dozens of sites, just tell Offertrax what you're shopping for. The site aggregates price-change notifications and special offers from various online shops and delivers them through an RSS feed.

"Gone are the days when customers simply land on a merchant page and expect to only see a Buy Now button," says Ben Carcio, co-founder and COO of Offertrax. "As customers grow more sophisticated, so must the sites that serve them."

Offertrax users create "tracks," or simple collections of bookmarks pointing to products found on the web.

The service checks all of its customers' tracks every hour, sending out RSS notifications whenever it encounters a price change or special offer. If a shopper doesn't use an RSS reader, the notifications are available on the company's website. (Offertrax was previously reviewed on the Wired News blog Monkey Bites.)

Predictive pricing is another way some sites are helping shoppers find the best deals. Using past data as a guide, predictive-pricing services attempt to tell consumers whether an item's price is likely to go up or down.

Mpire, for example, uses a customized Firefox plug-in to serve Mpire price data with a single click, no matter which shopping site the user is currently browsing.

If you're shopping at http://Amazon.com and you want to know an item's price at another retailer, the plug-in will tell you. It will also make guesses about future price fluctuations so you know whether to buy now or wait. (Read a full review of Mpire on the Monkey Bites blog.)

Predictive pricing has proven effective for airline ticket shopping site Farecast. However, unlike the fairly static market for airline fares, retail goods come and go and stock levels fluctuate.

Also, users may be influenced by concerns other than price.

"People aren't necessarily that patient," says Patti Freeman Evans, an online retail analyst with JupiterResearch. "The question isn't just, 'Is the price going to drop?' but also, prices have to drop in the time frame in which a customer is interested."

Mpire has found that its predictive-pricing model works best on auction sites like eBay.

"The thing our users like the most is to be able to see new and auction-based prices in a single view," says Dave Cotter, Mpire's founder and chief marketing director.

Both Mpire and Offertrax utilize social-networking components, but neither site offers anything quite as extensive as popular shopping site StyleFeeder. The site hosts a community where shoppers can create profiles and build wish lists made up of products they're interested in. Users can share wish lists by posting them on their profile pages at MySpace and other social-networking sites. Friends can subscribe to a StyleFeeder member's RSS feed to keep track of the user's most-wanted items.

The extensive use of RSS technology shows that these shopping sites are consciously moving away from traditional methods of communication like e-mail, which has become less reliable for alerting users to money-saving deals.

As Offertrax's Carcio points out, e-mail has been so badly abused by spammers that RSS, blogs, opt-in offers and other "user-controlled technologies" will soon become the most effective way for sellers to reach out to interested buyers.

Putting the user in control might be the fastest route to online sales success, says JupiterResearch's Evans.

"These new sites are a great opportunity for consumers to get into the game and get information themselves rather than relying on the retailer for that information," she says.

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#1. To: A K A Stone (#0)

"These new sites are a great opportunity for consumers to get into the game and get information themselves rather than relying on the retailer for that information," she says.

Buying stuff on the 'net with a credit card is dangerous.

Also, the article fails to mention the "patriotic duty" of 'net buyer to display a yankee flag on the top of the monitor while shopping the 'net.


"If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission, and offer my sword to the other side." --Ulysses S. Grant

cwrwinger  posted on  2006-12-13   9:11:15 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

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