Marriott rewarded us with one of the most engaging and professional presentations of the conference. Marriott spoke relatively little of the property he leads, Pronto, itself; By “selling” the online comparison shopping opportunity, rather than IAC’s own online comparison shopping engine, however, Marriott made a strong case for why Pronto may be on the right track to win in a highly fragmented, but highly lucrative space.
Pronto is new to the online shopping game. “Beta” launched just two months ago, it claims to enter the market as “the Web’s most comprehensive comparison shopping service.”
On what basis is Pronto touting the “best comparison experience on the Web”?
Find and compare prices for over 45 million products from 50,000 merchants in an unbiased and easy to use display, 5x more merchants than most leading shopping search companies and covers everything from the largest and most popular online retailers to smaller merchants with unique product offerings. Pronto includes items typically unavailable through other shopping search engines such as out-of-season and less popular items carried by major retailers. Greater product comprehensiveness means that consumers get more product selection and, as a result, lower prices.
For Marriott, Pronto.com’s “consumer friendly, product-inclusive” business model is a key competitive differentiator:
Pronto helps consumers find more products and better prices…will display products from any qualified merchant, which means consumers are more likely to find the product they want at the lowest possible price. Most leading shopping search engines only list products from merchants who pay them.
Pronto is a “web crawler.” Marriott identified new styles of services competing in the online comparison shopping space:
Decision support: Mpire.com
Occasion-based: Gifts.com (also IAC)
Demographically targeted: Glam
Community minded: Kaboodle
Web 2.0 tools: Stylehive
Visual search: Like.com
Consumer incented: Jellyfish.com
All are vying for their piece of a very large online shopping opportunity: $250 billion plus, according to Marriott. Online spending on goods is currently about $132 billion and online influences additionally about $126 billion in offline sales, Marriott said.
According to Marriott, aggregated “targeted shopping services” are only capturing about $1 billion of the market; The new year could mark a tipping point, however. Marriot put forth online comparison shopping’s “seven questions for 2007”:
1) Does any individual brand break through the clutter?
2) Do big box retailers embrace inventory availability and geographic promotion to make Local relevant?
3) Does the SEM channel tighten considerably?
4) Does Web 2.0/Social Shopping play a meaningful role?
5) Does a pure product research/review play emerge?
6) Do retailers put toes in the water on dynamic pricing?
7) Where do marketplaces (ebay/Amazon) head?
Marriott believes 2007 will be a pivotal year; The outcome of the current 2006 holiday shopping season, however, may spur an even earlier shakeout within the online comparison space.
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