Siva, co-founder of multiple venture funded start-ups, is the co-founder and CEO of TheFind, Inc. Previously, Siva was VP of Marketing at Chromatic Research and before that VP of Marketing and General Manager at Frame Technology. Siva was the director of marketing at Oracle and also held product marketing positions at Apple. Siva started his marketing career at Intel, where he served as the senior product manager for microprocessors. Siva received his MBA from the University of Chicago; an MS from Pennsylvania State University; and a BS from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India.
In response to our recently released Q3 2012 Top Comparison Shopping Rankings, Siva Kumar, TheFind’s CEO, reached out to me with some concerns about our rankings and how accurately they attribute traffic to various comparison shopping engines.
Long story short, most comparison shopping engines have networks of websites that they pool traffic from in order to send the most quality traffic to a merchant. Bad sources are discounted, good sources are preferred, and the result is the traffic you get from Pricegrabber, Shopping.com, Shopzilla, etc. But the fact is that some of the traffic tagged with ‘Pricegrabber’ as a source or ‘Shopping.com’ as a source may have originated from TheFind.com, which is why we wanted to give the shopping engine an opportunity to share their traffic relationship with other comparison shopping engines, and also share how you can integrate more closely with TheFind to get even more traffic.
Before Siva’s response, he was nice enough to answer a few questions about his views on the comparison shopping industry and where he thinks ecommerce is going as a whole in 2013.
Q & A
Q: What do you think about the comparison shopping industry as a whole? Where do you think this industry is going?
A: This Holiday shopping season is more proof of the growing vibrancy of ecommerce. With the robust growth in online shopping and with consumers overwhelmingly picking online sources for their purchases and for their shopping information, the opportunity for shopping search couldn’t be brighter. The comparison shopping players have evolved their businesses to become more and more like product ad networks and have done relatively less about improving consumer facing shopping experiences. Consumer behavior on the other hand is rapidly evolving – more searches are happening on mobile devices and tablets, more information is being shared on social networks, and the breadth and depth of items available online has grown way beyond tech/electronics, media and hard goods. Shopping search now has even more opportunity to provide consumers with innovative experiences that go beyond just hard goods price comparison. TheFind believes strongly that ingenuity and innovation can help us and others like us deliver the new and better experiences that shoppers are looking for.
Q: Mobile payments. Mobile wallets. The next ecommerce explosion, or something that will be much more gradual? How is TheFind taking part?
A: Better checkout experiences are essential to help mobile commerce take off for the myriads of stores that are not Amazon or eBay. How these experiences come to be – wallets or mobile payments or something else – is still to be determined. We are actively working with big companies and startups in this space and testing out some solutions in our mobile apps.
Q: We all know some of the biggest internet companies came to be because they offered remarkable experiences to their customers who kept and keep coming back for more. Google, Amazon, and Zappos are a few. How does TheFind look to make it’s mark to provide consumers with a remarkable experience?
A: Our goal at TheFind had always been about creating the best shopping search experience, one that consumers return to again and again, and importantly are willing to tell their friends about. I touched on the ways consumer behavior is evolving with mobile and social. Along with personalization, these three axis help drive the uniqueness and richness of value, thereby engendering consumer loyalty.
Q: The semantic web has been making waves lately with rich snippet markup. Is this something TheFind will also use more in the future? Is schema markup something you think retailers need to be aware of and using now?
A: In the write-up below I describe how we crawl ecommerce web sites and use our own semantic algorithms to automatically classify products. We have significant intellectual property developed that we call Shopping Wordnet – literally a vocabulary of shopping that granularly identifies an item as a specific product type (“noun”) and from this identifies relationships of styles and attributes (“adjectives”) including brand for that product type. We are very excited to see more work being done in this area with schema markup. We do use these whenever available on retailer web sites and we encourage everyone to learn more.
Chris: Without further ado, here’s Siva’s response to our Q3 Top Ten Rankings.
TheFind: More Than You Thought.
Many of you are familiar with our search engine, TheFind.com, which puts every product, store, and sale at consumer’s fingertips. What you might not have known is that we send well-qualified and high-converting traffic to more than 150,000 stores just like yours. Every month. By tailoring our search discovery experience to suit soft line categories like Clothing, Shoes & Accessories, Home & Garden, and Health & Beauty, we have built a growing audience of 19 million monthly shoppers, the majority of whom are women.
Any store can list all of their wares on TheFind.com for free, no matter if you’re selling the latest fashions or the most obscure of spare parts. Because our primary objective is a great and all-inclusive shopping experience, we index every product offer from every store and through some patented math make all of that data very searchable in a shopping context. In addition to the images and product descriptions we get from your sites, we also organize listings by category, shape, size, brand, local availability, color, price, relevant coupons and shipping offers, tax and shipping costs, payment and checkout options, detailed store information, number of Facebook Likes and more. The result is two-fold. First, a visually engaging experience for shoppers that lends itself very well to discovering new things to wear or to decorate your surroundings. Second, consumers who arrive at your store from TheFind have already seen a very comprehensive selection and are pretty well informed and hence ready to buy.
Today, we are crawling upwards of 500,000 sites and indexing more than 520 million product offers. In addition, we receive regularly updated price/availability feeds for about 300 million product offers coming through our merchant center feed submission processes, from eleven affiliate networks, and from many of the CSEs that partner with CPC Strategy. And while you may not know it, if you are paying for any traffic from the CSEs or affiliate networks, you are probably receiving CPC and CPA clicks that originate from TheFind, even if you are not sending us a direct-paid product feed. In addition, you may also be seeing some traffic coming to you from TheFind through the unpaid feed that you’re sending to us via CPC Strategy or directly through our Merchant Center. And this is all goodness, because it means we’re already doing business together via traffic we send to you through a variety of sources, paid and unpaid, and it might mean that we can do even more business together, once you’ve considered the full scope of what we’re providing in terms of consistently well-qualified traffic.
We operate on a sophisticated paid inclusion model that optimally blends both free and paid product feeds in order to ensure comprehensiveness of our coverage and maintain the goal of user satisfaction, hence currently over 55% of the clicks from our site goes to unpaid sources.
A key portion of our revenue model is the mix of paid CPC feeds that are already being sent to several CSEs. Our technology is adept at removing duplication and in choosing the optimal paid URL for a product listing when multiple options exist from several CSE feeds and from the various affiliate networks.
So, how do you get a sense of the overall traffic sent to your site from TheFind? If you are working with site metrics like Google Analytics, our recommendation would be to set up a referral report to identify the total number of clicks coming from TheFind.com. This method would help pull together the free clicks from TheFind, the clicks coming via the CSEs but originating from us and the clicks coming from us via your affiliate feed. It also doesn’t hurt to ask your account managers at CPC Strategy and the various affiliate networks you work with.
• Make sure your product pages have Facebook Like buttons integrated with the correct Open Graph product tags, then if you are sending us a data feed, make sure you have thedirect_url field added to your feed specs. The clean, tracking-free URL is included here in order to keep an updated Like count *only*. We’ll still use the Product URL field for the click outs so you can accurately track our traffic!
• If you’ve ever wanted to create a store catalog to show off some of your best merchandise, take some time on Glimpse.com to learn how you can easily and freely create a visually stunning catalog.
• If you mail out print catalogs, brochures or look books, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how you can get yours added to the iTunes Featured and award winning Catalogue app.
• Make sure your product feed includes all UPC codes when available!
Best wishes on a great holiday season!