ThisNext.com and Social Shopping

February 18th, 2010 by Greg Goodson Leave a reply »
  • SumoMe

Working at Backcountry.com the last two years  as a comparison shopping manager, I’ve taken a liking to some of the comparison shopping engine models. I’ve seen good ones, I’ve seen really bad ones, but most of them are very transactional. About 95% of the shopping engines you’ll see fulfill demand. A lot of them have very robust search engine marketing campaigns, as well as a strong SEO presence. Just because a shopping engine brings in a lot of money to retail sites like Backcountry.com doesn’t mean they’re great… some of the biggest revenue-producing shopping engines are still grouped as “really bad ones” in my eyes.

If a user goes to Google and searches for “north face jacket”, you’re going to see paid placements for a lot of retailers (including Backcountry.com, of course). However, you’ll also see some comparison shopping sites bidding on these retail keywords. In this particular search, I’ve scanned over the first two pages and have found two shopping search engines. One being Nextag.com (a major shopping engine), and the other being Netshoppers.com (a site powered by Pricegrabber.com… more on them later).

The problem that I see in most of the comparison shopping sites is that they are in it for the money; they are more interested in earnings than providing their users with a great experience. And to make more money, most of the time these sites will put up a lot of ads… ads that are meant to trick you into clicking on them (click-arbitrage) . In fact, all the product listings are essentially ads. Every time you click on a product that you find with the best price or from a store you recognize, the site that you click through to is paying that shopping engine. When you go to Nextag, or Shopping.com, or Shopzilla, a lot of the products that you see listed on top after you do a search are up there not because they are the most relevant product to your search, but because those advertisers are willing to pay the shopping engine more per click than the people below them. Hence, more money for the shopping engine.

Score: Shopping Engine, 1 – Consumer, 0

This is where ThisNext.com enters the room. From their website:

Founded in 2006 by a team of seasoned internet entrepreneurs, ThisNext changed the way people discover and shop for products online. Today, Santa Monica-based ThisNext serves millions on consumers every month as the Web’s best place to discover the brands, products, trends and people that shape the future of what’s next.

ThisNext is taking a different approach to shopping search. They are helping users discover unique products in specific verticals thanks to other passionate users on the site.  ThisNext, unlike most other shopping search engines, uses web-based crowdsourcing, meaning they rely on their site’s users to provide content. Right on their homepage, the company states that ThisNext is where you “explore great product recommendations, get personalized shopping suggestions, and rave about products you like”. In comparison, Nextag’s mission is to “compare prices before you buy”. Can you see the difference in value between the two?

Simply put, ThisNext revolves around the shopper. The shopper who actively uses ThisNext vs. someone who stumbles upon your typical CSE may be more of a browser than a person ready to convert. However, despite the current state of the economy, the community based around ThisNext is very passionate around specific verticals of products listed on ThisNext, and seems to be very loyal. It’s a different approach to the shopping search game, and with the internet becoming more social, it will be fun to watch ThisNext expand in the next few years. They are already on the move, acquiring a company called Stylehive, a company similar in nature that concentrates their presence around fashion, beauty, and style. ThisNext also reported a Series C round of $1.2 million. Good for them!

After listening to CEO Scott Morrow discuss ThisNext on This Week In Startups, I’ve taken away that ThisNext makes 66% of their revenue through the leads that the generate through advertisers listing their products, and then the other 33% through advertising. If there is one thing I don’t like about ThisNext, it’s their Google Adsense listings all over the page. Hopefully these ads will vanish with time, but I guess as a start up content site, you gotta do what you gotta do.

In comparison to the other CSEs out there, I dig what ThisNext is doing. It gives more power to the people, and while it’s still small, hopefully ThisNext is the new wave of shopping search engines.

Follow CEO Scott Morrow on Twitter here.

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