What amazes me is that in more than a decade no “brand” has really emerged in shopping search. What do I mean by “brand”? I mean a site that’s top-of-mind for consumers, trusted and that they navigate to directly for products and product information. One could say that the exceptions to this are Amazon, eBay (probably) and CNET in the consumer electronics category. But there are literally dozens and dozens of shopping sites that have been playing the search arbitrage game or trying their best to rank for product-related searches. But they’re not really building any “brand equity” or long-term value.
The major search engines each have shopping sites. Both Bing and Yahoo have made considerable investments in their shopping efforts. Yahoo offers an elaborate shopping destination that includes deals, coupons and newspaper circulars. Microsoft considers shopping to be one of the “four strategic verticals.” The others are local, health and travel. Indeed, shopping and Microsoft’s related “cashback” program (built on its acquisition of Jellyfish) have been heavily promoted as a hook to get consumers to use Bing. Among the three Google’s Product Search is arguably the weakest entry.
For its part, Wize has been one of the many shopping engines in the background. Chris Sherman wrote a favorable review of the site in early 2007. At the time, Wize was trying to simplify product ratings and reviews and roll them into a proprietary “Wize Rank” algorithm that mashed up expert and user reviews. The novel approach was not enough to help Wize break out of the pack or become a top-of-mind shopping destination. Now the site has redesigned and relaunched and is hoping to gain usage by being more intuitive and easier to use. According to the release out this morning the site offers a range of new features including Twitter integration:
- Wize Choice Recommendations: An authoritative opinion on the best and worst products available on the Web based on Wize’s proprietary analysis engine
- Wize Brand Choice: For each product category featured on Wize.com, Wize reads how people describe a specific brand within a product category – e.g. Kodak – and the words and phrases associated with the brand
- Wize Review Search: The ability to search through all the product reviews for any given consumer need or query any given product – e.g. battery life
- Wize Product Organizer: Users are able to store, capture and compare all of their favorite products during their product research session to make research easier
- Twitter Integration: Recommendations include real-time feeds from Twitter
Wize is extracting key information and phrases from large numbers of aggregated product reviews and making that available as filters to users, mirroring the way people typically think and speak about products. Here’s a result for “camcorders” for example:
The “more” drop-down menu more fully illustrates this:
It’s also using a “wize choice” and “unwize choice” labeling system to simplifying decision making. In addition a ranking of top products for each filter or criterion is very useful as a way to narrow and simplify product choices.
Overall, the new site is a significant improvement over the previous incarnation of Wize. Now that Wize has mirrored the way people talk and think about products, the site just needs to integrate local inventory information (i.e., from Krillion, NearbyNow) to reflect the way that people do product research online before typically buying offline in stores.