Another look at Become.com’s redesign with Jon Glick, VP Product Search & Comparison Shopping

December 6, 2007

Digital Marketing ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

When Become.com announced their redesign, I should have given it more of an in-depth look and sought to fully understand the goals and impact of the release.

Thanks to Jon Glick, VP Product Search & Comparison Shopping at Become.com, we have more details behind the change and where the site is going.

This release could be characterized as “intermediary” — a step in the direction of bringing more social-enabled features for shopping, but certainly not the end game.

Also, Jon states below that first-time users who used non-shopping features like Web research or reviews were more likely to become repeat visitors and were 170% more likely to click out to a merchant.

Oh, and on that new logo — Jon says that it’s part of making the site more consumer-friendly, and that using thinner serif fonts is reflective of higher-end department stores.

What’s the goal the Become team has set for itself with this new release?

From the outset Become.com blended product-focused web search with comparison shopping.  What we started to see was a third information source, UGC (user generated content), becoming increasingly important.  The new site design seeks to tightly integrate all three information sources into a single experience.  Now users can compare products and prices, research products using our 5.6B webpage index, and view/create UGC all on the same page.  The goal is to make the site increasingly comprehensive and engaging for shoppers and a more frequent destination for them.  Also, we see a bright future for social shopping on the web.  I don’t think any site has nailed the right online user experience that taps the innately social nature of offline shopping.  This launch lets us offer features to users, get their feedback, and move toward being the site that is truly able to bring social to shopping.

You mentioned that one theory driving the inclusion of reviews and research is that conversions will be greater if the person is as educated about the product as they need to be to make a purchase. Can you elaborate on this and also describe any other theories behind including this content?
Become.com’s mission is to give people all the information they need to make ideal buying decisions.  The more we help educate our users by providing them with reviews, research, etc.; the more they will use the site and the more highly qualified they become as merchant referrals.  What we have seen is that first time users who used our non-shopping features (such as web research) were more likely to become repeat users, and that their clickout rate to merchants increased 170%.  On the merchant side, we just launched an ROI tracker for our merchants.  It’s too early to see how their conversions are impacted (and they don’t share their conversions from other CSEs with us), but anecdotally, the most frequent “complaint” that we get from our merchants is that they’d like us to send them more traffic (which we take as an indicator that our users convert very well for them).

Tell me about the balance between creating a destination site while still increasing clickthroughs to your merchants. What kind of discord or harmony do you find there? What do you think the formula for success is?

We see these two objectives as being very much in harmony.  Become.com is increasingly becoming a destination site for users, but the final destination for them is our merchants (since we don’t compete with them on transactions).  The more that people interact with the features on Become.com, the more informed they are as shoppers and the more highly qualified they are when they do visit our merchant partners, so everyone wins.  One of our key measures of success is RPS (revenue per session).  Having a feature-rich site generates more pageviews per user (so RPM goes down), but this means users are more engaged, and ultimately we’ve seen this translate into more clicks-per-user to the merchants.

How is Become marketing itself to users?

Most of our marketing is through press/PR, introducing users to our service via keyword ads on the search engines, and on our site itself.  With the addition of social shopping, we want to make it easier and easier for people who like the site to share it with others.  Currently users can e-mail the deals they find on Become.com to their friends, and as we expand the social shopping they will be able to invite friends to join them on Become.com.  Additionally we have our blog, Pocket Change; it’s tailored to the shopping consumer, rather than being about what’s happening at Become.com. You won’t see us doing lots of old-school media buys: radio spots, billboards, TV ads, etc.  A lot of the CSEs have tried these in the past, and found that these have highly negative ROIs.

Now that Become has reached profitability, will it be making any acquisitions in the near future?

We have looked at some strategic acquisitions in the shopping space recently, and have noticed that more and more companies are approaching us.  If we find a company that is a good fit and highly synergistic, acquisition is something that we actively consider.

Written by Scott Hurff — scott.hurff at channeladvisor