Ciao US launches

February 8, 2008

I spoke yesterday with Markus Rottmaier, Head of Sales International for Ciao, which officially debuted in the United States yesterday.

The EU-based CSE is one of the biggest players in the market, with presence in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

While Markus acknowledges that the US market is the most crowded and competitive one, he still thinks there’s space to innovate and extend Ciao’s already successful model.  So what makes Ciao different?

“Our main focus is on the user. We provide them with all the information they need before clicking through to a merchant’s product page.  The target audience is someone who’s in the middle of the buying process.  Typically, we’ve found that customer-written recommendations are the most useful in accelerating the decision process — and deliver increased conversion rates for merchants.”

Ciao encourages user-to-user conversations and also pays the  most valuable contributors.

The strategy has worked in Europe, where Ciao’s conversion rates tend to be higher than its competition. Plus, it’s one strategy also recently employed by Become and Pronto, both of which have seen massive traffic increases (1000%+) since releasing social features in the same spirit.

“We see ourselves more as a shopping community than a pure price comparison site.”

Ciao’s staying away from more traditional ad buys and relying most heavily on the site’s content to drive natural searches.

By the way — merchants who sign up now can get three months worth of clicks and traffic free. After the trial it’s a CPC model with no bidding — the cheapest price comes first.

The CSE was bought by Greenfield, a CT-based company in 2005. Ciao generated $34mm in 2007.

Stay tuned for ChannelAdvisor announcements about Ciao support!


Written by Scott Hurff — scott.hurff at channeladvisor dot com