MSN recently started communicating to active merchants that as of May 2, 2009, all featured store placements and display advertisement inventory on MSN Shopping will be retired. Upon further prodding, we’ve also been told that no gift guides are planned after Mother’s Day. The lack of these elements will certainly lead to a decline in traffic from this long standing engine. However, this is not completely surprising since MSN has clearly been giving much more attention to their Cashback program, which was recently merged with the Live Product Submit program at search.live.com/products.
MSN will likely continue to accept MSN Shopping feeds, at least for now, since there is revenue associated with them. This feed data is already integrated with the Live Product/Cashback area. I would expect the Live Product/Cashback engine to fully replace the existing MSN Shopping system eventually, but if, when and how this would be executed is still unclear.
This integration/consolidation is a natural step and should eventually make things easier for merchants and consumers alike. One has to wonder what share of clicks the non-Cashback listings are getting on pages with “mixed” offers. It seems pretty clear, though, that the MSN folks have some kinks to work out, as reflected in the dueling Home Depot listings below. Showing both listings is a little questionable to begin with since the Cashback listing seems significantly more likely to get clicked, but the inconsistent “free shipping” details (the Yes vs. No in the second column) are pretty confusing as well. That second listing comes from the PriceGrabber network via MSN Shopping. MSN Shopping also gets product data from Shopping.com, so the consolidation effort involves more than just the multiple MSN sources, but external sources as well.
Best of luck to the MSN team on getting this sorted out. I have yet to see any Ciao listings in the mix so it will be interesting to see if they choose to do so, leave Ciao US as-is, or maybe shut it down in the US so they can refocus on Europe.