I noticed this evening that Shopping.com has made some changes to the way offers display on their site. See screen shots below as well as some comments.
1) Category Drill Down: After running a search, the category drill down options are now appearing in a large box above the search results. They are much more visible than in the previous layout, but have pushed the offers down the page a bit.
2) Grid View: With the exception of the shoe category, which does not appear to have changed, every other product type I searched for resulted in a grid view instead of the previous list view (the list view is still available but not the default). This definitely allows consumers the chance to see more products at once and is a better use of space on the site. It also effectively makes positions 2-5 much more visible, almost on par with position 1. This suggests the possibility for more traffic in those positions. In addition, product level ratings are displayed when the user hovers over the item.
I like all of these aspects, but also have some concerns. There is a quick view function that allows consumers to see the full title, description and a larger image. This is good, but requires a click on a small graphic in the upper right corner of the item, which suggests minimal usage. The majority of the clickable area for each item drills down to the product page, or in the absence of a product page, takes the user directly through the the retail site. For items for which there is no product page, this may result in lower quality traffic, mainly because titles appear to be truncated at 40 characters. In some cases, this eliminates key terms that help describe the product, meaning the user may see a less than desirable level of information about the item before clicking. Since the majority of the clickable area goes through to the retailer site for items with no product page, it seems likely that retailers will receive clicks from users who don’t quite know enough about the product to make a purchase decision and are simply looking for more information about the product, resulting in a lower conversion rate. The image text does show the full title for items without a product page so that may help offset this.
In addition, logos, merchant ratings and the stock description field (which acts as a free text promotional field) are only appearing on the quick view and are not visible in the initial grid view. These three elements are key to communicating a retailer’s value proposition. I’m pretty surprised that merchant ratings have been removed from the initial view since they seem to be heavily weighted in the Shopping.com algorithm and because establishing trust is such an important part of any online shopping experience. This seems to favor larger merchants whose brand can convey trustworthiness, even though their Shopping.com rating may be lower than a smaller, less known retailer.
3) Green Prices: Prices in all views are being displayed in a large, bold, green font. This makes the prices very easy to see, which is great. In the Grid View, the total price (including shipping and tax) is smaller and not green. I’m not sure why this would be the case, especially since the product page price behaviour has not changed. On those pages, the total price replaces the base price completely, which makes sense to me.
4) “Free Shipping” in Red: In the previous design, the free shipping call-out was a goldish colour that did not stand out very well. The red version is much easier to see, and since it something consumers look for and retailers leverage significantly, especially during the holiday shopping season, this makes a lot of sense.
I think it might make sense for the quick view to appear on hover, meaning the consumer would see the full title, description, logo, merchant rating and stock description before having a chance to click. But I guess that makes it an awful lot like list view. Overall, it seems like the impact on items that have product pages will be minimal, but it’s difficult to say the same for items with no product page.