Companies like Money Supermarket, Go Compare, Compare the Market and now Google products and the Amazon price compare app have made the price comparison market look very attractive and full of potential; and who can forget for annoyingly teasing but highly memorable meerkat ads from Compare the Market and opera ads from Go Compare? At the same time, a boom in the affiliation industry with some technology has helped companies (like Kelkoo, CIAO and now famously Kayak) to build a business around purely on online price comparison.
However, real questions are, is the price comparison industry really helping consumer, can they really find the best prices and products, do consumers really do price comparison before they buy stuff, and is the cheapest price the only thing that matters to consumers?
The answers lie in the price comparison engine’s ability to integrate content from all the suppliers from their given industry. If they don’t have all suppliers on-board, it might not give a true picture to end users, but the challenge for the comparison businesses is that their suppliers are not very keen to put their product/content information up against their competitors, especially when price is not their USP! (For example, companies like Direct Line and Aviva are not keen to share their content.)
In addition, these engines face huge problems due to bad content integrations, as suppliers don’t spend much time or resources to maintain their data for price engines, so data quickly becomes outdated! Plus the success of review engines like Trip Advisor and Amazon Reviews suggests that reviews and ratings do play big role before people buy, especially for pricy things! And to certain extend, Kelkoo and CIAO got some bad PR due to their inability to handle dead content and a lack of quality reviews!
So what can the technology industry do to solve this problem? I think Kayak and now TikBuzz have come up with a great technology for the travel industry, where everything is runtime and outdated content is left out. Trip advisor and Amazon have built marketplace and affiliation links on top of their review contents, which is working too! And traditional and vertical market engines like Go Compare, Compare the Market and Money Supermarket will keep building their business on tightly coupled supplier relationships and big marketing budgets.
Overall , knowing that consumers like to compare and take recommendations from each other, there is a scope for a technologist to come up with lean and mean technology solutions for various industries to give consumer quality choice with a holistic view – which must become pre-cursor to any buying!