What is comparison shopping?

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While consumer habits have changed in recent years to value things like authenticity and ethical sourcing, price is always a factor in any purchasing decision. 

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What is comparison shopping? 

Hundreds of factors lead to a successful purchase, but even with the best marketing, product, or service on your side, a competitor can easily claim a sale at the final hurdle. While consumer habits have changed in recent years to value things like authenticity and ethical sourcing, price is always a fundamental factor in any purchasing decision. That’s why comparison shopping is such a powerful tool. 

What is the purpose of comparison shopping? 

Comparison shopping is when consumers compare the price of products or services between different providers and retailers before making a purchase. This enables customers to shop around for what they perceive to be the best deal. 

It’s not always about price, though. There are other ways to add value to a purchase like free shipping, a loyalty program or simply positioning yourself as a credible and trustworthy supplier. These factors can be garnered through comparison, arming your potential customer with the knowledge they need to get the best value for their money. 

In short, the power of comparison can make or break a sale for your brand, and even loyal customers might be tempted to shop elsewhere if you don’t stay competitive. Today, the power of comparison comes with an important caveat — it has to deliver on the extra effort customers exert. In times of financial difficulty, customers are proving that it’s easier to stick with what they know and won’t stray to a new provider or retailer if the difference in value doesn’t seem worth it. So keeping an eye on your competitors is important for nurturing current customer relationships. 

How important is comparison shopping? 

In the digital age, comparison shopping has proven to be more important than ever. Comparisons in price are often shown as soon as a user types a product name into a search engine and once the algorithm knows what they’re after, they are exposed to enticing deals in ads in their email inbox, on affiliate sites, on social media etc.  

In fact, the role of Google in comparison shopping and advertising, or rather, the news that surrounded it, perfectly exemplifies how important it is. The internet is a shopping mall, the front page of Google is where customer’s window-shop and it’s why so many brands aim to rank highly (over 90% of clicks happen on page one, after all).  

The ease with which a customer is exposed to these opportunities has also made it something of an expectation for shoppers — they expect a search to bring them reliable, good-value results. With every search term, Google and comparison shopping services are there to tell customers what they could buy and from whom they should buy it. Placing your brand into these ranks is vital for brand awareness, as well as securing a sale.  

Is comparison advertising the same as comparison shopping? 

Comparison advertising is similar to comparison shopping in that they both aim to drive the customer towards the best deal. Comparison shopping is the act of a customer knowingly seeking out information for different retailers in order to come to a decision. Comparison advertising is what awaits a user when they hit enter on that search term and helps them make their choice as tailored ads follow them around the internet. 

Comparison advertising can be capitalized on in several ways. One of the most common ways is through affiliate marketing with publishers that build content around popular items for comparison, for example, blog articles. These often follow heading styles such as listicles for the “top 10 PCs” or direct comparisons like “Designer mascara vs. drug store.” This sort of content is great for potential buyers, even for those who don’t plan to make a purchase immediately as they can remain as a go-to resource for information (and affiliate links) when they do decide to buy. Flank these articles with appropriate brand advertising and they bring valuable information and a natural next click to potential shoppers. 

These pages also have value in and of themselves, provided they are written well, as better engagement will push the page up the Google ranks and that means more exposure for the brands mentioned therein. 

Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) 

Another key method of comparison advertising is through comparison shopping services. CSS works to gather information from websites about products and services and then shares it with users. This is how Google Shopping works; when you input a search term, Google fetches information from suitable retailers and displays the shopping results to you at the top of the page. However, Google Shopping is not the only service that does this and, since the misuse of the first page outlined above, competitors now have equal standing when it comes to displaying their results. 

What this means for brands is that there are prime affiliate opportunities in CSS to make it to that all-important first page. Awin works with a range of CSS partners able to support brand promotion through the Google Shopping platform. These include NMPi, RedBrain, Kelkoo, Dooshop, Pro-position, Shopforward, Lyst and Kiesproduct, all able to help brands rank better for search terms and optimize product feeds.  

Creating comparison shopping content 

While directly speaking ill of competition isn’t advised — and not what customers expect when it comes to professionalism from their chosen brands — general, informed comparisons between your own products and services is a way to share valuable insight.  

You’ll no doubt have seen this displayed in comparison tables such as for subscription services or for phone manufacturers that offer multiple models with varying specs. This sort of content is something the brand is best placed to create or provide as they have in-depth knowledge of the product. They are also able to generate hands-on content for entire product ranges that, save for sending influencers whole collections, most customers can’t replicate. The importance of this is demonstrated in the beauty community where swatch videos provided by the brand show products as they perform on the skin. Following the pandemic in particular, this is insight customers can’t gain even in store from samples.  

This approach can be perfectly adopted by brands online through product feeds. With Awin, you can upload product feeds to our platform and ensure they are updated regularly, so affiliates can easily create comparison tables while also allowing your feeds to appear in Google Shopping should you work with relevant affiliate partners through your program.  

How do reviews impact comparison shopping? 

Word of mouth still holds significant weight in the internet age, or perhaps more aptly, word of type. While recommendations from friends and neighbors still count, cumulatively positive feedback from online reviews can really sway customer opinion. This means comparison shopping is important at every stage of your brand’s offering. Is your product high quality enough to earn a 5-star review? Is the price point enticing enough for people to not opt for a 3-star alternative? Is shipping free and therefore supportive of your affordable price point? Does the customer service that follows reward the customer for choosing you out of the options out there? All these factors influence a customer to write a good review, or even bother to leave one at all. 

Reviews are a core tenant of affiliate marketing, as well. Whether endorsed by an Instagram influencer, added as a link to a popular blog post or rewarded in return for a free item like the Amazon Vine program, human opinion remains as important as ever. If you choose to reach out to publishers for an advertising collaboration with this goal in mind, then remember that not all reviews are equal. High-quality, well-written reviews are the ones that will really hold weight with potential buyers 

What does a quality review look like? 

There are several best practices you should follow when requesting a review or writing one yourself. Failing to shape a review around these basic principles can result in something that isn’t all that valuable to your brand or to would-be shoppers.  

  • Describe the product or service in a way that relates to the user — A review that is a thinly-veiled sales pitch is quickly recognizable, as is one that isn’t authentic to real users and their experience of the product.  
  • Prove your own knowledge — Of course, not everyone is a professional when it comes to every item they purchase, but we all have a frame of reference on if something is a quality purchase or not. If you show you are a knowledgeable source and your word is worth listening to, people will indeed listen. With a new non-stick frying pan, for example, comparisons to other products, examples of when the non-stick quality proves the most useful, or understanding of the product’s overall composition e.g. aluminum vs cast iron, all add credibility. 
  • Prove you’ve experienced the item — Words are powerful, but as the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand of them. Photos and videos of the product in use prove you are an authentic buyer and give a candid real-life look at the item itself, highlighting aspects which may not be discernible from studio-perfect product imagery. 
  • Provide metrics — If your review platform offers specific metrics like “Rate the fit” (for clothes) or “How would you rate delivery speed?” don’t overlook these fields. Every little bit helps in building a review that is as valuable to skim-readers as those who read each review word for word. 
  • Don’t be afraid to mention competing products — If you know there is a particular product  often competing with your own, don’t be afraid to mention it to support why your chosen product is better. You will often see this in comparison shopping articles that address the most asked questions around rival products e.g. the latest Apple phone vs. Samsung. 
  • Don’t gloss over flaws — Nothing can be perfect, but most customers aren’t expecting perfection, either. So, to remain authentic, but also to let shoppers know precisely what they can expect, don’t act as if there are no cons to your chosen product if it has some issues. These don’t have to be massive, but they do need to prove you have genuinely used it e.g. that non-stick frying pan above could be a bit heavy or better if it came with a lid. 

Awin and advertising for comparative shopping 

Awin’s platform connects advertisers and affiliates alike to create comparison shopping content that helps sell your products or services. Whether it’s collaborating with big-name sites or getting extra power behind your search rank with CSS, Awin can help create connections that help your brand win in any customer comparison.  

Get started today with our partners.  

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