Comparison shopping site Shopzilla has a lot of data. About 20 years’ worth, to be exact. Shopzilla’s been around since 1996 and unbeknownst to some, still drives 50 million monthly unique visitors across its owned-and-operated network that includes consumer insights and merchant ratings site Bizrate.
But the company will soon become primarily a marketing services company. Its consumer brands will be secondary. Shopzilla claims that it processes more than one billion retail data points monthly across the path to purchase. Shopzilla harnesses data from myriad sources, ranging from product listing ads across a network of 3,000 publishers, its owned-and-operated sites and 26 million Bizrate surveys a year.
Through its Bizrate business, Shopzilla syndicates ratings and reviews by consumers who have transacted on online retail sites to Google, its search distribution partner. Bizrate essentially helps power retailer rating and merchant reviews; Google's seller ratings are then incorporated into Product Search and AdWords ads.
“We’re going through a transformation where we’ve been a comparison shopping company through our core sites, and soon a majority of the business will come not from that business we’re best known for,” said Bill Glass, Shopzilla CEO. First and foremost, Shopzilla will be a “data and marketing services company” fueled by its tech and publisher network.
Following the launch of Shopzilla’s audience targeting unit Aisle A and its acquisition of demand-side platform (DSP) Connexity, the company has combined these entities, along with retail consumer survey and Web ratings service Bizrate Insights, into one cohesive audience discovery, activation and management offering.
“It was fundamentally important for us to have the whole piece in house so the data stays with us and we’re able to…deliver the impression and optimize that back into the audience management and data management solution in the same place,” Glass explained.
Although Shopzilla once used an external, third-party data management platform (DMP), it ultimately decided owning the technical architecture was necessary to mitigate traffic and data flow.
Part of that bulking up in-house requires technical upgrades; Shopzilla has begun using Cloudera to construct an enterprise data hub in-house. The company cited its need for high-speed processing and analytics to accommodate more than 10 billion ad requests per day through Connexity.
“The trend has been that companies like ours have said, ‘My data is so valuable to the advertisers, I should take advantage of it directly.' One way to say that is to say, ‘I shouldn’t sell data. I should sell media against it,’” Glass said.
The prime example of this is Amazon. The commerce giant operates its own demand-side platform, Amazon Advertising Platform, and offers marketing and managed services via Amazon Media Group and A9. Other retail giants, including Alibaba and Walmart, have pursued similar strategies.
One of the challenges Shopzilla faces is securing enough consumer reach.
“There definitely is a trade off between reach and performance, especially as you move into a prospecting world as opposed to pure retargeting and making sure you have that reach is critical,” Glass acknowledged.
Delivering audiences to advertising partners – retailers, brands, and non-endemics – by offering services around search marketing and programmatic, will be the focus of the company moving forward, Glass said.