What is the attraction and value of these for users and what are retailers and service providers finding them a useful tool as they strive for online sales?
The online retail sector for products and services has been buoyant for a number of years and the level of resource and funding that major retailers dedicate to the online market surges with each turn of the calendar. As the online marketplace has developed, the consumer offerings have become increasingly sophisticated and more reflective of the offline marketplace and traditional marketing. Consumers demand greater choice and shop around for the best deals ? the benefit of increased levels of competition. Online comparison sites have developed a niche in recognising and reflecting offline shopping habits and reflecting this in terms of online user search habits.
Indeed the online comparison sites appear to be a making a good fist of it with new research from E-Consultancy revealing that in some industry sectors up to 30% of online sales are referred by shopping or product comparison sites. More and more, online comparison sites are being considered as part of the online marketing mix for retail and service providers and represent the entire business model of a new wave of comparison based reseller and aggregators.
Personal finance is one sector where aggregator and referral sites thrive. The impartial aspect of allowing consumers to compare and contrast a range of services and providers to find the deal that suits them best allows a degree of empowerment on the part of the consumer and offers a distinct competitive advantage for reseller and aggregators. Sites such as Moneynet (http://www.moneynet.co.uk ) and the Motley Fool (http://www.fool.co.uk ) provide users with information in a simple, no nonsense manner allowing them to select the product or service that suits them and pocketing the referral commission.
Other sites such as Dial-a-Phone (http://www.dialaphone.co.uk ) are more straightforward in their approach to referrals. A bulk reseller, they can display preferential deals from the main mobile phone networks, avoiding the middle man and passing savings on to the consumer. Again, there is an essence of customer freedom involved as the user can compare and contrast various services and offerings before committing to a particular network or package and again the reseller picks up the commission for passing the user on.
With the online marketing model continuing to develop in size, scope and sophistication, the future look bright for online referral, reseller and aggregator sites and these look set to be a continued integral aspect of online marketing.