Guidester, a developer of online consumer purchasing software, reported last week that its service will shortly appear on the Circuit City and Buy.com Web sites.
The sponsor-supported service is supplied free to retailers and is designed to give consumers the ability to choose the CE or IT product that best suits their need, said company CEO Joe Chin. Guidester has about 60 Web clients, primarily in the electronics retail space, such as CompUSA, Tiger Direct and Abt Electronics, and its service covers 15 product categories.
Chin said the product list soon will expand to about 60 and include major appliances and even areas like financial services, baby products and colleges.
The retailer places a very subdued link labeled “Need Help Deciding?” on its site, usually in the top navigation bar and inside the product department on the site. The graphic is purposefully kept low key, Chin said, to make it look like a service provided by the site and not an advertisement.
Customers utilizing the service are presented with a series of detailed questions that narrows down the product category to a smaller selection of merchandise that exactly meets their need. There are no product reviews offered.
The products are then listed according to two criteria. Much like Google, manufacturers can pay to have their products listed first, and consideration is given to the number of clicks the product receives. The more clicks, the higher it is placed. Chin said it is possible for a company that pays a smaller amount to end up on top if it gathers enough consumer interest. The non-supported products are then listed in any order the retailer wishes.
Sponsorship dollars are Guidester's income source. It does not receive any money for a sale consummated by using the service, and it does not give any of the sponsor dollars to the retailer. Only those that match the customer's parameters are shown.
“The sponsorship matches do not influence the results in any way. It just changes the order of display,” Chin said.
The Guidester service does have an impact on a site's sales numbers. Those using the tool are twice as likely to make a purchase compared to someone who did the research on their own, Chin said. The service generally attracts between 3 percent to 6 percent of a site's overall traffic.