October 4, 2016 Last Updated 10:48 am

As comparison shopping becomes the new norm, many publishers expand services

Guest column: Phil Barrett of Purch discusses how today’s consumers are looking for content and tools to help them make the most informed purchase possible

Google recently released a report on the rise of comparison shopping, quantifying the growing trend as brand loyalty continues to decrease and shoppers are slower to pull the trigger, looking for the best product or waiting around for the best deal. As this consumer behavior has become the norm, many publishers – from Gawker, to Lifehacker, to Business Insider, to Food & Wine – have capitalized on comparison shopping. But many have only gone as far as offering holiday gift guides, product comparisons, or other sales-orientated content to their readers.

Just as consumers are fickle about brands, looking for the best deal, they can be fickle about content. Oversaturating users with products won’t keep them coming back – they seek unique, quality information that makes purchase decisions easier, as more and more product choices and shopping destinations (online and off) flood the market. Today’s consumers are looking for content and tools to help them make the most informed purchase possible, and publishers are uniquely suited to sit in the middle of that transaction in ways that extend beyond traditional content.

Many publishers have already diversified to meet this emerging need, creating tools that act as service extensions on top of their content. This can lead to user loyalty, which generates repeat traffic that you don’t have to acquire otherwise. TripAdvisor, for example, has created an engaged and loyal audience by offering its users helpful content in the form of reviews and expert advice along with booking services that together serve a very specific need, travel in this case. It’s low-funnel marketing at its best and it’s helping boost the bottom line.

The most innovative publishers are taking advantage of modern technologies and platforms to service their readers’ needs, wants, or challenges. Publishers moving into the realm of comparison shopping must understand that consumers are patient and are willing to piece together various tools to research a product and find the best deal they can get. Developing an ecosystem that connects each user touch point into one continuous experience will allow them to increase yield and develop customer lifetime value.

At Purch, we’ve been paying close attention to this shift, and believe so deeply in it that we’ve centered our business model around what we call “decision-enablement” – helping consumers make smart purchasing decisions through our content and service extensions throughout the shopper journey. Recently, we’ve expanded even further into commerce, acquiring new skills and companies to help address this latest trend: shoppers’ commitment to finding the best deal or price. Last year, we acquired a comparison shopping app called ShopSavvy, and just a few weeks ago we launched a new membership, rewards program called Purch Perks which is becoming our horizontal “service” layer across our family of brands. These new services not only reward our loyal members while helping to attract new ones, they also support our larger strategy around loyalty – increasing the lifetime value of customers by remaining service-oriented and user centric.

As publishers, we’re tasked with both engaging consumers with quality content but also figuring out what drives a purchase to serve our advertisers. What do shoppers really want in their toolbox when figuring out what to buy? And what is ultimately the deciding factor in making that final purchase?

pb-purch-200Our job is never done in this sense, so publishers must always be exploring ways to increase the loyalty of customers and to cater to what their readers value most. In our case, this is the ability to easily find the best product for the lowest price possible, and doing so the moment they’re ready to buy in the channel or platform of their choice. Publishers that can meet this need will gain the long-term loyalty of their users and more.

Phil Barrett is Senior Vice President and GM at Purch and leads the company’s Marketing and Shopper Services division.

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