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Amazing Race Feeds Into E-Commerce

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Reality show contestants don’t vanish into fictional poofs at the show’s conclusion. They’re not the cast of Friends; there is life after the show. Chip Arndt, half of the winning duo of Amazing Race 4, left reality stardom to set up Merchant Advantage, an e-commerce company small businesses need to know about.

Amazing Race Winner Feeds Into E-Commerce
Racing Towards Feed Delivery

Chip got in touch with us to talk about Merchant Advantage’s Channel Management, a hosted solution to help small and medium sized businesses (SMB) deal with managing their feeds to shopping comparison sites, measuring click performance and return on investment (ROI).

Contacting an e-business publication to hock your product is not unusual. If you saw my inbox, you’d cringe at the almost spam-level deluge of press releases. Arndt’s reality celebrity status got my attention, but it was the relevance of his company that kept it.

The price didn’t hurt either: $245 per month for a service bigger companies drop thousands for; a service that throws your marketing team, drowning in catalogue minutia, a lifeline so they can create.

Or better for some, it keeps information and analysis in-house. The tool is designed to cut out consultants and middlemen by automating certain tasks while bolstering the seller’s decision-making ability.

Merchant Advantage boasts partnerships with eBay, ProStores, Become.com, Shopzilla, Gifts.com, and PriceGrabber, among others, all of whom have their own feed submission processes, informational and technical requirements. Merchant Advantage has addressed this time consuming (and difficult to measure) issue by allowing clients to upload product information and specify the desired channels in Channel Management using a dashboard.

And, well, from what Arndt says, that’s it. They manage and configure those feeds for you, measure profitability by channel, performance by product, and report to clients what’s doing best, where, and why. Though they do all that, Arndt still calls it a “do-it-yourself tool for merchants.”

For example, let’s say you decide to feed your house appliances to PriceGrabber. People are clicking, but not buying. Instead of pulling the product, it may be better to redirect it to another shopping destination site after deciding what is working and not working.

“You can outsource that to someone to analyze,” said Arndt. “But why don’t you have the power to do that yourself?”

It may be the sheer volume of competition on a site like Yahoo Shopping, and not your product, he suggested. “You might do better at Become. If you’re one of the only ones listed for you product there, you may have a better conversion rate”

The tool allows testing products in smaller places, rather than doing huge product launches, to gauge effective placement. If it’s not working at Shopzilla, pull it down, and try another site.

Channel Management allows sellers to be very selective and targeted with feeds. Instead of sending a whole catalog, a merchant can send select items to specific shopping sites, with pricing and colors, and set it to update, say, every three weeks.

Merchant Advantage emails clients when feeds aren’t working. A Froogle listing, for example, may be dumped because of the words “free shipping” in the description tag. If they don’t support a certain feed, Arndt says they can add it.

One of the goals, he says, is to take on the online consultant by creating a tool that makes simple feed maintenance, well, simple.” You wouldn’t hire an electrician to come in and change the light bulbs in your brick and mortar store,” said Arndt.

In fact, says Chip, that it’s complicated is the main selling point of companies you would normally outsource feed management to. Arndt advises to take out the complications and save money.

“We’ve found that people say, ‘Wow, this is really easy. It’s just a matter of learning the tools.’”

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Amazing Race Feeds Into E-Commerce
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