nicolas leroy

BeatMyPrice, a “people-powered price comparison engine”

January 04, 2009

(as this is my first post of 2009, I wish you a happy new year :) )

Read on Mashable:

BeatMyPrice is a stunningly simple “people-powered price comparison engine” – enter the item name, the price to beat and where you found it on the web, and BeatMyPrice will compare that to data entered by other visitors. If someone found it cheaper elsewhere, BeatMyPrice serves up that result. It’s a product search engine, essentially, with a people-powered twist.

BeatMyPrice homepage

The concept is good, the user experience is excellent… till you look at the results. The difficulty for such crowdsourcing destination is to attract a community big enough to generate value (i.e: Digg for news); as BeatMyPrice is only 2 months old, results are not really relevant except for highly popular products (think ipod, iphone or wii). Moreover, for the same product, URLs can be submitted several times by different users, and there doesn’t seem to have a de-dupe process in place ; as a consequence, result pages tend to highlight price variations for popular websites (for instance Amazon), but in the end don’t provide a great service to compare prices.

I.E: when searching for a “Canon EOS 50D” digital camera seen on Amazon US site, I got 6 times the same URLs with different prices…

BeatMyPrice "compare price" page

Also the matching technology to find similar products could be improved; a full-text search on “Canon EOS 50D” currently brings far more results.

BeatMyPrice search result page

From a technical standpoint, we may also wonder how BeatMyPrice can be protected from spam, as the site doesn’t require user authentication. But on this aspect, Mashable explains the service seems pretty reliable:

And surprisingly, our attempts to spam the site with junk prices were unsuccessful: whatever algorithm the site uses to filter results seems resilient to the kind of vendors who would claim to sell an iPhone for $1 to get more clicks to their own store. And if they can keep this data clean, [they] could be sitting on a wealth of user-generated pricing information within a matter of months.

Despite my few concerns, I still think BeatMyPrice is an innovative service; and I wonder whether this kind of service could be plugged on a classic CSE… In the past years, we saw some CSEs bringing social features to their site (Pronto, Become, Shoposphere by Yahoo! Shopping…). But in the end, I was frustrated by most of those attempts, as basically they were limited to the management of product lists and friend relationships… No real attempt to bring a social dimension to the core of their business: price comparison.

By finding the right incentive for users to submit offers, and mixing this user generated content with paid listings (using de-duping / matching technologies all CSEs have), this could be a more successful way for a CSE to start building a community from the core of its product, and not from the side. It could even be used to identify new merchants, missing products or market trends…

(thanks to Benoit for the link)