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Shopping Search Round-Up

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'Tis the season…but there just wasn't time to do a proper review of shopping search sites in time for the holidays. Instead, I offer up some important related announcements that you may find interesting.

Both Yahoo and Excite rolled out one stop shopping services, just in time for the season. The services aim to make shopping easier by letting users register once, then purchase from multiple merchants without having to reenter payment details.

Keep an eye on these services. There have been many attempts at creating virtual wallets for use on the web, but none of them have become widely accepted. But if Yahoo or Excite end up with a large base of registered shoppers, they could offer their databases to any merchants to use as a standard. That means you could go to an online shopping site, indicate that you had a Yahoo or Excite profile, and then have the site recover this information for you to speed your checkout.

Yahoo Shopping features products from over 2,700 merchants. You can search or browse offerings, add products to a virtual cart, then enter payment and shipping details once regardless of the number of merchants involved.

The service then remembers this the information, for use if you shop again. Only your credit card number is not stored, to ensure that no one can hack into your account and go on a spending spree. There are also options to specific different shipping addresses per order, in case you are sending gifts.

The Yahoo Shopping site provides another reason for online merchants to consider opening a site through Yahoo Store. All Yahoo Store merchants are automatically included in the Yahoo Shopping site. They don't get preference in search results, but just being included without any extra effort is a great benefit and wonderful exposure.

The inclusion of all these stores is also a big reason why Yahoo was able to roll out a shopping service covering a huge number of merchants, in comparison to the 20 or so listed within Excite's competing Holiday Shoppe.

As with Yahoo, users need only register once at the Excite Holiday Shoppe to purchase products from any of the participating merchants. Information is then stored in Excite's Express Order system, for later use. This system only works with the Holiday Shoppe at the moment, but it will be extended to all Excite merchant partners, in the future.

Establishing an Express Order profile is straightforward. You simply select an item in the Holiday Shoppe, and then a single profile page appears. You provide billing, shipping and payment details, which are then passed on to the merchant and saved for use later.

A nice touch is the ability to store everything but your credit card number. That will reassure the suspicious that no one can hack into their account and go on a spending spree. Also, if you have an existing Excite personal account, your Express Order information will be linked to this. It also makes establishing an Express Order account just a little faster.

Also at Excite, Consumer Guide reviews are now available within the Shopping Channel. You browse major product types to find reviews of different models from the consumer review publication.

Meanwhile Buyer's Index, a search engine of shopping sites, has added information from two online consumer protection sites to give shoppers more information about online merchants.

Buyer's Index lists information from 10,000 companies, and shoppers can look for products there through keyword searches. Now the service also displays BizRate and Public Eye symbols within its merchant listings. Buyers simply click on the symbol to see that merchant's reliability report at the BizRate or The Public Eye web sites.

Finally, Catalog City is a relatively new site that allows you to search for mail order catalogs or online merchants. It also offers one stop registration and a shopping cart system, like those described at Yahoo and Excite, above.

Happy shopping, everyone -- and happy holidays!

Yahoo Shopping
http://shopping.yahoo.com/

Excite Holiday Shoppe
http://www.excite.com/holiday_shoppe/

Excite Consumer Guide Information
http://www.excite.com/shopping/consumer_guide/

Buyer's Index
http://www.buyersindex.com/

Catalog City
http://www.catalogcity.com/

BizRate
http://www.bizrate.com/

BizRate polls customers about satisfaction, after they have purchased from its 60 gold certified merchants. The company also performs reviews of its 400 silver certified merchants.

The Public Eye
http://www.thepubliceye.com/

The Public Eye collects customer satisfaction reports from shoppers that purchase from over 3,500 Public Eye Platinum certified merchants. Public Eye also uses undercover shoppers to test the reliability of some 500 Gold certified merchants.

Yahoo Store
http://store.yahoo.com/
http://store.yahoo.com/shopping.html

Learn about Yahoo's electronic storefronts for online merchants here. The second URL explains how Yahoo Store relates to Yahoo Shopping.


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