Green Comparison Shopping Engine Offers Inexpensive & Easy Advertising with Emphasis on Shopping Experience

Pristine Planet Comparison Shopping Engine & CEO Profile

Pristine Planet is a comparison shopping engine that maintains a sustainable and green product focus. Launched in 2004, it was the first shopping site of its kind. Today, with the increasing appeal and momentum of green-commerce search, Pristine Planet is poised to help a new generation of socially-conscious merchants and consumers connect within comparison shopping. 

The very foundation of Pristine Planet was born of the 1999 movie “Office Space”. Founder and CEO Catherine Finn was working at a leading scientific software company developing chemical formulation software used by Fortune 500 companies to manage product data. After seeing the movie Office Space (numerous times) she felt the calling to do something more meaningful with her career – something that took her outside of the cubicle. 

“If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, I was the Peter Gibbons character,” Finn explained. “I realized that I couldn’t spend the next 30 years working in a cubicle. At that time it was apparent that programming jobs were being outsourced at an alarming rate, so, I figured out that I needed to formulate a Plan B.” 

Catherine Finn, CEO, Pristine Planet

Catherine Finn, CEO, Pristine Planet

Finn’s interest in the environment, fitness and health prompted her to re-tool her programming skills and start something more spiritually fulfilling. The sum of her “Plan B” led her to develop, build and launch Pristine Planet in 2004 – and she’s never looked back. 

“The first incarnation of Pristine Planet was a review website for green products, but as the business progressed we saw a real opportunity to incorporate the actual products, product images and prices,” said Finn. “From there we evolved into green comparison shopping.  We still offer consumer reviews but comparison shopping is our primary focus. We are continually striving to improve our service and offer new tools for merchants to effectively manage their membership”. 

In October 2009, the engine introduced a set of tools that gives merchants the ability to manage their account with more options.  The Merchant Login section gives merchants the option to add, edit, and delete products, check traffic statistics, add coupons, send Pristine Planet administrators notification for announcements they would like the staff to tweet, update their logo, add social networking links and update their report card. This report card appears for each member product listing (via mouse-over) and displays the eco-specific attributes of the individual product listing, along with supplemental merchant information, merchant reviews, social media links and coupons when offered. 

Other site enhancements included an in-house CRM tool that helps Pristine Planet staff manage the day to day transactions, a JavaScript based navigation system that allows shoppers to quickly find items they are looking for, and a product pop up box that gives shoppers a quick overview of each item. 

Pristine Planet’s mission is to offer affordable and effective advertising to merchants and manufacturers that specialize in green products. Merchant memberships are offered on a month-to-month basis and start at $25.00 per month. “The advertising model was structured to make it easy and affordable for merchants to get involved,” said Finn. “Merchants purchase a membership based on the number of products they would like to list. There are no cost per click fees and memberships are based on month-to-month inclusion.” 

Products are displayed in categories as well as individual product pages.  The product display within a category is random ensuring each time a shopper returns to a category the product offerings appear fresh allowing merchants to all take turns in the spotlight.  Shoppers can quickly locate an item by tag, price or merchant from the navigation once they are in a category. 

If you decide to list products on Pristine Planet, Finn advises all merchants to give the membership a defined block of trial time (one year if you can afford to, so you go through all holidays at least once), start with a larger range of products, then whittle down to keep the products that are producing best. This way, merchants can find the right monthly price point for their monthly membership. Memberships are month-to-month so merchants can come and go as they please.  The best results are with merchants who have 100 or more products in an array of categories. 

“We have the ability to track the number of visitors we send each merchant broken down by product, but once the shopper leaves, we have no control over the transaction,” said Finn. “We base the effectiveness of our service on the price per click (membership price divided by the number of visitors we send the merchant).  This is an effective gauge as to whether we are providing targeted traffic to a member.”  

From the consumer perspective, Pristine Planet offers a one stop shop for green products with an emphasis on the “shopping experience”. The site has a pleasant variety of practical and fun items from an interesting blend of small companies throughout North America. 

The engine gives equal exposure to the products and the merchants that sell them which gives the feeling of a boutique-like shopping experience. The credibility and relevancy of the merchants provides a comfortable, personalized and trusting shopping experience.  

Pristine Planet has guidelines to ensure the relevancy of its members and their products via tags.  Each tag definition applies to a specific type of product. For example, the aluminum free tag is relevant when discussing cookware and deodorant but not clothing.  By defining the types of products that a tag can be applied to, the engine keeps the tagging system relevant and meaningful for each visitor. Shoppers can browse hundreds of categories and learn about green businesses while they navigate through the site and apply the tags to their searches. 

“We understand that there is no universal definition for “green” and every product has a footprint,” said Finn.”Our tagging guidelines are meant to assist shoppers in making informed decisions about their individual definition of Green. We do not define green for them, instead we present the information and allow people to shop based on their own personal shade of green.”
  

Pristine Planet Fast Facts:
Active member base: 175 green merchants.
Most popular membership: Pristine 100, lists up to 100 products for $49/mo.
The website receives an average of 100,000 site visits monthly.
The site’s prominent visitors are women ages 35-44 with children. 
Current Twitter followers: 4,340.
Top 10 product searches for March 2010 are: Eco friendly products, Reclaimed wood furniture, Recycled shoes, Organic nail polish, Fair trade shoes, Organic shampoo, Organic hair products, Fair trade clothing, Hemp shoes, Eco friendly water bottles. 

What Pristine Planet Clients say…fter writing this article, I randomly chose three Pristine Planet clients and asked them to provide feedback on their experience.  This is what they said:

Response From: Anne O’Loughlin
Autonomie Project, Inc.
Boston, MA
http://www.autonomieproject.com/

How long have you had your products in Pristine Planet and why did you decide to market yourself there?
We launched our business in December of 2007 and shortly after that (end of January 2008 to be exact) we signed up for a vendor membership with Pristine Planet. We started with the lowest level of membership (20 product links), but last fall we increased our membership to the next level as we had expanded our product collection and wanted to feature more items on Pristine Planet.

What do you like about advertising in Pristine Planet?
Bernie and Cathy of Pristine Planet are wonderful, friendly and caring people who make working with them extremely easy and pleasant. Some of the other similar directory-style websites expect us to do all of the work to have our products listed, which is stressful and unrealistic for a small, time-strapped company like ours. Pristine Planet offers great support, unexpected check-ins with helpful stats, and extremely friendly and prompt customer service.

How do you measure productivity generated from that engine?
We offer a coupon on Pristine Planet with a specific code. When a customer redeems the coupon in their order, we know they found us on Pristine Planet. We also use a variety of analytical tools that rank the websites that bring traffic to our site and shopping cart. We can filter the websites by just referrals or visits to our site or by referrals that result in sales. Pristine Planet always ranks very high in both categories.

Do you feel that it is a good value and why?
It is an excellent value. The membership levels are reasonable and a very low-cost way to advertise our company. With the ongoing struggling economy, we have had to cut much of our advertising budget and have cancelled memberships with other websites and directory listings. We have always considered Pristine Planet to be well worth the investment and never considered cancelling our work with them (and in fact, increased the amount we spend with them, as mentioned above).

Response From: Lacey M. Lybecker
Owner/Eco-Conscious Cook
A Greener Kitchen
Seattle, WA
http://www.agreenerkitchen.com/

How long have you had your products in Pristine Planet and why did you decide to market yourself there?
I’ve had A Greener Kitchen products on Pristine Planet for three months. As a new business (officially launched December 2009), we needed a quick way to reach our target market, and Pristine Planet has helped us do that.

What do you like about advertising in Pristine Planet?
Pristine Planet is, by far, the top referring site for A Greener Kitchen. I also like that Pristine Planet is involved in the green conversation. They are not just a static website. They are on FaceBook and Twitter, promoting their advertisers and spreading the green word.

How do you measure productivity generated from that engine?
Traffic and conversions, cost per click. Approximately half of my sales in the last three months have come from Pristine Planet.

Do you feel that it is a good value and why?
Absolutely! It’s a nominal monthly fee for the incredible amount of exposure A Greener Kitchen has received.

Response From: Mark Testere
Owner
e3Living
Ashburn, VA
http://www.e3living.com/

How long have you had your products in Pristine Planet and why did you decide to market yourself there?
I have been with Pristine Planet since June of 2007. Cathy sought us out and prior to this, we were just starting to get involved in PPC on Google and Yahoo. Her pitch was that having products on Pristine Planet would help with my SEO efforts, and it did. Additionally, I had no experience with shopping site data feeds and they offered to list all my products.

What do you like about advertising in Pristine Planet?
They make it simple, and offer timely responses to questions and very personal service. Having discussions with Cathy about the time constraints to develop and keep a data feed up to date I mentioned that I had a Google Base xml feed. Not long after that she came back and said they were working on a solution that would allow them to accept Google Base feeds. Soon after that they set it up. Now it is automatic. I still have some things to work out, because my current plan calls for up to 500 products, and I have more than that on my website. But as a company we are becoming more strategic in our product offerings and that should not be an issue. Our product offerings are kind of hard to put into the “standard” shopping categories. Pristine Planet was/is always ready to add or rename categories to fit our products.

How do you measure productivity generated from that engine?
I am not very good at keeping up with the matrix that measures results. See elaboration on next question.

Do you feel that it is a good value and why?
It’s targeted to like-minded people that can appreciate the products we offer and I don’t believe it costs any more money to get that targeted audience. I really think it is a good value for us, although, with that said, I am not quite sure how to measure the success or the leads generated and their conversion to sales. But they have a great tool that allows me to track the number of clicks and relate it to a PPC model. There are probably some third-party tools available to me to confirm this, but I would guess that because of the environment they represent, consumers would be more predisposed to buy from us than in the general PPC model on Google or Yahoo.

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