TheFind.com started from humble beginnings like many successful businesses before it. An entrepreneur with seven successful ventures behind him listened to his wife softly vent about how difficult it was to not only find products and prices but also adequate merchant details and policies while shopping online.
The entrepreneur, in an effort to help his wife obtain a more fulfilling shopping experience did what every good Silicon Valley entrepreneur and husband would do… he designed a shopping engine.
Siva Kumar’s “honey-do” project turned into an inventive step forward in the world of e-commerce by giving life to the Internet’s first discovery shopping engine. Different from traditional comparison shopping engines, a discovery engine places a higher importance on the “complete shopping experience” rather than just straight-line product and price comparisons.
- Siva Kumar, CEO & Founder, TheFind
“The idea was to create a Google-like experience, but in a shopping way,” explained Siva Kumar, Founder and CEO of TheFind. “We needed to show what consumers wanted to see – visual discovery – the key was making sure that everything was there, a complete variety of information is present… not just pricing.”
The origin of the name, “TheFind” explained Kumar, comes from the emotional satisfaction associated with the experience of shopping, the discovery of something truly special. “Helping shoppers find the right store is very important,” added Kumar, “it’s not about the click, but the transaction.”
Five years later, TheFind has held true to its name in that its focus continues to be on the experience of shopping delivered through patented technology and fortified with merchant details and credibility-building information designed to instill consumer confidence.
Current website usage and trending for TheFind illustrates that Kumar’s 2004 vision has found a home in today’s consumer-driven Internet. Channel Advisor reported at Internet Retailer 2010 in Chicago that TheFind’s website usage increased by 175% from April 2009 to April 2010, an impressive statistic when compared to Shopzilla’s 24% decline, Yahoo Shopping’s 22% decline, or Nextag’s 4% decline during the same year-over-year time period. In a press release issued by TheFind on June 21st, comScore reports that TheFind with 27 million monthly visits is now the #2 ranked shopping engine second only to Google Product Search.
Innovation and distinction is pushing TheFind to the forefront of comparison shopping sites for more and more consumers each year, however for online merchants and e-tailers, it’s not necessarily the same case. While many e-commerce merchants recognize TheFind as an industry fixture, few e-commerce merchants understand how exactly to get more results from it. One possibility for this uneven brand awareness among e-commerce merchants may stem from the engine’s business model and methods of inclusion.
TheFind has so far utilized a combination of CPC (cost per click) and CPA (cost per action) relationships with shopping engines such as PriceGrabber and Shopzilla and affiliate networks such as Linkshare and Commission Junction to monetize, while leveraging a proprietary web crawler to propagate its product index. Search results in TheFind are a varied combination of many contributing factors including revenue. While search results are weighed towards CPC and CPA results that bring the engine important revenue, the company maintains that over 60% of the outbound traffic goes to what the company calls “free” clicks – not associated with revenue generating relationships. In May, for example, consumers clicking out from TheFind visited over 150,000 different store web sites while only around 10,000 had any sort of revenue relationship.
In March of this year TheFind took a huge step forward that promises to change the site’s validity and value to hungry e-commerce merchants – it unveiled a data feed upload option for its new merchant center. With the launch of the merchant center, e-commerce companies now have a way to submit a product data feed directly into TheFind’s back end – greatly increasing their chances at generating more site referrals and conversions from TheFind. The best part is that it is free of charge.
When it comes to the submission of a product data feed, TheFind uses a unique format for product mapping that builds on the popular Google Base format. There are five mandatory attributes (title, description, image link, page URL and price), 15 “highly recommended” attributes, and 65 additional attributes that can be used depending on the product type or category. TheFind’s custom format, like Google Product Search, enables and promotes data feed optimization – the creation of product relevancy.
“Merchants are encouraged to fill out as many of the data feed attributes as possible,” says Jordan Keffer, Director of Merchant Programs at TheFind. “Look at it as the more complete something is, the better it will do.” Keffer pointed out that while the data feeds can be submitted as infrequently as once-per-month, the system is built to acknowledge product and data feed “freshness”, an influential part of product optimization for TheFind.
To get involved, merchants must first register themselves and claim their site in order to activate the account. Merchants are then encouraged to join the UpFront Program, a credibility building program that makes merchant policies and information easily available from a badge that links from the merchant’s website footer.
UpFront Program information is also present in TheFind’s search results, triggered by mousing-over a product listing. The UpFront information provides the consumer with consolidated information about merchant shipping and return policies, security verifications, ratings, store locations, contact information, and coupons along with other applicable merchant resources.
“Sites that are just being crawled, that are not a part of the UpFront program, and have not registered their site with us, have less credible information and could be at a disadvantage in relevance when comparing apples to apples,” explained Usher Lieberman, Director of Corporate Communications at TheFind. “If someone does a search and you’ve got 100 stores that have equally relevant results, the un-registered sites that are just being crawled may not do as well. The remedy is free, registering to be an UpFront merchant is free, claiming your store with us which tells us how to crawl your site… is free and easy to do, at bare minimum without even submitting a feed, the crawl will know you better and prioritize your results better.”
The company states that the crawling of websites will continue to occur, yet the submission of a regular direct feed should increase a merchant’s chances at competitive product placement, all without cost-per-click fees.
TheFind may not be a household name just yet, but the company is working hard to change that. The website’s consumer-driven growth combined with the launch of the merchant center stand to make an ever-increasing environment for both consumer and merchant.
“In all fairness, the company has been around for 5 years, and for the first 2 ½ to 3 years we were really in stealth mode building out the search engine, building out the crawl, and building out the technology that’s been patented,” explained Lieberman. “Then you have a couple of years getting the interface right, exposing it to users, then making refinements based on what we hear from consumers. I think that as we continue to execute on those priorities, the name recognition will grow quickly.”
Holding true to his mission, Kumar continues exploring new ways to make the shopping experience even better and more relevant to today’s consumer. Innovations in Local, Mobile, and Social commerce fuel the future of TheFind – including a plan that enables local businesses to submit products and inventory without even having a website or shopping cart – a new and radical e-commerce fusion.
“Local, Mobile and Social are all just facets of the same experience,” concluded Kumar. “TheFind is about helping shoppers find the right store… and the right thing they are looking for.”