Shopzilla Formalizes Display Ad Business With Launch Of 'Aisle A' Division

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Craig Teich, Aisle AComparison shopping service Shopzilla has unveiled a business unit called Aisle A that will focus on display ad sales and retargeting.

Shopzilla, which has been around since the practical dawn of the consumer internet in 1996, says it now has the capabilities to better leverage purchase intent data aroundwide range of retail products to create a powerhouse advertising and audience targeting business. After all, though Google and Amazon are often valuable partners of Shopzilla, those companies' efforts to tie up display, search and e-commerce suggest that the opportunities are too great to pass up.

"We've been investing in analytics and data heavily," said Craig Teich, Aisle A's VP and GM. "From a data collection standpoint, why build it all from scratch when a lot of that is already in place – and we'll be working with [data management platform] Bluekai on powering our targeting efforts. But beyond that, Aisle A came together as we began to realize more fully the value of the intent data we already possess and how that can be used to develop natural advertising functions across all out properties, as well as those of publisher partners."

Aisle A will run display ads across Shopzilla’s owned and operated shopping sites — Beso, Bizrate, Retrevo, and its eponymous flagship — and will shortly partner with outside content sites on ad placement and targeting. The new partnerships extend the company’s consumer reach to over 40 million monthly shoppers across the globe, Teich said in an interview at the company's New York office last week.

"To excel in the retail landscape you must know something about a consumer’s shopping intent—from search or otherwise, explicit or implicit—and then be able to connect them with relevant products and the sellers of those products—anywhere, anytime,” said Shopzilla CEO Bill Glass in a statement.  “Aisle A represents the next level in connecting buyers and sellers.”

Shopzilla is arguably shielded from some of the concerns about privacy that often come with a demonstrative push into behavioral targeting, since people are coming to Shopzilla and its sibling sites with a clear mindset of comparing prices and finding the right retail item.

“Our shopping experiences touch consumers across the entire shopping ecosystem—from discovery to price comparison to purchase and fulfillment," Teich said. "This not only provides us deep perspective on what drives online shoppers today, but also furnishes clear intent signals that allow us to deliver unique and high quality audiences through the Aisle A platform."

Teich offered to prove the value of Shopzilla's high intent shopping data through Aisle A by pointing to a test the company made comparing the effectiveness of its data against comparable audience segments in the display space, "including offerings from a tier one portal" that Teich declined to identify specifically. The month long campaign targeted a Footwear and Fashionista segment with a women’s boots creative.

Both from a click through rate (CTR) and post click engagement perspective, Aisle A claimed its CTR beat the competition by 28%, and a control segment with no targeting by nearly 200%. It offers contextual placements.

Apart from the realization that Shopzilla has fairly pure purchase intent data and that it had enough to build a separate business around mining deep information around its audience segments – or, "aisles," as the company calls them – the additional influence came from parent Symphony Technology Group. The comparison shopping engine and its three other sites were sold from newspaper and broadcasting company E.W. Scripps in June 2011 to the strategic private equity group for $165 million.

"Symphony's background is in analytics, so as we did some soul-searching after the acquisition, getting deeper into the advertising business made perfect sense," Teich said. As the company gets Aisle A out of beta, it will look to strengthen its ties to agencies. "There's no need for us to leapfrog over agencies to get to marketers," Teich was quick to attest – and that's where the money will be coming from. But when it comes to planning and strategy of the display programs we run, we expect to form a dual approach with our agency partners and marketers."

Over the next few months, Aisle A will also begin to explore how it can best approach mobile advertising, as Teich said that the tablet converts pretty much the way the PC ads do. But mobile is still something advertisers are trying to figure out and so far, display is having a tougher time. Teich acknowledged that point, and then interjected, "That said, considering all the shopping activity people are doing on their smartphones, the advertising opportunities are looking more and more obvious there as well."

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