There are several very interesting aspects to keep in mind when considering Shopping.com. First, the comparative shopping marketplace was a low-barrier-to-entry marketplace to enter, leading to significant competition. Second, revenue generating strategies were difficult to figure out in the 1997-1999 timeframe. Online advertising as a revenue model had barely started to take off. Finally, once the bubble burst an entire industry struggled to redefine itself and remain afloat. Shopping.com was successful in each one of these aspects. Let’s explore how.
SM: So you moved to the US with Shopping.com. What prompted you to start Shopping.com in 1997? AA: In 1997, that was the early days of the web and eCommerce. It was clear even then that there were new services which eCommerce would enable which were not feasible in regular commerce. One of those services is comparison shopping, the ability to easily compare thousands of different stores and have information which was never accessible before. The idea was very powerful. I don’t think we fully understood how this business was going to grow and what turns it was going to take. The value of this service was clear and strong, so we built a company and initially the idea was to send alerts to consumer-defined products which were within specified price ranges. Over time the alert functionality became secondary to the web functionality.
SM: Did you have a background in advanced search technologies? AA: When I was the Director of Research at CommTouch I did work with a lot of advanced web technologies, but not specifically search.
SM: With Shopping.com you were using a lot of search technologies to enable the alert functionality, correct? AA: Exactly right.
SM: Your R&D was all in Israel? AA: Our R&D was mostly in Israel. We had some in the US, the office was initially in New York and then moved to California.