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11. 17. 2006

Next generation shopping search engine: TheFind.com

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I rarely go to the major shopping search engines like Froogle and Pricegrabber for the same reason that I no longer shop on eBay or go to those big warehouse stores. Their sheer bigness is just daunting to me, and I want to get out as fast as I can. The last time I used a search engine to find a product to buy, I was overcome with acute click exhaustion within 10 minutes.

So, the first thing I noticed about TheFind.com, a new shopping search engine that recently launched in beta – and just in time for the holidays – is that I don't have to click to see the relevant details of each product that comes up in search results. When I put my cursor over an item, a lengthy description of the product from the merchant's site automatically pops up next to it, as shown in the above screenshot. I love that I can glide over 30 results (or 90 even, if I choose that option) very quickly and see details for any item I pause over in a split second. With other big search engines, I find that the product details that come up on the first page of results are never enough, so I have to click to another page to read the rest of the description. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I find this hugely frustrating and often abandon the search midway. With TheFind.com, I don't feel compelled to click away from the main search result page unless I'm seriously considering a buy, so I'm able to browse many more options in much less time.

The grid option displays the results in an eye-pleasing format – nice, large images (though, of course, the quality differs depending on the what's on the source site) displayed in catalog style (more like an online store than a search engine page). And, as with other search engines, you can save items to your list or email them to friends.

A couple of additional features on TheFind.com make searching more controlled and also more fun. You can click the "sale" option at the top to narrow your search to those items that are on sale, or the "new" option to narrow it to those items that are new (how new, I don't know). These are useful functions if you're on the lookout for price reductions or new releases in a particular product category.

What may at first escape the casual user is that there's a deeper distinction between TheFind.com and its competitors:

Though it is not widely known, the fact is that most shopping search sites today only show you products from stores that proactively list their products and rank those product not based on relevancy but rather, who pays them the most. Clearly, this is not the best experience for the user, because it limits the number of stores, products and prices that you see.

For those interested in being truly thorough in their search, unbiased results may make all the difference. The company states that the beta release searches over 500,000 stores and 150 million products (the largest of any existing shopping engine). And this comprehensive reach enables them to "truly rank products by objective algorithms that determine the most popular and leading brands, products and stores."

I did a search for cases for my Blackberry 8700c, and here's what it took to get to my final purchase:

1. I searched "Blackberry 8700c case" and got 581 items from 57 stores;
2. Quickly browsed through the first 5 pages of results (no clicking to another page on the site or to merchant sites, so I was only at 6 clicks by this point);
3. No way am I going to look through 581 items, so I then picked a store from the list of top stores over to the right, based on which store had the most cases that I liked on those first 5 pages. That left me with 25 options to look through, again without clicking through to the merchant site;
4. When I found the one I wanted, then and only then did I click through to the store. Total clicks to get to my shopping cart: 8 (would have been fewer had I chosen to view 60 or 90 items at a time instead of 30).

thefind3.jpgthefind2.jpg

Contrast this with my experience doing the same search on Froogle: 423 results and numerous clicks to view more details – I lost count after about 60 clicks and never got to the end. This is totally consistent with my usual experience with shopping searches.

Okay, as much as I enjoyed browsing around on TheFind.com, not every search I did turned up relevant results. For instance, my search for "Calvin Klein dress" yielded pages of Calvin Klein shoes. I reported this funky result using the feedback button at the top of the page – users of the beta site are encouraged to send feedback as the company refines their search technology and builds in new features.

Online shoppers who regularly use search engines to find products should find this a welcome change from their usual experience, and those who've never bothered much with search engines, because they seem too time-consuming or cumbersome (like I do), might come around once they find their way over to this site.

Posted by Hoyun    Category: on the web
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Comments (5)

Jon G:

Sorry to be a downer, but I'm unconvinced. I have poked around their beta site, and it returns a lot of bogus results for fairly straightforward queries. If you're a search engine, bogus results are a big problem.

I don't buy the "we're better than all the others because they charge for placement in their listings" argument, for two reasons:

1. It's built-in quality control. If a merchant is willing to pay for the word "Playstation controller", they are going to have the incentive to serve the most relevant results possible to that particular query. This model has been proven by Overture and Google AdWords. And it's supported by TheFind's current crappy disappointing search results.

2. It's a revenue stream! If TheFind is telling me "Hey we're great because we don't get paid...", they should contact the current owner of TheFind.org domain and see if he's willing to sell. That's more appropriate for a nonprofit, right?

The shopping search space is very crowded right now, by well-established incumbents like Shopping.com, Pricegrabber, Froogle, Shopzilla, CNET, Yahoo shopping, and Nextag.

The bar is =very= high for this new pack of startups who are looking to rise above the incumbents and get the consumer's attention. And there's quite a pack: Become, ShopWiki, Pronto.com, TheFind, ugenie.com, etc. I wish them all the best of luck, but I suggest putting TheFind back in the oven to bake a little more.

A Nonny:

Try become.com search engine. Includes shopping and product research (product guides, reviews, etc) and a cleaner more usable interface than it's competitors. It regularly turns up shops Froogle does not.

This is Payton from TheFind.com. Thanks to everyone who has emailed us and posted their experiences with TheFind. Keep the feedback coming! Our site was built by actively talking to people like you – our audience and users – and we will never stop listening and innovating in order to bring you a great shopping site.

Based on all of this great feedback, we have a lot of new features and fixes that are going to be released very soon. And rest assured – we are not shy about being a beta product, and we know we have some kinks to work out – this is all part of our public beta process. We also have plans to add clear revenue opportunities – so no worries, we are here to stay! :o)

Sally:

I had never heard of thefind.com until I read this article, and I am now hooked! I've always avoided search engines when trying to find specific products because I hated having to wade through 100 results pages and still not find what I wanted. Almost every search I've done on The Find has yielded results that included the product I was looking for and tons more information than I was even expecting. I love how I can mouse over results to get more information about the product, as well as added features like top brands, top stores, and the sale option. Plus, the site has a clean look and feel unlike many other search engine sites I've visited. It's now the first website I check in the morning and usually the last one I look at before logging off for the day--especially during this holiday season. I hope they stick around because finding The Find is the best thing I've done lately online!

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