MSN Shopping

MSN Shopping partners with

", a global leader in online comparison shopping, announced today that it has formed an alliance with MSN to provide users of MSN Shopping with access to millions of products from thousands of online merchants.
source: press release"

Will be interesting to see how well MSN Shopping is able to integrate all the offers from multiple sources. This has the potential to make things better on niche searches, but it also has the potential to make things messier on popular products. I'll look at this in more detail when the dust settles.

MSN Shopping partners with
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on August 2, 2005 at 10:50 AM
Archived at MSN Shopping |

SearchViews: 5 Q's with Chris Jolley of MSN Shopping

link: 5 Questions with Chris Jolley of MSN Shopping (

SearchViews: 5 Q's with Chris Jolley of MSN Shopping
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on August 1, 2005 at 6:56 PM
Archived at MSN Shopping

The New MSN Shopping

It is official, the new MSN Shopping shopping functionality is live on

Scott Austin has a long list of features at MSN Shopping Insider, Brian Smith has a nice long post at Comparison Engines, and I'm assuming the Search Engine Watch blog is going to provide background information. I'll try a different format and see if it proves useful. Here are my Top 3 most-favorite and least-favorite features of the new MSN Shopping:


1. RSS Feeds - Custom search-based feeds should be infinitely more useful than pre-defined, ill-defined category feeds (i.e. Yahoo Shopping RSS). I'm not sure how many people will discover all of the uses for this feature, but you can build a feed to include a search for a product name, a price range, product attributes, and even the sort order. Nice!

2. Recently Viewed - I like that they looked beyond just saving products, and included categories, searches and pages.

3. "Miscellaneous" - There are many improvements over the old MSN Shopping, but as a shopper who uses many comparison shopping engines, none of the other new features stand out from the pack, at this time.


1. Attribute-Based Search - I admit, this is my pet peeve. In my humble opinion, MSN Shopping's goal of letting people compare products "without having to do any fancy manipulation of data" is somewhat ironic... because the only reason features like this seem fancy is because everyone is clinging to tired old interfaces.'s multi-criteria search is an example of how easy this can be. Use the wrong interface, and comparing even a few attributes is a chore for the average user. Yet, even with the old-style interface, there is room for improvement, by replacing overly-narrow ranges (1.8-1.9GHz) with open-ended ranges (1.8+ GHz).

2. RSS Feeds - With so many ways to build a custom feed, this should be the greatest things since sliced bread. In reality, the content in the feeds is less than compelling. This is a problem with most shopping-related feeds... the content is sooo vague... no images, limited descriptions, no ratings, no merchants, no indication of sort order, no way to tell "which end is up" in general.

3. "The Content Area" - the site is sluggish today, images are slow to load, many products do not have images, many products are not grouped... making comparison difficult. Hopefully this is a temporary situation.

+ + +

related links: MSN Shopping | Sitemap | Help | Feedback

The New MSN Shopping
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on August 1, 2005 at 2:14 PM
Archived at MSN Shopping

MSN Shopping Beta is Back

Brian Smith of Comparison Engines covers the announcement of the new MSN Shopping Beta.

MSN Shopping Beta is Back comments(2)
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on July 18, 2005 at 5:26 PM
Archived at MSN Shopping

New! The MSN Shopping Blog, MSN Shopping Insider

MSN Shopping has become the first major comparison shopping engine with a public weblog, the MSN Shopping Insider.

Initial Authors:
Scott Austin, Director of Consumer Programming
Chris Jolley, Group Programming Manager

This could be an ideal test of Scoble's thesis:

"...companies that have lots of bloggers will end up making better products, will end up having better marketing and PR, will end up making more profit at the end of the day, and will be more likely to have more than one "hit product" and will be more likely to last 100s of years."

Honestly, I have not met anyone who said the old MSN Shopping was their "go to" shopping engine. How could this happen with the vast resources of Bill Gates & company? Dunno, but history looks less likely to repeat itself, if these developments are any indication:

(1) Participation in hReview
(2) Alliance with PriceGrabber
(3) Launch of MSN Shopping Insider

Congrats to Scott and Chris for kicking off the conversation. Will be interesting to see how this develops: what audience(s) they try to reach, what topics they choose to tackle, the posting frequency, the level of reader participation... and will other comparison shopping engines follow their lead?

link: MSN Shopping Insider

New! The MSN Shopping Blog, MSN Shopping Insider
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on June 14, 2005 at 11:18 AM
Archived at MSN Shopping Announces Strategic Alliance with MSN Shopping

", a leader in online comparison shopping, has formed a strategic alliance with MSN (Nasdaq:MSFT) to further increase the selection of products available on MSN Shopping."

PriceGrabber Announces Strategic Alliance with MSN

The press release is sparse, I am seeking clarification...


I talked to Chris Jolley, Group Programming Manager, MSN Shopping.

The main thing is this does not replace the primary MSN Shopping site that is being built, it is a non-exclusive supplement to that site. But a very big, important addition nonetheless. This gives MSN enough listings to satisfy shoppers for the holiday season. It also gives them a critical mass of reviews, which not only helps with shopping, it also makes people more likely to add their own reviews.

Chris could not pin down a time for the new data to be integrated, but he did say the beta site would be up again fairly soon (note: it came down last Friday and currently displays a welcome page).

MediaPost has a few more details. Interesting integration issues, like how to go about adding reviews to products that are PriceGrabber listings.

+ + +

So, we have primary shopping engines, we have metashopping engines, and now we have primary shopping engines that are supplemented by other primary shopping engines. In this way, the comparison shopping landscape is starting to look more like the web search landscape. Announces Strategic Alliance with MSN Shopping
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on June 13, 2005 at 11:02 AM
Archived at MSN Shopping | PriceGrabber

MSN Shopping Beta

Pssst... wanna see the hot new beta at MSN?

If this is the first you heard of the MSN Shopping beta, you are not alone...

February 1st - it all starts with an oh-by-the-way mention at Matthew@MSN.
February 2nd - the news is noted by TopRank (note: subscribe via Bloglines)
February 17th - call for feedback and link to an online survey by Andrew Ma.
February 18th - Sean gets a tip via email from one of his wonderful readers.

Live Site vs. Beta Site

It looks like Microsoft has decided to make MSN Shopping more than just another banner farm. The MSN Shopping beta has a clean layout that hints at real honest-to-goodness functionality.
Old MSN Shopping Beta MSN Shopping

The Good (+) Basic Usability

Drop-Down Menu

Very, very

Breadcrumb Trail

This is one of those things you only appreciate when it is gone...

Ratings & Reviews

Yes! Another big source of reviews & ratings.

Price Range & Free Shipping

Pre-defined ranges are useful for (1) showing us how many items exists in each range (2) letting us make a selection without having to think too much (i.e. paper or plastic). Yet there is no "right range" for every person or every product. For example, when shopping for a car, instead of searching for a car priced from $30,000 to $40,000, I might want to search from $0 to $40000. After all, if all my other needs are satisfied by a car that only costs $25000, who am I to complain? This is why the pre-defined range links and the undefined range boxes make a great one-two punch. So far, so good.

The Bad ( - ) Feature Finding

Left-Side Refine Results
I know, I know, it is early beta and I am talking about layout. Reason: the current layout could be a limitation on the imagination. In other words, there will not be enough space in a vertical column to list all attributes for products like digital cameras.

No-Range Refine Results
This is just plain silly. We must select down to the hundredth of a megapixel? Perhaps ranges get added last. Now, if MSN really wants to take refinement to the next level, they could add a "name your own range" option for more features, not just for price.

Compare Checked Items

The ability to compare so many products is good stuff. But how do we get down to a short-list of products to compare, if we cannot drill down on the available attributes from the beginning? A classic example of putting the cart before the horse...

For example, we can only refine laptops based on Brand, Price, Seller, Processor Type or Processor Speed. Yet, I did a head-to-head comparison of several laptops, and the data grid contained features such as Weight and Average Run Time.

The Sony VAIO S260 claims 6.5 hours of run time? Excellent! Now what if I want to compare all laptops that claim more than six hours of run time? If product information is already available in ways that can be sorted, why not slice 'n' dice it?

Here is an example of the product detail grid that exists for digital cameras:


MSN Shopping beta is full of potential, but is this a upgrade or an overhaul? Is Microsoft aiming to build the best comparison shopping resource? If so, have they done the necessary benchmarking? (I hear the Organized Shopping project is a good starting point.) Will they stop at the current features of Windows Marketplace, or will they keep adding features for the 2005 holiday shopping season? And will I finally make good contact with someone at MSN Shopping? :-) I've put MSN Shopping on my numerous radar screens, so if anything happens you'll hear about it here.

MSN Shopping Beta comments(2)
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on February 21, 2005 at 7:57 AM
Archived at MSN Shopping

Shopping Search Week 2004 at Search Engine Watch (2 of 4)

Day #2 - summaries of BizRate/Shopzilla, Froogle and MSN Shopping.

Shopping Search Week 2004 at Search Engine Watch (2 of 4)
Posted by Sean O'Rourke on January 2, 2005 at 6:09 PM
Archived at Froogle | MSN Shopping | Online Shopping Engines | Shopzilla


Product Review Mini-Series: Features
Product Review Mini-Series: Numbers
Attribute-Based Shopping Search Shootout
More Context for Feature Finders
What if Popular Products had 1000+ Reviews?
Product Portals - How Big Are They?
Why I Don't Use Shopping Comparison Sites
How Many Shopping Engines Do We Need?
Thoughts on Aggregation (No Respect)
Feedback Engines (Why The Symphony Sucks)
Why the Lack of Attributes at
Study: Searchers Operating w/ Blunt Instruments


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