Google helps Web shoppers get 'Froogle'

Monday, December 23, 2002

Need a new monitor for your computer? A 17-inch flat-panel monitor will cost you $649.99 from Best Buy. If you told your wife her best friend annoys you, you can make it up to her with a dozen yellow roses from Hallmark.com for $69.95. If you want to get your hands on Martina McBride's new "Greatest Hits" CD, you'll have to shell out $15.99 at Sears.

I found all these prices in about three minutes, just by searching at Google's new Web site, www.froogle.com. Google launched Froogle last week during the peak week for online holiday shopping and advertises itself as the place "for all the world's products in one place."

Froogle is a play on the word frugal. (Der, as my son would say.) It is intended to make it easy to find information about products for sale online. Froogle applies the power of Google's search technology to locating stores that sell the item people want and then pointing them directly to the place where they can make a purchase.

Like Google -- which is my personal favorite search engine along with its news search site at news.google.com -- Froogle is easy to use. All you have to do is type in the name of the item you want and find and click on "Froogle Search." Before long, you'll see photos of those products and links to stores that sell them. There's also a quick description of the product and the price in red.

Google, unlike other competitors, doesn't charge merchants to be included in its search and is not paid when users click on the store's offering. The Froogle site says it intends to make money by selling advertising above and to the right of the shopping search results, as Google does on its main site. Froogle will search the inventory of any store willing to provide data in an appropriate format.

According to MacCentral, Macintosh's news service, Froogle will only search English-language stores pricing goods in U.S. dollars until the bugs are ironed out. But future versions will search sites in other languages and using other currencies, the company said. As with all other Google search results, Froogle ranks store sites based only on their relevance to the search terms you've entered.

I don't do much online shopping and found myself just browsing to see how much things cost. I actually would rather go to the stores and see the actual product that I'm buying. At 30, I guess that already makes me behind the times.

But it is good to know where to go to price flowers when I say something stupid. Sometimes my mouth seems bigger than cyberspace.

Loyal customers

Move over, airlines, there's a new leader when it comes to customer-loyalty programs.

Credit card companies, armed with an array of member points and perks, have overtaken airlines and their frequent-flier programs for the number of participants, according to a survey this month.

Of 500 people polled, 27 percent said they belonged to a credit card issuer's loyalty program, followed by 19 percent loyal to an airline. Restaurants had 16 percent, followed by 12 percent who belonged to a hotel program.

When asked why, more than half (54 percent) said rewards for products and services were the main reason they joined, with 49 percent calling discounts the prime motivation to sign up.

"Loyalty programs have come of age," said Lee Smith, president of InsightExpress, an online market-research firm based in Stamford, Conn. "People are much more willing to part with personal demographic information if the reward perceived is valuable."

Fun, fun, fun!

What are guys looking for when they do their holiday shopping? Apparently, boys just wanna have fun.

When asked what will motivate them when purchasing a gift this season, 48 percent said they want to have a fun shopping experience.

A quarter said saving money was their primary motivation and 20 percent said a retail experience that would give them "the traditional feeling of Christmas" was paramount.

And who benefits from this shopping bounty?

Not surprisingly, wives and girlfriends will realize the most, with 35 percent of the men saying they'll spend the most on their partner. A third said they'd spend the most on their children, and 9 percent said Mom. Dads fared the worst -- only 2 percent of guys said they'd spend the most on their father.

The results are from a survey of 300 men this month by The Integer Group, a Denver-based advertising and marketing agency.

The Associated Press contributed to this column.

Scott Moyers is the business editor for the Southeast Missourian. Send your comments, business news, information or questions to Biz Buzz, 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699, e-mail smoyers@semissourian.com or call 335-6611, extension 137.

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