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Interview with Russ Carroll of Shopping.com

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Female shoppers are becoming increasingly influential when it comes to online shopping, says the head of a leading price comparison site.

Russ Carroll, UK managing director of Shopping.com, says 59% of the customers to the site, which has operated in the UK since 2003, are female. That’s a big shift from the early days of price comparison sites when the biggest customer group was male and buying technology, electronics and computing equipment.

Today the biggest growth is in categories such as health and beauty and clothing. Areas such as childrenswear and nursery equipment are also strong. Shopping.com recently released figures showing 20% year-on-year growth, with categories such as health and beauty (21%) and clothing (22%) particularly buoyant.

Reflecting this trend, new brands to appear on the site include Babies R Us, House of Fraser, Emporio Armani and Debenhams.

So how else has Shopping.com evolved in order to meet the needs of this important customer group?

“Female shoppers are very focused in terms of what they’re looking for,” said Carroll. “They have a specific need or brands they are very loyal to and they’re searching for good deals on those brands. I think what we’ve seen in recent years is the female shopper has a portfolio of brands she likes to buy and will use comparison sites to get the best price.”

That in turn drives development of the way the site works, he said. “You need to have those brands on your site. We’re setting up a number of intiatives this year through our social media activity to try and get more and more feedback from our customers in terms of what’s good about the brands we have but also to let us know if we’re missing any brands. Important feedback is coming in through Facebook and Twitter, while we’re also calling customers who have agreed to be contacted, asking about their experience and what they’re looking for.”

The company is also inviting reviews and buyers’ guides, since it’s that unique user-generated content that makes the difference when it comes to standing out in the busy price comparison market.

Other developments at the site this year will include refinement of its mobile product. Shopping.com’s mobile app will in the not too distant future be joined by an mcommerce website. Carroll predicts that once all retail sites become mobile enabled and allow the use of features such as barcode scanning, this will become ”a massive area.”

All of this is important to the realization of Shopping.com’s big ambition – to become the “default shopping comparison site of choice.”

Carroll said: “We want to become the destination where you have all the big names and brands and I think, importantly as well, have the best prices.”

Ultimately, he believes, this is also good news for retailers. “I think retailers now recognise how valuable ecommerce is,” said Carroll. “Many fashion brands for a while didn’t have transactional websites. In these categories where all the growth is more and more brands and bricks and mortar stores, now have good websites. They are viewing ecommerce as a channel for growth. We’re in a great position to work with them and help them hit their targets.”

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