DealTime Launches Categories, Campaign

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Comparison-shopping service DealTime.com intends to live up to its name this holiday shopping season.


Next week, the Stamford, CT-based online marketer will debut a category dedicated to holiday items and a $25 million brand-building advertising campaign.


"DealTime aims to be the e-convenience resource for all holiday shopping," said Lance D. Podell, vice president of marketing and business development at DealTime. "The benefit to consumers is that we do all the shopping legwork for them, while the retailer has access to consumers who are ready to buy."


These latest moves follow the addition this week of other categories - including office, kids and toys, jewelry, health and beauty, and flowers and gifts - and the signing of deals with Accompany and Zwirl, both buying-group sites. DealTime visitors users will be able to search these sites, where prices fall as more people cluster to buy the same product. This bolsters DealTime's searches on person-to-person and other auction sites, online retailers and classifieds.


The company hopes the moves will better position it to grab some of the $6 billion that Jupiter Communications, New York, estimates consumers will spend online in November and December. That's roughly double the $3.1 billion spent in the same period last year, according to Jupiter.


DealTime's holiday category will comparison shop for products expected to be popular during the holiday season. Complementing this section is a gift-giving guide that recommends items for family members, friends and colleagues.


To encourage repeat visits, DealTime will launch two shopping sprees in December, along with daily and weekly prizes sponsored by merchants. There also will be a retailer-sponsored weekly gift, chosen by DealTime's editorial board. Advertisers are being tapped for such sponsorships and coupons.


Another section, called "Flurry of Savings," offers deep discounts and coupons for items from e-retailers, including FragranceNet.com, Furniture.com, SupremeVideo.com and BrandsMall.com.


DealTime gains revenue through ads and sponsorship deals across shopping categories on the site and from fees paid by merchants who seek prominent placement near content. Podell stresses, however, that all searches are editorially driven and unbiased.


Less than 4 months old, DealTime is quickly gaining attention in the online comparison-shopping field. PC Data Online estimates the company had 983,000 unique visitors in September, while competitor MySimon.com recorded 178,000 visitors.


The coast is not all clear, however. Competitor MySimon said last week that it shops more than 1,700 online retailers for bargains. MySimon also incorporates push technology similar to DealTime's, alerting consumers of prices by e-mail, although not by cell phone and pager as DealTime does. Both shopping agents have similar merchant rating lists. And Amazon.com upped the ante earlier this month when it allowed its powerful search tool to scour other Web sites for product deals and prices.


Jupiter analyst Ken Cassar said comparison shopping services would compete not only among themselves this holiday season, but with portals flipping from a mall-based model to a store-based metaphor.


"A comparison-shopping site that has the dollars to promote itself may well find an audience this holiday season," Cassar said. "I think that people are going to continue to shop with and search for brands they're comfortable with. It remains to be seen whether enough marketing saturation over a short period of time can deliver that level of comfort [for comparison shopping sites]."


To help it find an audience during the crucial holiday sales period, DealTime has selected ad agency Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners, New York, to build excitement around the DealTime brand.


At press time, Podell was mum on the campaign, but he said it would define the comparison shopping category with DealTime as the leader. He seeks to position DealTime as the qualified online lead generator for retailers and the one-stop convenience hub for shoppers.
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