LendingTree parent to launch multivertical lead-generation site

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Tree.com, parent company of loan comparison engine LendingTree, will launch a pay-per-performance customer acquisition channel in the second quarter. At the Web address Tree.com, the site will aggregate vendors in the education, automotive, personal finance, home services, real estate, health and insurance verticals.

The company is building on the “reverse marketplace” model it introduced with LendingTree.com, which provides support, tools and vendors offering competitive rates on home loans.

“Now more than ever before, consumers are using comparison shopping tools and word of mouth to make buying decisions for low- and especially for high-consideration items,” said Mona Marimow, SVP of marketing at Tree.com.

She explained that with a traditional cost-per-click or cost-per-acquisition model in paid search, vendors get consumers who may still be in the initial stages of the buying process. “But because most of our verticals are for higher-consideration purchases, when consumers interact on our site, they'll likely be at a later stage in that buying cycle, so they're a more qualified lead,” she said.

On Tree.com, which will operate on a lead-generation, pay-per-performance model, each vendor will have its own page where consumers can access pricing and quotes. Visitors can also use interactive tools for comparison shopping, blogs, ratings, reviews and news articles. The site is free for the public.

Consumers will be required to register on site and will have the option to answer questions about the purchase they're planning. The portal will be personalized for each visitor. The site will also import original content, including videos, Twitter feeds, Facebook initiatives or blogs, from each vendor.

Marimow said the company has no plan for building an e-mail database for either Tree.com or its vendors to re-target consumers, but “there should be an opportunity for that.”

The company will promote the site through search engine optimization, although each vertical will be promoted differently, Marimow said. She added that Tree.com may use TV and print advertising to promote the brand.

Marimow explained that the company may eventually add additional industry verticals as well.

“It just depends on the demand and our partners,” she said. “We could branch into verticals like shopping, travel, lawyers, doctors… we have our eye on all of them.”

The company, which aims for a summer launch for the site, has not announced any clients yet.

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