Petco purrs over shopping site tactics

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PALM DESERT, CA - An early adopter of online comparison-shopping, Petco once had 18 datafeeds for the various engines supplying the pet-supplies retailer with product information.

This was because at the time there were no third-party firms managing such information, John Lazarchic, Petco vice president of e-commerce, told eTail attendees last week.

Until this year, building and managing its own system for handling this particular area of its business had become very cumbersome, Mr. Lazarchic said.

Six months ago the company hired Channel Intelligence to manage all of Petco's product data and channel it to the various shopping portals in the required format.

As a result, Petco has seen its conversion rates and sales go up across the board. At NexTag alone, conversion rates have increased 45 percent since August, and sales have increased 37 percent, Mr. Lazarchic said.

One reason rates improved, he said, is the platform's ability to optimize Petco's product data in a way that the retailer couldn't do on its own. All comparison sites categorize their data in different ways. By getting Petco's products in the right place, Channel Intelligence ensures the retailer doesn't miss any clicks or get any inappropriate clicks.

The service improved Petco's ability to advertise the right products on each shopping site. According to Mr. Lazarchic, there is a small and unique subset of products that drives sales for each comparison site.

The strategy of promoting different products on each site changes seasonally. From mid-November through the end of December, Petco put its entire catalog of products back out to the shopping engines. It cost the company in terms of its ROI, but the acquisition rate made it worth it, Mr. Lazarchic said. In January, Petco immediately scaled back its product selection.

The biggest win for Petco since making the switch has been in the reduction of data management resources, Mr. Lazarchic said.

"Where it used to take two days to pull accurate reports, it now takes minutes," he said.

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