Search sites increase use of bargains, mobile this holiday shopping season

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To take advantage of consumers' desire for bargains this holiday season, search-focused sites are beefing up their price-comparison engines with enhancements such as better images, more reviews and easier-to-find coupons.

TheFind.com has debuted a search format that helps consumers more quickly find coupons, while Ask.com has launched a coupon deals feature. Google Product Search, meanwhile, has updated its capabilities.

“Last Christmas, couponing was more a loyalty rewards scheme; this year, stores are using coupons to drive business and for customer acquisition,” said Siva Kumar, CEO of TheFind.com.

This season, retailers see coupons practically as a requirement. They're also getting more creative in how they use offers, adds Kumar.

“We are seeing many more varieties of coupons this year,” he said. “It is now more elaborate, and they are applying to product categories such as shoes or perfume - and everyone is offering free shipping.”

This holiday shopping season, TheFind.com, a search engine that indexes the prices of 400 million products from hundreds of thousands of stores, launched a format that will match up product searches with applicable coupons. For example, if a consumer is looking for Ugg boots, they can use a list of sites that sell them, as well as any applicable coupons.

Ask.com is also using coupons to drive sales this year. The site also features deals of the day on popular products on its www.ask.com/deals microsite, which was launched this year.

Companies are also employing mobile devices more often this year to promote deals, because consumers are using their phones to compare prices while going from store to store. TheFind.com saw its highest mobile traffic numbers ever on November 27, Black Friday, during the daytime.

“People are clearly shopping physically, but they are using their mobile phones to compare prices on the best deals,” explained Kumar. “This makes retailers vulnerable to price, because the mobile phone enables consumers to know if another store across town is offering the item for a lower price.”

Google updated its mobile product search this year to make it easier for bargain hunters to compare prices on the go. Consumers can use the feature to search products, compare prices and locate the items in stores using Google Maps. Shoppers can also read reviews, find coupons from local businesses and use a barcode scanner to compare prices across Web sites.

Representatives from Google and Ask.com could not be reached for comment.

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