Experian Grabs Comparison-Shopping Site

Experian has significantly added to its lead-referral arsenal with the acquisition of comparison-shopping site PriceGrabber.com. The $485 million cash deal was announced Dec. 14.

Experian’s acquisition is the third major deal involving a comparison-shopping site in the past six months. During the summer, newpaper publisher E. W. Scripps Co. bought Shopzilla.com for $570 million and online auctioneer eBay bought Shopping.com for $685 million.

The acquisitions come as the popularity of comparison-shopping sites and online shopping overall is dramatically increasing. Visits to the top 10 comparison shopping sites have risen more than 60% during the past month alone. They accounted for 0.28% of all Internet traffic as of Nov. 5 but 0.45% of traffic as of last week, according to Internet monitoring service Hitwise. And American consumers are expected to spend $18 billion shopping on the Internet between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a 25% increase from last year, according to Forrester Research.

The comparison-shopping-services market was $400 million in 2004 and is expected to grow 40% a year for the next five years, according to Experian.

PriceGrabber.com will become part of data provider Experian’s interactive unit, which includes LowerMyBills.com, MetaReward, Affiliate Fuel, ClassesUSA, and Experian Consumer Direct.

The purchase was made in part to beef up Experian’s offerings to its catalog and multichannel merchant customers, a segment that accounts for 17% of Experian Americas’ sales, according to executive vice president Peg Smith. “Our business for a very long time has been to help retailers and catalogers acquire customer relationships,” Smith says. “And that’s exactly what PriceGrabber does: help drive merchandise sales by connecting consumers with merchants on the Internet.”

Smith adds that Experian is eying cross-marketing possibilities between PriceGrabber and Experian’s other Internet properties. For example, people searching for home-improvement loans on LowerMyBills.com may see ads—or “shopping opportunities” as Smith refers to them—from PriceGrabber.com for home-improvement and gardening products and services. There are similar possibilities for, say, computer-related pitches from PriceGrabber.com on ClassesUSA.com.

Hitwise ranks PriceGrabber.com as the seventh most popular comparison-shopping site, with just more than 6% of the Internet’s comparison-shopping-site traffic. The top four sites—Shopping.com, BizRate.com, Shopzilla.com, and Yahoo! Shopping—account for close to 60% of comparison-shopping traffic, according to Hitwise.

Nonetheless, PriceGrabber.com drew 17 million unique visitors in November, according to Experian. Patti Freeman Evans, retail analyst for JupiterResearch, says a study she did found that PriceGrabber.com’s conversion rates were high, “particularly in electronics.”

No layoffs are expected at PriceGrabber.com, Experian said in a statement.