“It’s a paradox of choice for consumers out there,” said James Barkow, director of distribution for Shopping.com. Since the online shopping-comparison pioneer was bought by eBay in 2005, e-commerce has grown to almost 10 percent of all retail sales.

“We estimate there are more than 100 million sku’s available online,” Barkow said.

This story first appeared in the July 11, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Brisbane, Calif., company works directly with retailers such as Macy’s and Home Depot, which provide detailed product information and pay Shopping.com a small fee when a shopper clicks to their sites.

Buyers type what they are looking for — for example, a Rebecca Taylor cotton dress — into the site’s search engine, and it returns a page called a product matrix with thumbnails of all the products and product data, so it is easy to compare styles, prices and location. The search engine automatically estimates shipping and tax costs based on the shopper’s zip code.

The site also shows reviews for the product and a list of all the stores where the product is carried. That list includes more information about the merchant, shipping time and price.

“It’s a comprehensive online shopping experience” that takes consumers through the entire decision-making process, Barkow said. “Instead of building an index of every URL, we’re building an index of every product available.”

Some merchants use pages from Shopping.com to sell their products on their own sites, he said.

As e-commerce has grown, so has Shopping.com. The company’s growth rate has almost doubled year-over-year in each of the last four years.

Barkow predicted the rise of “distributed commerce,” a term that means shopping that occurs anywhere at any time on any device — in the store, on the desktop or via a telephone or personal digital assistant.

Apparel is one of the highest priorities for Shopping.com. “It’s a little harder in the apparel industry because there are so many types of apparel,” he said. “You’re not selling the same product over and over again. There is a lot of work to be done in how we select and index apparel, but that’s one of our highest priorities now.”

“Our goal is to make it easy and fun to find products online,” said Barkow.

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