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Next generation shopping search engine: TheFind.com

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I rarely go to the major shopping search engines like Froogle and Pricegrabber for the same reason that I no longer shop on eBay or go to those big warehouse stores. Their sheer bigness is just daunting to me, and I want to get out as fast as I can. The last time I used a search engine to find a product to buy, I was overcome with acute click exhaustion within 10 minutes.

So, the first thing I noticed about TheFind.com, a new shopping search engine that recently launched in beta – and just in time for the holidays – is that I don’t have to click to see the relevant details of each product that comes up in search results. When I put my cursor over an item, a lengthy description of the product from the merchant’s site automatically pops up next to it, as shown in the above screenshot. I love that I can glide over 30 results (or 90 even, if I choose that option) very quickly and see details for any item I pause over in a split second. With other big search engines, I find that the product details that come up on the first page of results are never enough, so I have to click to another page to read the rest of the description. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I find this hugely frustrating and often abandon the search midway. With TheFind.com, I don’t feel compelled to click away from the main search result page unless I’m seriously considering a buy, so I’m able to browse many more options in much less time.

The grid option displays the results in an eye-pleasing format – nice, large images (though, of course, the quality differs depending on the what’s on the source site) displayed in catalog style (more like an online store than a search engine page). And, as with other search engines, you can save items to your list or email them to friends.

A couple of additional features on TheFind.com make searching more controlled and also more fun. You can click the “sale” option at the top to narrow your search to those items that are on sale, or the “new” option to narrow it to those items that are new (how new, I don’t know). These are useful functions if you’re on the lookout for price reductions or new releases in a particular product category.

What may at first escape the casual user is that there’s a deeper distinction between TheFind.com and its competitors:

Though it is not widely known, the fact is that most shopping search sites today only show you products from stores that proactively list their products and rank those product not based on relevancy but rather, who pays them the most. Clearly, this is not the best experience for the user, because it limits the number of stores, products and prices that you see.

For those interested in being truly thorough in their search, unbiased results may make all the difference. The company states that the beta release searches over 500,000 stores and 150 million products (the largest of any existing shopping engine). And this comprehensive reach enables them to “truly rank products by objective algorithms that determine the most popular and leading brands, products and stores.”

I did a search for cases for my Blackberry 8700c, and here’s what it took to get to my final purchase:

1. I searched “Blackberry 8700c case” and got 581 items from 57 stores;
2. Quickly browsed through the first 5 pages of results (no clicking to another page on the site or to merchant sites, so I was only at 6 clicks by this point);
3. No way am I going to look through 581 items, so I then picked a store from the list of top stores over to the right, based on which store had the most cases that I liked on those first 5 pages. That left me with 25 options to look through, again without clicking through to the merchant site;
4. When I found the one I wanted, then and only then did I click through to the store. Total clicks to get to my shopping cart: 8 (would have been fewer had I chosen to view 60 or 90 items at a time instead of 30).

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Contrast this with my experience doing the same search on Froogle: 423 results and numerous clicks to view more details – I lost count after about 60 clicks and never got to the end. This is totally consistent with my usual experience with shopping searches.

Okay, as much as I enjoyed browsing around on TheFind.com, not every search I did turned up relevant results. For instance, my search for “Calvin Klein dress” yielded pages of Calvin Klein shoes. I reported this funky result using the feedback button at the top of the page – users of the beta site are encouraged to send feedback as the company refines their search technology and builds in new features.

Online shoppers who regularly use search engines to find products should find this a welcome change from their usual experience, and those who’ve never bothered much with search engines, because they seem too time-consuming or cumbersome (like I do), might come around once they find their way over to this site.



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