Google and AOL venture arms fund tool to track retail price changes

June 16, 2011

Most people wouldn’t be too pleased if they learned that the price of a digital camera suddenly dropped by $50 a few hours after they purchased it from the same online retailer.

Yet according to the creators of a new shopping tool called Shopobot, such price swings happen every week, sometimes every day, as retailers adopt more sophisticated techniques to test out different price points.

“The volatility is really being driven by these algorithmic approaches to pricing,” says Shopobot co-founder and CEO Julius Schorzman. “You have these automated systems that are trying to maximize revenue for retailers online.”

Shopobot, which is being backed by Google Ventures and Aol Ventures, is designed to let consumers take advantage of these price fluctuations, rather than get stung by them.

The company takes a Google-like approach to the task and crawls retailer websites, monitoring thousands of product listings for the latest prices – Schorzman says that’s a better tactic than subscribing to data feeds provided by the retailers, which he says are not always reliable.

Consumers can “follow” certain products, receiving an alert when prices drop, or they can get recommendations of the best times to look for deals based on the company’s analysis of the pricing data it collects.

How retailers react to this kind of pricing transparency remains to be seen. Schorzman says he expects retailers will ultimately embrace it the way they have other shopping tools such as pricing comparison services.

The company, which was founded by Schorzman and former Microsoft senior program manager Dave Matthews at the AngelPad start-up accelerator program earlier this year, is not disclosing the amount of seed funding it has received.

The free service is launching with price monitoring for 13 retailers, and Schorzman says he expects to expand to 20 retailers during the next few weeks.

Give it a whirl and tell us if you scored a deal.

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