Connexity, parent company of Shopzilla, acquires PriceGrabber. The purchase price was not disclosed, but other comparison shopping sites have sold in recent years for a fraction of what they fetched a decade ago.  

Comparison shopping sites were all the rage a decade ago, and the biggest ones fetched hefty prices from companies looking to get into online retailing. But then Google Inc.’s search engine took off, Amazon.com Inc. emerged as a dominant e-retail site, and the comparison shopping engines have lost ground.

But they’re still significant marketing vehicles for many major online retailers. And those merchants will have one fewer data feed to manage after today’s announcement by Connexity Inc., parent company of Shopzilla, that it has acquired PriceGrabber. The purchase price was not disclosed.

“For consumers, this combination will maximize the breadth and depth of product content within both our comparison shopping sites and our syndication network,” says Bill Glass, CEO of Connexity. “For publishers, it will create a simplified solution to get their product content and monetization from a single API or feed, creating efficiency in the channel, and simplifying tracking and reporting.”

Of the retailers ranked in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, 230 market their products through Shopzilla, 219 through PriceGrabber and 167 on their main rival, NexTag. Of the merchants ranked in the Internet Retailer Second 500, 116 market through Shopzilla, 46 PriceGrabber and 70 NexTag. However Google Shopping has taken over as the most popular comparison shopping site for top e-retailers, with 355 Top 500 retailers and 287 in the Second 500 promoting their products through Google’s Product Listing Ads, which show images, prices and other information.

In terms of traffic, NexTag leads in attracting U.S. shoppers, with 1.537 million unique U.S. visitors in the past month, compared with 1.35 million for PriceGrabber and 774,000 for Shopzilla, according to Alexa, a service that measures website traffic. Alexa is owned by Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Top 500 Guide.

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That’s a far cry from the heyday of comparison shopping sites. For example, in January 2008 Shopzilla attracted 13.6 million unique visitors, NexTag 13.5 million and PriceGrabber 5.9 million, according to Compete, another service that measure website traffic that is part of Millward Brown Digital.

In response to the decline in shopper traffic, Shopzilla has invested in targeted marketing. That includes its acquisition last year of Connexity, which specialized in automated, or programmatic, online advertising. The company later said it could collect 1 billion retail data points per month from such properties as Shopzilla.com, Connexity, its audience-targeting unit AisleA and its seller ratings and feedback division BizRate Insights. Shopzilla changed the name of the company to Connexity in September 2014.

Rick Backus, CEO of CPCStrategy, which helps retailers sell through comparison shopping sites and other online channels, says the combination of Shopzilla and PriceGrabber will create the largest price-comparison site in terms of traffic and orders, ahead of NexTag and eBay Commerce Network (formerly Shopping.com), Bing Shopping or Amazon Product Ads, display ads on Amazon.com.

But he says Google Shopping and Amazon dominate product searches by U.S. consumers. Nonetheless, Backus says, “I do have confidence in the Connexity leadership team, and there is a realistic opportunity for them to leverage their consumer intent data to become a player in the programmatic space.”

The recent history of Shopzilla and PriceGrabber illustrate the decline in value of comparison shopping sites in recent years. Consumer data firm Experian plc purchased PriceGrabber in 2005, the same year it paid $330 million for lead-generation site LowerMyBills. Experian sold both properties, plus another called ClassesUSA, in 2012 for a total of $175 million.

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Shopzilla also was acquired in 2005, by Scripps Network Interactive Inc., for $525 million. Scripps sold Shopzilla in 2011 for $165 million to private equity firm Symphony Technology Group LLC. Symphony remains the owner of Connexity, which is based in Los Angeles and operates in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. PriceGrabber also is headquartered in Los Angeles and operates in North America and the United Kingdom

Retailer Market America acquired Shop.com in 2011 for an undisclosed sum.

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