I interviewed consumer empowerment engine Mpire’s CEO Matt Huelett in July. Mpire started *out of the gate* with an eBay partnership. That’s hot shit people.
I dug in back then to understand why eBay invested time with them, and how their approach to shopping comparison (perhaps better called consumer empowerment) differed from the 100 or so other comparison shopping engines out there.
In short: comprehensive price trends in a graphic interface that’s easy for their target market of power buyers to understand at a glance.
It’s this ability to simply convey market data – along with their rapid development – that earned them their latest eBay Pop project. Ebay believes, and so do I, that consumers will increasingly see Mpire as a market analytics engine that will arm them with a market’s true item price.
the Mpire Plugin
Their publicist contacted me recently with news of an Mpire plugin – and you know how much I love search distribution ideas – so I agreed to another conversation with Huelett.
The Mpire plugin delivers, on ecommerce sites including Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, Target, Newegg and thousands of others, an Mpire price next to the site’s price.
Mpire gives its plugin downloaders more pricing options, just as Amazon gives shoppers new and used options.
In addition they’re wrapping coupons into the plugin.
It’s available for Firefox now, and in a month or so for IE7.
Plugin as Distribution Play
So Mpire makes its money – like everyone else I suppose – on traffic (ads and I think affiliate deals).
Its deal with Ebay and word of mouth (oh yeah and great execution of a strong concept) have earned them 500,000 uniques a month. Huelett talked about finally getting around to creating stronger title tags and a site architecture that could tap them into organic search traffic.
The plugin will enable them to distribute more listings across more sites winning them more traffic – though it’s likely that its staunchest supporters will be the only ones to download at first.
This means that it’s more traffic from users who believe in them anyways.
closing thoughts, my exciting takeaways
I think this is a fine and strong distribution idea, and kudos to Huelett and team for breaking free from the toolbar model.
Further, Huelett articulated a problem I think is at the core of personalization: serendipity. As we talked about Mpire direction we got some into how they’re going to pivot (nice Huelett jargon that I may steal) user data.
They’re looking at the standard “users who bought this also enjoyed…” functionality, but Huelett wants to dig deeper. As he told me “sometimes I wear flip flops and sometimes I wear wing tips.” To avoid over personalization he wants Mpire to plunge farther back into buying interest streams to provide surprising, possibly even eccentric suggestions for folks shopping for, say, PSP3s and Wiis.
I’m actually a little nervous about this – Linden’s already cost me enough without there being serendipity in the equation ;)
Follow up Questions for Huelett
I have some follow up questions that I invite Matt to answer in email or in comments on this post:
1) do you have actual deals with each (or any) of these ecommerce sites? Which ones?
2) how does it benefit Target to show that its stereos can be acquired more cheaply on, say, eBay?
3) in terms of encouraging contributions from value hunters you need to set a lowest-price bounty for folks who find cheaper prices than are showing up in Mpire. More kudos if you can figure out how your users can set their own awards for low prices on specific items.
4) what are the barriers to an Mpire API that enables webmasters to display authentic prices and make a little green?
5) how will you encourage the spread (distribution) of the plugin itself?
6) What were the names of Bruce Wayne’s parents?
7) Oh, that was too easy? OK: What year was Robin introduced?