Junglee helps shoppers do online comparisons

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In Hindi, junglee means one who lives in a jungle, explained Venky Harinarayan, VP-marketing at Junglee Corp. And "You need someone who lives in the jungle to help guide you out of it," he said.

At least that's the metaphor behind Junglee, an Internet shopping agent that scans multiple retail or online classifieds, pulling up results by categories such as price, brand and location.

Last week, the Sunnyvale, Calif., start-up officially turned on America Online's Digital City Employment Classifieds search, which will boost Junglee's cumulative job database to 95,000 jobs from 45,000.

It's already tied up distribution partnerships with online recruiting sites including CareerPath, Classifieds2000 and the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition.

And it has a foothold in online shopping, powering the Visa Shopping Guide by Yahoo!; go2net's shopping area on its MetaCrawler search engine; the Washington Post's online listings of apartments and homes; and searching on Ziff-Davis's NetBuyer site.

CREATING EFFICIENT MARKETS

Junglee is an application that creates efficient markets, Mr. Harinarayan said. "You don't have to check 25 different book markets," he said, adding "spreads in terms of the price differences are phenomenal."

Consumers also want help finding merchandise online, said Melissa Bane, senior analyst, consumer Internet commerce and direct marketing, at the Yankee Group. Yankee Group estimates 5.7 million households shopped online in 1997, a number it projects to grow to 35 million by the year 2000.

In a recent study in which the Yankee Group asked people what their greatest obstacles are to online shopping, Ms. Bane said, 40% of online households replied "not knowing where to find the products on the Web."

VALUE IN CONVENIENCE

"I think services like Junglee make a lot of sense because the value proposition of the Internet is convenience."

Revenue for the company is a share of a flat fee retailers or companies pay to a partner site, consumers' transaction-based fees and ad banner revenues. Mr. Harinarayan said banner rates are high--three times an average cost-per-thousand ad on Yahoo!--because the ads target consumers in a buying mind-set.

Junglee's strategy is to align itself with as many portal sites as possible, and Mr. Harinarayan said more deals are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

Search engine Excite won't be one of them. Late last year, it bought Netbot, which makes the competing shopping agent Jango, and incorporated it into the Excite Shopping Channel. While Excite is the primary user of Jango, Joe Kraus, co-founder and senior VP of Excite, said the search engine is negotiating several deals to license the software to other sites.

EXPANDING SERVICES

And to stay competitive, Junglee said it plans on expanding to cover financial services and entertainment categories. It's also working on central Web checkout counter software that will allow people to make all their online purchases at a central portal site.

A critical part of Junglee's success though is how comprehensive its search results are. In retail shopping, it draws 70 merchants in 12 to 15 major categories and 100 subcategories, including merchants such as J. Crew, Lands' End and L.L. Bean. But each search is limited to the merchants or companies paying to be on a site.

Lauren Freedman, president of e-tailing group, an online retail consultancy, thinks the software company's biggest challenge will be achieving a depth of merchants in each category.

"They need to have a broader selection," Ms. Freedman said. "It makes it a lot more one-stop shopping."

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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